Arrested retirees, one year later

BY DI READERS | AUGUST 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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Why would four responsible, middle-class, law-abiding Iowa City retirees travel nearly 1,000 miles to face arrest? One year ago this week, we were among the 1,253 persons from all across the United States that a SWAT team handcuffed, searched, and hauled by paddy wagon to a D.C. jail. Our crime? Standing in front of the White House protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. For us, it was simply time to take a stand on principle for Mother Earth.

Yes, many pundits say the booming shale-oil fields in Texas and North Dakota and the growth of deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will allow the nation to cut its reliance on oil imports significantly over the next couple of decades.        

The reality is that continued dependence on fossil fuels will be an environmental disaster that our planet will not survive as we know it.

Take Keystone XL. Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but it will transport Canadian oil for export to overseas markets. A Saudi corporation owns 50 percent of the largest Port Arthur refinery; a second large refinery is owned by BASF, a German chemical company.

Furthermore, TransCanada’s jobs projections are vastly inflated, as shown by numerous studies, including one by Cornell University’s respected Global Labor Institute.

Despite a temporary rejection of Keystone XL by President Obama, TransCanada has attempted to circumvent a transparent, thorough review process by splitting the pipeline into two segments, a northern, transborder segment from Alberta to Steele City, Neb., and a southern segment from Cushing, Okla., on to Port Arthur.           

Last week, TransCanada began plowing ahead with the southern leg without public input or an environmental review. A tar-sands blockade has gone into action at Cushing, planned and carried out by farmers, ranchers, landowners, and other volunteer demonstrators.

Pollution from tar-sands oil is vastly worse than that of conventional oil. Levels of carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil, because of a more energy-intensive extraction and refining processes. It takes three barrels of water to extract a single barrel of oil.

At this rate, tar-sands operations use roughly 400 million gallons of water a day, water that should be conserved. Ninety percent of this polluted water is dumped into large human-made pools, known as tailing ponds, after it’s used. Chemicals from these ponds have worked their way into neighboring water supplies. Communities living downstream from tailing ponds have seen spikes in rates of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism.

Investing in tar-sands oil now will delay investments in clean and safe alternatives to oil, such as better fuel-economy requirements, plug-in electric cars fueled by solar power, and smart growth and public transportation infrastructure that give Americans choices other than cars.

John & Ann Christenson, arrested Aug. 23, 2011
Barbara Schlachter, arrested Aug. 29, 2011
Del Holland, arrested Aug. 30, 2011

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