Once long ago – actually only three months ago – the Obama administration drew a line in the sand in solidarity with thousands of protesters, reams of petitions and dozens of dramatic demonstrations across the country, giving cry to environmental concerns over tarsands oil development and general alarm at the threat of accelerated climate change.
Now, it looks like that line was at best a diversion, at worst a lie.
Almost immediately, pressure mounted from conservatives and Republicans, including some of the very politicians in Nebraska who had opposed the Keystone XL pipeline carrying Alberta’s tarsands crude to Texas ports. It soon became clear that the permit denial might only signal a delay, while the pipeline route was modified to skirt the vulnerable Nebraska Sandhills.
The “hearing” that 350.org founder Bill McKibben hoped science might receive morphed back into political sloganeering, business-as-usual for oil and gas interests, and a deaf ear for both the public outcry and the sober warnings of many scientists.
Look no further than Montana’s U.S. Senate race, where incumbent Jon Tester, a Democrat, faces a stiff challenge from the state’s sole representative in the U.S. House, Republican Denny Rehberg. I support Tester. I’ve attended his fund raisers. Yet I cringed at a recent campaign event where Tester defended the Keystone project and the oil fracking boom in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, spouting standard refrains about “friendly oil,” “jobs,” and “oil independence.”
Tester seemed genuine, but it’s clear he is in a political box, much like Obama. Neither can afford to speak the truth, or pursue real alternatives, when it comes to our unsustainable energy momentum. Questioned on this, Tester refused to face the hard realities, and I could see the political wheels turning as he spoke. Obama makes those same political calculations, and they may be the reason why his administration is on track to approve more oil drilling permits than President George W. Bush.