Anti-Oil Pipeline Protesters to Circle White House: ‘Think of It As A Big O-Shaped Hug’

By Penny Starr | November 4, 2011 | 3:34pm EDT

Environmental activist Bill McKibben said at a Nov. 4, 2011 press conference at the National Press Club that protesters plan to circle the White House on Sunday to remind President Barack Obama of his campaign promises. ( Starr)

( – Anti-oil activists opposed to a proposed pipeline to transport tar sands crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico said protestors who plan to surround the White House on Sunday, Nov. 6, are not attacking President Barack Obama.

“People will be there on Sunday to remind him” of his campaign promise to “’end the tyranny of oil,’” Bill McKibben said at a press conference on Friday at the National Press Club.

McKibben, a long-time environmental activist, along with activists from the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Energy Action Coalition, said the Keystone XL Pipeline – the latest in a series of TransCanada pipelines to connect Canadian crude oil with U.S. refineries – is the “most environmentally destructive project on the planet.”

“I suppose you could look at our circle around the president, if you were in a certain mood, as a kind of symbolic house arrest,” McKibben said. “You can’t occupy the White House, but you can surround it.

“But you could also look at it, I suppose, depending on your mood, as a kind of big O-shaped hug,” said McKibben, adding that he is “confident that the president will do the right thing.”

“It’s not in our national interest to transport the dirtiest oil on Earth across our precious Great Plains – the world’s bread basket,” John Adams, founder of the NRDC, said in a press release promoting the protest. “Keystone XL would put our farmers and ranchers at risk, endanger the water supply for millions of Americans, and perpetuate our addiction to oil.”

TransCanada claims, however, that “billions of gallons of oil are safely transported by pipeline” and that protecting the environment is a priority.

Maura Cowley, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition, said on Nov. 4, 2011 at the National Press Club, that she and other young people do not want jobs in the oil industry because they 'poison our bodies.'( Starr)

“Keystone XL is devoted to minimizing its environmental impact along the proposed route,” the company states on its Web site. “Recognizing the importance of native prairie as well as soil and top soil conservation, the project team will implement calculated methods and techniques designed for the highest quality reclamation process.”

“In all cases, great care and planning will be taken to minimize and avoid impacts to the environment, including rare or endangered species, habitat, significant water crossings, and historical and paleontological resources,” the company Web site states.

The TransCanada Web site also has several reports posted detailing efforts to protect the environment around pipelines, including the 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which will travel from Alberta and extend southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The pipeline would incorporate a portion of the Keystone Pipeline (Phase II) through Nebraska and Kansas serving markets at Cushing, Oklahoma before continuing through Oklahoma to a delivery point near existing terminals in Nederland, Texas, according to the Web site.

To date, the State Department has been in charge of approving or rejecting the latest TransCanada pipeline because it crosses an international border. The State Department has said a decision will be made by the end of 2011.

When President Obama was asked about the pipeline in a Nov. 1 interview with Nebraska television station KETV, the president said he believed there was a way to approve the project and protect the public health.

But he also said he did not want to approve a project that would harm the environment, even if it meant jobs would be lost.

(Map from TransCanada Web site)

“Folks in Nebraska, like folks all across the country, aren't going to say to themselves, ‘We're going to take a few thousand jobs, if it means our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health,’” Obama said.

An independent study shows that the $7-billion pipeline project is expected to create more than 20,000 “high-wage manufacturing jobs” in the United States over the 12-month period following its approval. The Perryman Group study states that the proposed pipeline project would “improve U.S. energy security” and provide “a more stable source of consistent energy supply over an extended period of time.”

Maura Cowley, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition, said that the jobs created by the pipeline are not desirable jobs for the young people who belong to her group.

“We really, really believe in [Obama], but we are also watching this issue really, really closely,” Cowley said. “And it’s now become an issue for young people that symbolizes Obama’s commitment to clean energy, to a clean energy future, to the green jobs we want.”

“Because young people don’t actually want jobs that poison their bodies and make them sick, like dirty oil jobs,” Cowley said.

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