Piping Hot

So how long will it be before President Obama finally says no to the Keystone XL pipeline?

As much as I enjoyed Pope Francis’s remarks on the climate crisis last week, as well as the announcement that China will implement a cap-and-trade program in 2017, I’d argue that last week’s biggest climate news was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she now opposes what Esquire’s Charles Pierce calls “the continent-spanning death funnel and Republican fetish object.”

As Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska—who, along with James Hansen and Bill McKibben, has been the most prominent voice against KXL–noted in her September 23 appearance on former MSNBC host Ed Schultz’s podcast, Obama is politically boxed into a corner as a result of Clinton’s announcement. For all of the criticism Clinton has received over her perceived lack of leadership relative to Democratic presidential rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley on this issue, if she has indeed forced Obama’s hand, Joe Biden-style, on Keystone XL, then her action may well be considered historic (although obviously not as historic as the citizen activism that raised awareness about the multiple dangers of the pipeline).

If Obama finally says no, it will be a gamechanger from a domestic and international perspective, a testament to the power of citizen commitment, a sign that the moral case against dirty energy is overwhelming. If Obama finally says no, he will back up his passionate words about the need to protect future generations. If Obama finally says no, the fossil fuel industry will be forced to confront its mortality after decades of getting away with immorality.

Speaking of immorality, the same citizen activism that led Clinton, and perhaps Obama, to say no to KXL could also lead the Justice Department to hold ExxonMobil accountable for its decades of deception on climate change. The ExxonMobil executives who deceived the public and blocked needed action on climate did the same sleazy stuff that the tobacco industry engaged in decades ago. The tobacco industry ultimately faced justice. ExxonMobil should face justice too.

UPDATE: From Gaius Publius, Dana Nuccitelli, Peter Sinclair and Brad Friedman.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.