Keystone XL – Just a Pawn?

Aside from frustration and years of uncertainty, there is one other thing that a four-year project approval process can bring: inconsistent rhetoric. While proponents of Keystone XL have maintained a steady drumbeat of support for the jobs, economic and national security benefits the pipeline will bring, the past couple of months have revealed that opponents are not so steadfast. After years of focusing on the pipeline itself, those against the project are finally conceding to the fact that opposition was never really about the pipeline at all; Keystone XL was instead used as a conduit, or symbol, for a sweeping anti-fossil fuel campaign charged by a minority of Americans.

Here’s what opponents are saying about their plan to make a martyr out of KXL, and what supporters are suggesting as one big distraction from the real benefits of the project:

“From our perspective, this [Keystone XL] has always been about the climate, and it has always been about the president.” – Daniel Kessler, (01/22/13)

“Keystone is really a symbol of oil, it is very emotive. It is a symbol around which the opponents of hydrocarbon[s] have rallied.” – Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS CERA (02/01/13)

“[R]egarding the Keystone pipeline, the administration should face down critics of the project, ensure that environmental standards are met and then approve it. […] [T]he pipeline is not going to determine whether the Canadian [oil] sands are developed or not.” – Nature Magazine Editorial (01/29/13)

“Mr. Obama should ignore the activists who have bizarrely chosen to make Keystone XL a line-in-the-sand issue, when there are dozens more of far greater environmental import.”  – Washington Post Editorial Board (01/23/13)

“The pipeline is just a red herring. If the pipeline really were their main concern, they also would be protesting all the other pipelines that crisscross the Ogallala Aquifer, including the gasoline pipeline between Geneva and Yankton, S.D.” – Letter from C. Michael Cowen, retired USDA biologist (02/07/13)

“Our goal for Presidents Day is to form a massive human pipeline through Washington, and then transform it into a giant symbol of the renewable energy future we need – and are ready to build, starting right away.” – Letter from (02/07/13)

“Opponents are trying to cast the Keystone XL pipeline as a symbol of the type of energy development that the president—with his newly dusted-off promise for action on climate change—must act to stop.”       – Mr. Knappenberger, Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute (01/24/13)

“I think Keystone is very important. It’s a very important symbol that the President can make.”-  Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC (01/27/13)

“Let’s face it. The opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t about dirty oil. It’s about oil.” – Severin Borenstein, Director, UC Berkeley Energy Institute (05/02/13)

“The Keystone pipeline has become a powerful political symbol — largely because it is a single thing, with ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ clearly on the stage, and people can understand it.  So while other issues are more important to our actual CO2 emissions, this is an important symbolic and political issue for the environmental community.”-  Jonathan Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota (01/25/13)

“U.S. environmentalists view it [Keystone XL] as a symbol of a U.S. addiction to carbon-intensive fossil fuels and have mounted an intensive campaign urging President Barack Obama to reject the US$7-billion project.” –  Canadian Press (01/02/13)

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