Environment / Humor / Politics

Debating a Halfwit: The Keystone XL

Reuters / Yuri Gripas

Reuters / Yuri Gripas

On Monday, people gathered across the nation in over 200 vigils to urge President Obama to reject the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, and I have to say, I’m fucking tired of explaining why the pipeline is a hugely fucking bad  idea. Climate scientist James Hansen said it all when he said that exploiting these tar sands and building this pipeline would be “game over” for the climate.

Game over.

Ok, do I need to go into detail? Fine, but I’m tired of being nice about it. The southern leg of the pipeline has already been built and, in fact, began shipping oil in January, running from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. The northern leg would expand that pipeline, running from the Midwest to Alberta.

(The following is based on actual events)

But Alyssa, we use oil all the time. Don’t you like being able to drive places? Get over it you hippie!”

Well, you simpleton demon spawn, this pipeline would carry diluted bitumen, a viscous petroleum mixture – also known as tar sands or oil sands, a petroleum slush of sand, clay, and hydrocarbons that is so thick and sticky that it will not flow through pipes unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. In order to make liquid fuel from the bitumen, a process of steam injection and refining are necessary, generating more greenhouse gases. Studies have found that oil-sand crude is up to 22 percent more carbon intensive than regular crude oil. Just to get to the tar sands, pits must be dug to reach it or it must be blasted to the surface to be extracted, using more water and energy, and emitting more greenhouse gases into the air, as well as releasing toxic metals into the surrounding watershed.

Are you still listening, cretin? There’s more. Just this week, a study was published regarding emission levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – a carcinogen (that means cancer-causing) – released during the extraction process and found that it was two to three orders of magnitude higher (100 – 1,000x greater) than was previously thought. In lakes surrounding the Alberta tar sands area, high levels of PAHs were found, levels that have been rising since large-scale production of the oil sands began in the late 70s.

“But Alyssa, I heard that this pipeline won’t hurt the climate or any of that crap.”

That’s because the company that was selected to perform the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – had actually worked with TransCanada previously, you crusty botch of nature.  Documents uncovered by Mother Jones revealed that ERM’s second-in-command on the EIS had worked on projects with TransCanada as an outside consultant three times previously. Additionally, Politico uncovered further ties that the company had actually lobbied for a trade group that included a TransCanada subsidiary and is also a member of several industry groups that have urged the government to support the pipeline project. So, you churlish git, that’s called conflict of interest – a clear bias toward an industry and thus not an objective scientific report. Also, I will repeat myself – climate scientists say that this pipeline and exploiting the tar sands will be disastrous for the planet.

“Well, I disagree. I don’t think it will be bad for the climate.”

You goddamned ignoramus! When did you get your environmental science degree? Are you a climate scientist and have you been studying the anthropogenic (that means human-caused) effects on climate change for the past 30 years? When you go to the dentist, do you tell her you “disagree” that you have a cavity? No! That’s why we have goddamned experts! Not to mention that understanding that a new oil pipeline will have an adverse climate impact is simple logic. Burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases, leading to climate change. This pipeline will transport more oil – dirtier oil – to be burnt. Therefore, this pipeline WILL CONTRIBUTE TO CLIMATE CHANGE!

Ok, fine. Derp. But what about jobs? This will give us so many jobs! Do you hate working Americans?

Ok, turd-wanker, I’ll play this game for a fucking second. How many jobs will the pipeline actually create? Well, about 2,000 construction jobs that will last for a year, at most two, followed by about 50 permanent jobs. If you placed your energy pushing for jobs in building our dependence on renewables – something that would require many and more jobs to revamp our energy structure – you would get far more people back in the work force. What’s more, a study just released found that nearly five times more jobs, and many more long-term jobs, would be created if we simply fixed and updated our existing pipelines that are already in use.

Jobs are jobs and you’re a communist if you don’t support jobs.

Yes, communists hate jobs. And I hate having to explain to you – you insufferable ratbag – why this argument is logically incoherent! The false dilemma of having to choose between jobs and the environment; the idea that they are mutually incompatible is absolutely ludicrous! When did the push for jobs and the labor movement become so complacent? The jobs are there for completely revamping our country’s energy sector, if only we push for it. That would provide lasting jobs and cleaner energy. A win-win. Why would labor be willing to accept 2,000 short-term jobs and call that a success? Success is not employing a few people for one year at the expense of our entire fucking planet! We should be pushing for more and better. If a few meager jobs are all we’re pushing our government for, then they’ve already won. They will get the pipeline to line their pockets with money from the oil lobby, and they will get the complacency of you because you think winning 2,000 jobs is somehow a real win for labor.

But you’ve got to weigh the pros and cons. The pros are a few people can pay their mortgage for a year.

And the cons, you short-sighted prat, are global climate destruction.

But the environmental lobby is…

Just shut up. Don’t tell me the environmental lobby is somehow even in the same ballpark in terms of political power or influence. Oil companies make money in the billions. Sierra Club and other similar groups make only in the millions. Oh yeah, and they’re not for profit so…

But we need jobs and big business to keep our economy running!

You know what, you poor schlemiel, I feel almost sorry for you. The system is set up to make people like us fight each other over basic needs. Pitting the greens against labor is just one tactic to make us so divided that we can’t fight the true problem in this country – that big money bankers, fossil fuel companies, and the like are the ones running our country and no matter who we vote for, corporate interests will be the only interests looked after. Sure, the government lets you think that you have a say in who represents you in the White House. Every four years, we get to decide if we want to be led by a taint or an asshole and the masses dutifully choose which one they’d rather lick. So, poor schlub, I say let’s band together. The combined resources and people-power of all of the activist groups, the disenfranchised of the nation, those that want to see a country that is just and free from government and corporate tyranny, those that wish to put an end to poverty and unemployment yet still wish to inhabit a world filled with green spaces and a diversity of plant an animal life with thriving ecosystems – together we can overthrow the plutocracy! Together we can put an end to the oligarchy and create a system that is of the people! Really, don’t we all just want the same thing: to be free and to carry out our lives harmoniously. Let’s band, together, my simpleton comrade! What do you say?

Whatever. You’re a socialist. 


Also published on CounterPunch.


7 thoughts on “Debating a Halfwit: The Keystone XL

  1. The left cannot afford to insult those it hopes to recruit. The real argument against making Keystone XL the main target of activism is that it is both bad tactics and bad strategy. If Keystone north gets canceled, do you imagine the tar sands are somehow staying in the ground? Really? Now who’s naive?

    As for strategy, the supply of oil is but a symptom of the real problem, which is why our demand for energy is so huge. When will you folks start getting arrested for public transportation, urban reconstruction, rail modernization? Those are the real fights. As Barry Commoner said, we need to change production decisions. Fighting Keystone is a mere gesture that says nothing about that.

    Many ordinary people know all this, too, so I recommend dialing back on the insults.

    • Michael – you misunderstand my point, I think. The article was a response to people’s lack of understanding why this issue is not a black and white jobs versus environment issue. There is so much more at stake here. The insults were aimed at people who refuse to understand the broader context of different areas of popular resistance being pitted against each other to the great benefit of the ruling classes.
      Of course the Keystone XL should not be the main target of activism. The main target of activism – for me at least – is exposing and hopefully dismantling the neo-liberal, capitalist structure of society. However, this is a notably larger job so I put my efforts into smaller projects that I think I may be able to have some influence in.
      Killing the northern leg of the KXL will of course not stop tar sands burning or our reliance on fossil fuels but stopping it will provide the movement with some momentum and at least one small victory in the face of the giant that is capitalism and the ‘free’ market.
      And as for the insults, they couldn’t be helped. This fight gets tiring and it is hard to always be polite. Plus, I try (sometimes better than others) to make people laugh and I found terms like ‘crusty botch of nature’ (Shakespeare) to be rather hysterical.

      • What’s with the “comrade” and communist shit? I’m a communist and I feel like telling you and your concerns to go fuck yourself now

      • It was a joke, Marcus.
        Whenever I speak with people about my concerns for the environment/women’s rights/the poor/etc., the most common rebuke has been to call me a communist or a socialist. A ridiculous response.

      • I think it’s pretty clear that the references to “comrade” and “socialist” are tongue-in-cheek. The article is supposed to be a semi-fictionalized (“based on actual events”) account of a “conversation” between her and her simpleton-conversationalist. In the end she is called a “socialist”, but might as well be a “commie” (terms of endearment amongst Americans who couldn’t be bothered to figure out what socialism really is). I believe our author was trying to show how people could equate defense of something (in this case, the environment) with something which either has nothing to do with it or need not be mutually-exclusive.

        As for the insults, I found them rather tame. But I guess that’s Shakespeare in this day and age. Given my lack of talent or nuance, if I were to insult people in my writing, it would probably just amount to a lot of direct swear words. In fact, I think most of the insults in this piece are seemingly so out-of-place that it’s hard to take them seriously; clearly the rest of it is supposed to merit your attention. But I’m a foul-mouthed jerk, so I don’t know if that says much.

        I think that all of this (and, yes, I suppose I am doing my part in it) takes away from the main points – agreeable or not – that she is trying to make (aside from the fact that most people’s opinions aren’t backed up by any substance).

      • So, you are arguing that those who want a new movement should not criticize each other? Really? So, then whoever is first gets to be the unquestioned leader?

        And what if blocking KXL is actually not a small victory? What if it’s a distraction? The dude who posts on CP today explains that case pretty well. When even the Washington Post is able to oppose you from the left, it’s time for some rethinking.

        I agree with you about capitalism, btw. The question is which guns shoot in that direction. KXL and Bill McKibben are not it.

      • I don’t know what you mean about unquestioned leader and I think criticism is healthy. Not sure what you’re driving at there.
        I read the piece you’re referring to. It had some excellent points that I don’t really disagree with. KXL is a distraction if people consider it a defining win. I think dismantling any of the fossil fuel industry is helpful but I have a long view of the fight. There are plenty of people in the environmental movement that don’t – meaning that they don’t see this as a fight against capitalism or the existing neo-lib state. That’s problematic, but I think people just don’t want to face the enormity of the climate change problem or understand that it goes much deeper than changing to renewables – it is a systematic issue.
        I do appreciate the argument in the CP article greatly. The issue is complex, however as I said before, dismantling the fossil fuel industry and the capitalistic system, even in small ways such as the KXL are beneficial ultimately. Perhaps I just hope people will take the KXL issue and use it to propel them into this way of thinking – fighting for further deconstruction.

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