#Fracking

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What’s one fact about fracking you wish the public better understood?

DARYL HANNAH AND DIANE MOSS: Fracking imposes unnecessary risks on public health and on our diminishing, yet most precious of resources – water.

The Associated Press reported: “The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years.” In 2013, the WSJ found at least 15.3 million Americans have a natural gas well within one mile of their home that has been drilled since 2000. According to the Congressional Office of Research, more than 90% of new oil and gas wells are now fracked.

Several studies, including this one by Duke University, this one published in “Environmental Science and Technology” and this one by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show injecting the fracking fluid, which contains thousands of pounds of chemicals per well, significantly elevates levels of toxins, including radiation, metals, brine, and volatile hydrocarbon gases like the carcinogen benzene in affected water. Most fracking fluid is left deep in the ground, which could migrate through pathways created by natural and man-made faults, endangering people over many generations.

Added to water risks over the lifecycle of fracking shale are documented heavy smog, earthquakes, and further disruption to our climate from oil and gas greenhouse gas emissions. The public, even in states like Texas where regulations have been tightening around fracking, also struggles to gain comprehensive information and federal legal protection, due in part to the fact that the oil and gas industry, and fracking specifically, have historically been granted loopholes in numerous federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. Consumer gasoline and natural gas prices are bound to continue the upward trend of the past decades, as these finite commodities deplete.

A growing number of countries, cities and businesses are demonstrating that these risks are largely unnecessary. Several towns, regions, and nations, like this recent example and this partial list, have banned or put a moratorium on fracking and are still covering energy needs. Countries like Denmark, Scotland, and Germany aim to use all or mostly renewable energy in the next decades. The City of Sydney has a target to use 100% local renewable energy sources for electricity, heating and cooling by 2030 because analysis shows it will be more economical, supported, and climate friendly than fracked gas and other non-renewable energy resources.

Hundreds of U.S. companies have been trying to shift to 100% renewable power procurement – including mainstream players like Staples, Kohl’s, Apple, and Google. With cleaner, renewable energy technology prices steadily dropping and running on virtually limitless, mostly free resources, it’s not hard to figure out why.

Hopefully, the country will listen to its citizens who are realizing that we can’t frack our way to energy and economic security.

The Wall Street Journal

#Ecuador

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Daryl Hannah needs little introduction here on TreeHugger, we have been great fans of her DH Love Life project since it’s inception and we are greatly indebted to Daryl for her support of TreeHugger, especially as a judge in the Convenient Truths film contest. Many of you probably saw the striking image that was sent around the world of Daryl in Ecuador last week dipping her hand into the viscous black liquid of an oil pit. She was invited by the organization Amazon Watch to come on a ‘toxic tour’ to raise awareness of the terrible contamination caused by the oil industry in the Amazon rainforest. I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with Daryl about her experience in the Amazon, the current environmental lawsuit being brought against Chevron Texaco, her views on the new ITT oil proposal for the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador and her ongoing project DH Love Life.

How did you get involved in this trip to Ecuador?
Well, I’ve been aware of the case (Chevron Texaco), it’s potentially the biggest environmental case ever to be brought, there are billions of dollars at stake. Also not that long ago I translated for the spiritual leader of the Achuar of Peru at an Occidental Petroleum shareholders meeting and there I had a chance to talk to Atossa from Amazon Watch. She invited me down here for this delegation, to witness the devastation for myself. She also knew this was going to be a pivotal time when the President of Ecuador was going to be ratifying the proposal to save Yasuni, so there was a dual purpose.

You been on a group tour for 2 or 3 days?
3 days, we’ve been to the Cofan, around the area of Lago Agrio, San Carlos and Coca. (the biggest oil drilling area in Ecuador)

Did you meet with people there?
Of course, yesterday we actually went to a clinic and we met people who’ve been affected health wise, as well as people in the communities, we went into the Cofan community and talked to people. We went to see oil pits that are obviously still open and still being used and we saw pits that were left and supposedly remediated, but just covered up with dirt. Even the ones that were supposedly remediated, you just dig two inches or even an inch down, if you just disturb the soil a little bit, all this oil comes up. It’s spilling into the streams, running directly into the water source and it’s just horrifying.

Yes when I visited there I saw a lot of broken pipelines.
It’s not even just the pipelines breaking, it’s just the blatant dumping of waste oil and heavy metals into the water they use to wash – it’s just horrifying. Unlined pits with the most poisonous poison and then the constant burning of the natural gas too, which rains down even more poison so they can’t even collect the rainwater. I mean in the rainforest they have no water – it’s crazy – there’s no clean water anymore.

You know the oil is supposed to bring all this wealth right, black gold whoohooo! But you can see that it has had no positive effect on these people, on their communities, on their environment, on the creatures that live there, on anything. It’s brought nothing. It’s only been wreaking havoc in these areas in every aspect. It hasn’t improved their circumstances in terms of the poverty they are experiencing or anything. In fact they have to import their own gasoline. It’s insane.

The best possible circumstances would have been to just leave them alone. They would have had everything they needed to survive and thrive. Beautiful soil, beautiful land, fresh water, everything grows here, it’s the rainforest! Every kind of fruit, there were enough creatures, everything everyone could possibly need to live an incredibly healthy thriving life. These indigenous cultures knew how to live in harmony with their environment and we’ve just been decimating that.

It’s very sad that they managed to live such sustainable lives until we came along.
Yes, basically our so called modern civilization has really just brought about massive extermination, it’s very depressing.

How did you find the people you met there – were they welcoming?
So open! Which is also heartbreaking and shocking because I can’t imagine that I would remain that welcoming and that open if I had been abused in that way. They really were so lovely.

Have you met representatives from any of the oil companies since you’ve been here?
No, I’ve been to shareholders meetings in the past, but I haven’t been on one of the oil company tours, which would definitely be worthwhile to do, to see how they frame it. But you know the facts are the facts, it is clear, easy and clear. It doesn’t take a genius to see the devastation and the poverty and the destruction that this concept of progress has wrought upon these communities and this country. It’s certainly not wise.

Can you tell me a bit more about the plan for the Yasuni Reserve where they intend to prevent drilling by selling virtual barrels of oil in a type of offsetting scheme.
Well, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s an opportunity for other countries to offset their carbon emissions, while they are trying to figure out how to transition into clean renewable energy sources. They are making it economically viable for countries that have large areas of rainforest, that have natural resources, to allow them to preserve those by taking those donations that these countries would otherwise be spending on a carbon offsetting program anyway, ensuring the protection of these areas. But it’s only a first step and it’s kind of like holding the Amazon hostage at the same time.

It’s an interesting concept.
It’s definitely a step in the right direction. We’ve been waiting for someone at a political or governmental level to do something like this for quite some time, and now is the time. The EU, China, the US, all these countries are looking for places to offset their carbon emissions so they can meet the Kyoto accords. Well of course not the US because it’s not part of it, but even Bush has acknowledged that Global Warming does exist and that we do need to do something about our carbon output. So you have these people looking for a viable and a quantifiable way to offset their carbon and this is an easily quantifiable way because you can count how many barrels would be burned if they were taken out of the ground. So it’s a great intermediate solution, a temporary solution. But he (Correa – The Ecuadorian President) has put a time limit on it, if they don’t raise the money within a year then they will start drilling.

It’s a beginning and it’s a good beginning and I think the more encouragement he gets for it, not necessarily criticism but encouragement, hopefully the stronger he will feel and the more supported he will feel in making it a more meaningful proposal.

Have you spent time in the Amazon before?
I have, I spent about 7 months in Brazil, in the Brazilian Amazon, when I was making ‘At Play in the fields of the Lord.’ I think it was ’91 or something like that. You know I slept in the jungle, we were really in the Amazon, deep in the rainforest.

And you’ve been maintaining the connection since then?
I’ve definitely been maintaining my awareness about what’s going on.

Tell me how the DH Love Life project is going?
Good! I’ve got about 6 or 7, maybe even 8 in the can right now, but one of my editors is going to school in Europe for the summer and the other one is working on a documentary about Jimmy Carter so I am being slow to put them up at the moment. It’s been hard to edit online long distance, so I am slowing down until they get back at the end of the summer and then we can kick it back into high gear. I’ve got a whole bunch shot. I actually just went to Mount Sinai in Egypt and shot a couple of eco-resorts there. This is an especially interesting place where Christian Jews and Muslims all come together to the same spot to worship. You know it’s a pretty amazing cross section. So yes I am continuing and I am very excited.

Is DH Love Life your main project right now? Or are there other things in the works?
Actually this is my main project, however, I am stepping it up to another level, but I am not really able to talk about it for another month or so. But I am going to take it to a whole other level, so that more and more people will be able to access it, there’ll be a lot more access to resources and in depth information.

And you do the camera work yourself right?
Yes I do it all, I have my camera here and I’ve been shooting myself here, sometimes I hand the camera to someone and say shoot me and then I jump in there.

You are not in front of the camera that much – is that a deliberate choice?
Well it’s mostly because I am holding the camera! But mainly it’s because I am trying to focus on the subject. It’s just me and hopefully I remember to turn the microphone, which has been a problem a couple of times!

But you must know quite a lot already about filming?
No I don’t, I don’t how to do white balance. I mean there been a couple of ones where I’ve shot the whole thing and I forgot to turn the microphone on! It was a real tragedy. But it’s fun and I love learning. I love getting to see all these people doing inspiring things. I am having so much fun doing it. I am hoping other people are having fun watching it, because I really love it.

Do you have any acting projects coming up?
I am starting a film in July. I’ll be working on something just for a month, but more and more I am really focusing more on this type of awareness raising stuff.

It seems like that is taking up the lion’s share of your time these days.
Yes it definitely is, but you know I still need to be able to support my habit!

Well of all the habits you could have, this is definitely a good one!
Yeah!

Thank you so much for chatting to TreeHugger about your experiences in Ecuador.
Thank you so much.

TreeHugger would like to add that the oil contamination in Ecuador is a heartbreaking situation and the damage caused by Texaco during their years there has wreaked untold havoc upon the environment and the local communities, Chevron who now owns Texaco is fighting hard against the environmental lawsuit brought against them by five indigenous nations of Ecuador. However, as with most things, there is another side to Chevron’s environmental story. TreeHugger believes that Chevron has openly and publicly taken on Peak Oil and spoken fairly to Climate issues far before their US competitors.

Tree Hugger

#SCF

Los Angeles, UNITED STATES:  US actress Darryl Hannah waves as she is removed from a tree in a community farm by fire fighters in South Central Los Angeles 13 June 2006. Hannah and dozens of other protestors were arrested as sheriff's deputies evicted farmers and supporters from the urban "South Central Farm," enforcing a court order obtained by the owner, who wants to develop or sell the 14-acre property in the middle of an industrial section of Los Angeles.  AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK  (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: US actress Darryl Hannah waves as she is removed from a tree in a community farm by fire fighters in South Central Los Angeles 13 June 2006. Hannah and dozens of other protestors were arrested as sheriff’s deputies evicted farmers and supporters from the urban “South Central Farm,” enforcing a court order obtained by the owner, who wants to develop or sell the 14-acre property in the middle of an industrial section of Los Angeles. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

For 12 days I have been living in a tree or a tent in the middle of South Central L.A. on the South Central Farm. I’ve been staying here 24/7 with dozens of other supporters including the inspiring Julia Butterfly Hill (who is on her 17th day of a water fast as a prayer for the farm) and John Quigley (another forest defender and tree sitter) who are trying to secure permanent protection for this beautiful oasis which is the largest urban farm in the United States.

Here are the facts – The land was given to the community in the aftermath of the ’92 riots. The south Central Farm feeds and sustains 350 farmers and their families as well as the outlying neighborhood. The land was sold to a developer by the city in 2003 for 5.1 million. There are plans to bulldoze the farm and put up a warehouse (most likely for a wal mart). There are three vacant warehouses across the street. The developer has said that he would sell the land back to the community for 16.3 million. This community is one of the lowest income neighborhoods in the nation. Last Tuesday the farmers received their notice of eviction; this is why we are here Our fund raising efforts have been going very well and lots of high profile people have been shining light on this wonderful place. This morning Danny Glover gave the most eloquent moving impassioned speech about the farms intrinsic value. His family were farmers. On his Right was Evelyn Knight the legendary civil rights activist. She is so wise and has a remarkable way of cutting right to the heart of the issue.

Being on the farm has been such an amazing ride, some days there have been literally thousands of people coming here show their support for the farm and walk in the daily candlelight vigil, the farmers, campesinos, celebrities, youth from the neighborhood, clergy members, people of all racial, economic and cultural backgrounds. Some days incredible bands come down to surprise us and play music, which has been fantastic for morale. For John, Julia and me in the tree, our days consist mostly of phone calls to raise awareness and funding and manning the community watchtower, which is what we call the huge walnut tree where we sit. For all of us volunteers there is a hose hooked up to a showerhead in a cornfield a sink and an impromptu kitchen with fresh food from the farm.

This farm is amazing! There are cabbage patches with cabbage as big as watermelons, 500 mature fruit trees, passion fruit vines, bananas, papayas, 5 colors of corn, sugar cane and countless heirlooms fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants. All this in the middle of South Central, LA!!!

The South Central Farm also is a crucial part of fostering a healthy community. It serves as an education center and provides a rare, safe haven for children. A place where they can learn from their parents and grandparents about their culture, food, nutrition, farming, family, values and fun. The farm also serves the community by sequestering carbon. We’re right in the middle of a diesel soup in the alameda corridor. It should be required by law to have fruitful green spaces, providing local food to offset greenhouse gasses!

Please come to visit the farm if you can. Donate money, if you have it. Call the city and state officials and voice your support for the South Central Farm. For more information visit www.SouthCentralFarmers.org.

The Huffington Post

#Self-sufficiency

dh_advocacy_selfsufficiencyThere’s a consensus among leading scientists that global warming is caused by human activity. What–if anything–should we do about it?

DARYL HANNAH: There’s also a consensus that we must act urgently, if we are to avoid a 4-degree Celsius raise and total systems collapse.

First we should safeguard, restore and wisely manage our life-support systems, including uncontaminated water bodies and sources, soil and seeds and practice conservation and efficiency.

Known climate-destructive practices must be phased out as soon as possible, including extreme forms of fossil-fuel extraction (e.g. fracking, SAG D, deep-water drilling surface mines, mountaintop removal and tar sands projects), ocean trawling, overfishing, crop burning and endangering nature’s protective resources like mangroves, coral reefs, forests and peat land.

We must also immediately wean ourselves off fossil fuels; coal, natural gas, and oil–and invest in a combination of decentralized renewable energy; solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, micro-hydro and liquid fuels made from waste and other sustainable feedstocks.

Water-intensive, mono-crop, petrochemical industrial agriculture has decimated our topsoil and created dead zones in the oceans. The simplest, most natural and likely, the most effective way to sequester carbon is to rebuild soil. Regenerative organic farming practices build soil. Some of the methods used to accelerate nature’s intelligent soil development process include compost, bio char, brown coal, Micorizal fungi, vermaculture and managed livestock.

If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the U.S. and China. Diverting organic waste from landfills and livestock manure from ponds in anaerobic digesters, compost, and pyrolysis can amend soil vitality while reducing methane.

While these changes might seem challenging, we do have the capacity–if we can only galvanize the will. Many communities have already begun implementing some of these solutions. But top-down change is also essential, if we are to address the climate crisis with the speed and scale needed. For this to happen, citizens must insist on getting the influence of money out of politics and the legislative process.

Maximizing regional self-sufficiency with these agricultural practices and energy production methods will strengthen local economies, make them more resilient, help prevent global conflict, and ease the sense of scarcity and the economic burden increasingly felt by the majority.

The Wall Street Journal

#Energy

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DARYL HANNAH AND DIANE MOSS: The U.S. federal government is failing its citizens by not developing a comprehensive energy policy that ensures secure, economical and reliable energy over the long term. But while our federal officials flounder in fear and partisan dysfunction, local leaders across the political spectrum are taking on the challenge, breaking dependence on conventional energy sources, and liberating their communities with efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

States like California and Maine have passed laws limiting the building of new coal plants, while cities like Los Angeles and Dallas have joined many others to pass moratoria and bans on fracking. No one knows how to safely store nuclear waste, which coupled with the staggering costs of building new reactors and fixing old ones, is also forcing a decline in nuclear power.

While some communities say no to polluting fossil energy, increasingly others are saying yes to renewable-energy solutions. After a 2007 tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas, this heartland city decided that the wind should protect rather than destroy them. The city’s sustainability plan includes among other renewable-energy projects, a local wind farm created through public-private partnership that generates enough power to export a surplus to neighboring communities. Mayor Bob Dixson believes Greensburg is building on the wisdom his ancestors who settled the plains and also got their energy from the sun, wind, the only difference being that today there is better technology.

In Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Rex Parris similarly seems to see no separation between renewable, energy efficiency and his conservative values. He has engaged the city to become net zero energy–meaning able to generate as much power as it uses annually with local renewables–by 2020. Parris says that local renewable development has become such an economic no-brainer, especially in a sun capital like Lancaster, that failing to support it is basically forcing constituents to pay a premium to buy electricity from a utility monopoly they don’t like.

In Silicon Valley, the city of Palo Alto’s municipal utility recently achieved a carbon-neutral power supply for its entire community and is on track to procure 100% renewable electricity by 2017. Numerous other American cities are aiming to or have already begun covering all their power demand with forms of renewable electricity purchases.

This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. and is, in fact, spreading across the globe. In Europe, Iceland gets nearly 100% of its electricity and about 85% of its primary energy from renewable sources. Denmark seeks 100% renewable energy by 2050, and Scotland aims for 100% renewable power by 2020. Many cities and regions across the continent have additionally reached, or gone beyond 100% renewable energy in at least one sector.

As fossil and nuclear resources inevitably wane, along with the jobs they create, and as their costs and devastating environmental impacts rise, this trend will grow.

The Wall Street Journal

#Keystone XL

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On February 13, during an act of planned civil disobedience, we both were arrested at the White House. Along with 46 other citizens – authors and ranchers, reverends and farmers, union leaders and scientists – we had handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence to deliver a message to President Barack Obama: We cannot save our climate if you allow the United State to make bad choices like building a pipeline to carry Canada’s carbon-intensive tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico, which could prove catastrophic for our land, water, and climate. It would only feed the expansion of strip mining the boreal forests and wetlands for tar sands crude.

Tar sands are far from the only one in this age of extreme energy sources. Mountaintop removal mining is devastating the Appalachian mountains in the US. Offshore drilling threatens the Arctic. And the highly controversial drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has set off an unprecedented rush to exploit shale gas deposits around the globe.

The exploitation of these extreme fossil fuel resources comes with both inherent (at times catastrophic) risks and guaranteed harms to the health of people and the environment. Every year, many thousands die as the result of fossil fuel pollution. In exchange for energy, humanity has tolerated these negative consequences for more than a century. This no longer an option. These resources will not last forever, and our environment can’t continue to take this level of pollution. There are also far better energy alternatives.

We cannot continue dumping carbon pollution into our atmosphere without drastically disrupting our planet’s climate. Already, we’re seeing the results of nearly two centuries of unrestrained carbon emissions. Droughts, storms, and wildfires have struck the US and other nations. At this point, the question isn’t whether the planet’s climate will become warmer, but how much warmer before we can stabilize it. The only certain way we know to stabilize it is to stop using fossil fuels.

Of course, we cannot stop burning fossil fuels overnight. But the science is clear about the upper limit of how much carbon we can put into the atmosphere before global climate warming exceeds 2C. According to the International Energy Agency, that limit is equivalent to burning about a third of known fossil fuel reserves on the planet. In other words, to avoid climate disruption that could threaten civilization, we must leave at least two-thirds of all the oil, coal, and natural gas that we know about in the ground.
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Instead of developing extreme fossil fuels like tar sands, it is critical that we focus on transitioning from dirty fuels to clean energy as quickly as possible. Obviously, we cannot rely on fossil fuel companies to take the initiative to make this transition. It is up to the people to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and insist that they do the right thing

Fortunately, the best answer to a bad idea is a better idea. We have better ways to power our global economy. The growth of renewables in just the past four years has been extraordinary. Clean, renewable energy is already taking the place of coal-fired power in the United States. Installed wind power has more than doubled, and last year it was the number one source of new American electric generating capacity, accounting for 42% of all new capacity.

Renewable energy as a whole accounted for 55% of all new American generating capacity. In Spain, wind power this winter surpassed that from all other sources. Thanks to solar, Germany is on track to get 35% of its electricity from renewables by the end of the decade. But Germany soon will be surpassed by China as the country with the largest installed base of solar. This year China will more than double its installed solar from 4 gigawatts to 10 gigawatts.

The most exciting thing about renewable energy is that we still don’t know what, if any, limits there are on how much of it we can create and how quickly we can make the switch. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that the US has sufficient renewable energy resources to provide 80% of the nation’s electricity by 2050, using only currently existing technologies. If we invest in the research and development of clean energy technologies, rather than fossil fuel boondoggles like Keystone XL and Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling escapades, who knows what new and exciting technologies we might have?

We know what we need to do: stop using fossil fuels. And we know how we can do it: by refusing to subsidize fossil fuels and by increasing our investment in renewables and energy efficiency. We have the solutions right now that can put fossil fuels in our past forever. What we do not have is time to waste. The climate is already changing, and people are already suffering the consequences. We must start making the right choices now.

President Obama knows this as well as we do. The question is whether he is prepared to make those right choices even when they are tough politics. His decision on Keystone XL will give us an answer. We are hopeful that he will show the world that the United States is ready to lead and begin solving the climate crisis.

The Guardian

#KXL Texas

Daryl Hannah protesting as construction work begins on TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, at Eleanor Fairchild's farm in east Texas, 4 October 2012. Photograph: Steven Da Silva Steven Da Silva/PR

Daryl Hannah protesting as construction work begins on TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, at Eleanor Fairchild’s farm in east Texas, 4 October 2012. Photograph: Steven Da Silva Steven Da Silva/PR

On 4 October 2012, in rural east Texas, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, was arrested for trespassing on her own property … and I was arrested standing beside her, as we held our ground in the path of earth-moving excavators constructing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Seems there’s showdown in Texas – but, in fact, it’s a battle being waged all over the United States. It’s being fought by ordinary citizens of all colors, economic strata and political persuasions – against the world’s wealthiest multinational corporations, misinformation and deeply embedded fears. While I’m not a fan of war terminology, in these struggles, war analogies seem to highlight both the crisis at hand and perhaps the solution we seek.

Let’s face it, we are in times of great crisis: economic crisis, overpopulation crisis, climate crisis, extinction crisis, water crisis and a humanitarian crisis on so many levels. Energy, and how we create it, is a pivotal issue for many of these crises. It has become increasingly clear that we need to move in a different direction, yet as a species, we humans are uncomfortable with, and resist, change – though we know it is the very nature of life and not only essential, but inevitable.

Scientific findings warn us that a switch to renewable energy is essential if we are to avert disastrous climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But since scientific findings and the climate crisis have been so successfully politicized – and I loathe politics – I’ll leave the horrifying ramifications of the global climate crisis out of this.

No matter what political rhetoric you choose to follow, or what course we choose to take with our energy options, there are things we all can agree on. As the second World Water Forum wisely stated:

“Water is everybody’s business.”

Clean, regenerative energy could provide a way past peak oil and our detrimental fossil fuel addiction – if we collectively had the will to employ renewables, and addressed the change as urgently as the US did during the second world war when we unleashed our scientific creativity and industrial ingenuity to support the war effort. But there is no escape from peak water. We simply cannot live without uncontaminated water and food.

Since we can’t make informed choices without being informed, here is an update on the global water crisis: the International Water Management Institute projects that by 2025, barely 12 years, two-thirds of the world will live under conditions of water scarcity. As Lester Brown from Earth Policy Institute says:

“Scores of countries are over-pumping aquifers as they struggle to satisfy their growing water needs … the USDA reports that in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas – three leading grain-producing states, the underground water table has dropped by more than 30 meters. As a result, wells have gone dry on thousands of farms in the southern Great Plains … for fossil aquifers, such as the vast Ogollala under the Great Plains, which do not replenish … depletion would mean the end of agriculture.”

Texas was ravaged by drought last year and the majority of the US suffered extreme drought conditions this year. Brown goes on to say:

“The over-pumping of aquifers is occurring in many countries more or less simultaneously. This means that the depletion of aquifers and the resulting harvest cutbacks will come in many countries at roughly the same time. And the accelerating depletion of aquifers means this day may come sooner than expected, creating a potentially unmanageable situation of food scarcity.”

The complete Keystone XL pipeline project that is proposed would come down across the border from Alberta through six states – passing right through the Ogallala aquifer – the source of irrigation water for two-thirds of our nation’s farms and ranches. The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was fast-tracked and is now under construction, would cross through the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that supplies water for agriculture, industry and fresh drinking water to 10-12 million Texans.

kxl

Another thing we can all agree on – as even TransCanada admits, it’s not a question of “if” there will be spills, but “when”. We just can’t afford it.

TransCanada represented its product as crude oil, while the House ways and means committee clearly states crude oil does not include shale, oil or tar sands oil. Keystone XL would carry tar sands oil – or bitumen – a highly toxic, corrosive substance filled with proprietary chemicals. Unlike crude oil, tar sands sludge has to be pumped at high pressures, and extremely high temperatures to move through pipe.

Even federal safety officials don’t know precisely which chemicals are used to mix bitumen and create dilbit. There have been no independent scientific studies exploring the relationship between dilbit and pipeline corrosion.
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In mid 2010, the Endbridge Energy pipeline leaked, dumping 843,000 gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo river. The cost to clean it up is expected to exceed $700m. The Keystone I, Keystone XL’s predecessor, leaked 12 times in its first year of operation, as Chris Hedges reported.

Proponents of KXL have made efforts to sell the pipeline to US citizens, greatly exaggerating job opportunities, quoting numbers upward of 50,000, while a Cornell University independent study said it would bring roughly 4,000 temporary jobs. TransCanada has also spent enormous amounts of PR money putting ads on Oprah’s network and the like, in an attempt to rebrand itself as “ethical oil”, insinuating that the Keystone XL pipeline would ensure America receives its oil from friendly Canada, instead of unstable regions elsewhere in the world.

But the Keystone XL pipeline has been mischaracterized, and the American people have been misled. Portraying the pipeline as a “public use” project carrying crude oil to the US, enables the foreign corporation to take US private property through “eminent domain” but for foreign private profit.

With no evidence to support those claims, politicians have jumped on this bandwagon to tout the KXL project as a means to enhance US energy security and energy independence. In fact, in a congressional energy and commerce subcommittee hearing, TransCanada refused to support a requirement that KXL oil be sold in US markets. This oil will be sold, most likely for export, on the open market to the highest bidder, most likely India (which itself manufactured the pipeline) or China. What is evident is that the Keystone XL pipeline is a private profit venture, not a “public use” project that serves the US national interest.

I’ll admit we have an uphill battle in fighting a corporation so deeply wedded to the White House (both the president and secretary of state have had TransCanada’s chief lobbyists direct their campaign efforts). And many of the large NGOs have even put the KXL battle on the back burner until after the elections. But we, the people, fight on.

So, this is why I stood with Eleanor in front of heavy construction equipment.

Eleanor Fairchild is just one of the brave citizens fighting for our survival. And her story should be told. She made no agreement with TransCanada. They took and bisected her 300-acre farm through a classic example of using eminent domain for corporate, rather than public purposes. Fairchild says that they slashed and burned the old-growth forests on her land, reneging on their promise to set aside the trees for use; that they work all through the night, though they said they would work only until 4pm.

She says they intimidate her, telling her she’s being watched. They have slapped her with a civil lawsuit and are attempting to brand this great-grandmother as an eco-terrorist. But Eleanor Fairchild is not against oil or pipelines; in fact, her late husband was in the oil business for 50 years. She’s against tar sands oil. She is against the contamination of our rare and precious water resources, and our soil for growing food.

Make no mistake, we are going through fire. If we just stand there doing nothing, we are going to get burned. But if we accept our ethical responsibility to stand up for each other, and for our life support systems, and if we focus on and work tirelessly for a better future, then that just may be within our reach.

The Guardian