The facts and “frames” surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline: Game over for the planet, or “Ethical Oil” for U.S. consumption.

Bill McKibben, from began a 24 hour drive earlier this week to urge our elected representatives not to cave in to the demands of the super-wealthy Koch brothers, who together with TransCanada are determined to build the Keystone XL pipeline regardless of the devastating consequences to the people or the planet.

The battle over whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a prime example of the fight progressives have been waging against the powers that be for decades, and arguably since the founding of this country.  The rich and powerful have always insisted on gaining more wealth and power at the expense of the people.  Today is no different, and the Koch brothers are the rich and powerful who stand to gain a fortune if this pipeline gets approved.

Like the majority of political, social and economic issues we face today as a nation, this fight boils down to a battle between facts and frames.  The facts are that that the Keystone XL oil pipeline is an extremely dangerous venture that will devastate the planet.

One of America’s foremost climate scientists says that if the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is built to tap the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, the impact on the Earth’s climate will be devastating.” 

“Essentially, it’s game over for the planet,” said James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He is quoted by reporter Jane Mayer in the Nov. 28th issue of “The New Yorker” magazine as making the statement to environmental activist Bill McKibben.”

For a summary of what’s really going on with the Keystone XL oil pipeline watch this short video clip.

Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker who made this video had this to say, “The Koch brothers personify the top 1% and have used their wealth to influence policies, like those surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to make more money at the expense of middle class families.”

Clearly this doesn’t look good for the Koch brothers, which is precisely why the need exists to “frame” this incredibly unethical venture as something that is ethical and in our national interests.  Hence, the “ethical oil” frame was born, and specifically crafted to appeal to our sense of morality.

Here’s the “ethical oil” frame in action.

This frame suggests that we will stop our dependence on foreign oil by using “ethical oil” from our friends in Canada, as opposed to getting it from dictators in the Middle East.

There’s just one major problem with this frame, as pointed out by the only study not paid for by TransCanada and the Koch brothers,

“The idea of energy independence clearly resonates with the American public, and the paid advertisements depicting Canadian Tar Sands as the source of “ethical oil” (and therefore a better option than oil from dictatorships like Saudi Arabia) plays to that sentiment. But KXL is a global project driven by global oil interests. Tar Sands development has attracted investment capital from oil multinationals—with Chinese corporations’ stake getting bigger all the time.1 If approved, KXL will be almost certainly be constructed by temporary labor working with steel made in Canada and India. Much of the Tar Sands oil will be refined in Port Arthur, Texas, where the refinery is half-owned by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia.2

Given the obvious devastating impact the Keystone XL oil pipeline will bring, not to mention the fact that this oil will be shipped to the global market, will kill more jobs than it will create, and is only in the interests of the Koch brothers and other multinational investors (including China), perhaps it’s time to end our addiction to foreign oil once and for all this time.

Instead of relying on dirty, unsafe fuels of the past, we should focus on clean, safe fuels of the future.  As Drew Westen pointed out, “we have a choice, we can move toward the safe, clean fuels of the 21st century – energy from the sun, the wind… fuels that will never run out, don’t have to be burned to produce energy, and will create new jobs and help us restore prosperity.  Or we can continue to rely on the fossil fuels of the 19th century, which will run out, threaten our economic and national security, and destroy the land and air as we extract and burn them – pouring billions of tons of pollutants into the air, including those that are destroying our atmosphere and altering the delicate balance of nature.”


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