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Beyond Keystone: Why Climate Movement Must Keep Heat On

Beyond Keystone: Why Climate Movement Must Keep Heat On

It took a committed coalition and the increasingly harsh reality of climate change to push President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. But sustained public pressure will now be needed to force politicians to take the next critical actions on climate.

The key passage — the forward-looking passage — of President Obama’s speech last week rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline came right at the end, after he rehashed all the arguments about jobs and gas prices that had been litigated endlessly over the last few years.

“Ultimately,” he said, “if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Chesapeake Climate/Flickr
Demonstators protest the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House in November 2012.

This is a remarkable evolution for the president. He came into office with “Drill Baby Drill” ringing in his ears from the 2008 Republican convention, and baby did he drill. Before his first term was out, he gave a speech in front a stack of oil pipe in Oklahoma in which he laid out his accomplishments:

“Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some. So we are drilling all over the place.”

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