RPT-INSIGHT-Keystone's death bolsters "keep carbon in the ground" camp

Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:00am EST
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By Timothy Gardner and Bruce Wallace

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES Nov 10 (Reuters) - For environmentalists dedicated to killing it, President Barack Obama's rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline unleashed a moment of euphoria. Activists celebrated with tequila shots at Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco and in Lafayette Square across from the White House, site of the first anti-Keystone protests in 2011, when to most people it was just another pipeline.

But last Friday's presidential "no" to the 1,200-mile (1931 km) pipeline out of Alberta's oil sands may signal more than just a single, if remarkable, win for environmentalists. It stands to sharpen the fissure in the green movement between those who believe direct action can jar the world off its fossil fuel habit, and others who say only a collaborative approach that engages governments and corporations can deliver the large-scale solutions required to keep global temperatures in check.

For now, defeating Keystone has given oxygen to green groups that focus on keeping the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground before they even are burned.

Belief that the world must refrain from extracting vast amounts of its known oil, coal and gas reserves has been gaining scientific and political traction among those who argue the humanity cannot risk allowing global temperatures to rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

For many environmentalists, that urgency means less focus on lengthy international negotiations, such the Paris summit this December that seeks a consensus among world leaders on how to cut carbon emissions.

Instead, they favor demonstrations and legal actions that target not just energy projects like the oil sands, but the supporting infrastructure of railways, ports and pipelines that brings the most carbon intensive energy to market.

That spirit - dubbed "blockadia" by author Naomi Klein - has seen citizen activists delay coal exports to Asia at U.S. West Coast terminals, win a moratorium against oil and gas fracking in New York state, and led to "kayaktivists" swarming oil rigs leaving Seattle's port as part of Royal Dutch Shell's exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer.   Continued...