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Legendary climate scientist James Hansen, who announced this week that he was retiring from his position of 46 years at NASA to work full time as environmental activist has not lost a moment and has come out with pistols blazing in his new role. He seems to be focusing in two areas; that of advocating for a price on carbon and trying to mobilize opposition to the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In an Op-Ed in the LA Times Hansen is unequivocal:Keystone XL Is The Pipeline To Disaster

        Stop Keystone Pipeline OLB Photo Montage
                                             photo credit: Backbone campaign, flr

In March, the State Department gave the president cover to open a big spigot that will hitch our country to one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth for 40 years or more. The draft environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline acknowledges tar sands are nasty stuff for the environment, but concludes that the project is OK because this oil will get to market anyway — with or without a pipeline.
Nothing to see here. The draft review suggests the climate impacts of the pipeline are limited because the project will not substantially "induce growth in the rate of extraction in the oil sands." This narrow analysis misses the mark. Researchers now say that the Alberta tar sands contain 360 to 510 billion tons of carbon — more than double that of all oil burned in human history. While only a fraction is considered economically recoverable right now, we humans are genius at finding new and better ways to dig junk out of the ground. Digging begets more digging. Once the big spigot is open, TransCanada will have every incentive to milk the massive tar sands basin for all it is worth.

It's out of our hands. The idea that the tar sands would get developed at the same rate without the pipeline is undercut by mainstream financial analysis and industry documents that show Keystone XL is the linchpin for tar sands expansion in the next decade. Tar sands may get to market without it, but at a slower rate and a much greater cost. For example, Canadian research and investment advisory firm Peters & Co. says moving tar sands by rail would spike costs twofold, from $7 to $11 a barrel to $15 to $20 a barrel. Some tar sands will inevitably cross the border on trains and in smaller pipelines but not at the scale permitted by Keystone XL. Only with a substantial increase in pipelines to the coasts, and with access to markets overseas, can the tar sands industry meet its eye-popping production targets — a full tripling of output in coming decades — along with the crushing blow that would deliver to our climate.

We have until April 22 to submit our opposition to the XL pipeline. Let's help out Dr. Hansen by making a public comment to the State Department about Keystone XL and tell them to reject the pipeline. Make your comment here. The comment section is made easy as it includes clips of talking points that you can use for your comment.

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Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Science Matters.

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