Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Keystone XL Pipeline While Hillary Clinton's Allies Push It Ahead
On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming.
TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada's tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe. Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, while Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side.
Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world's highest-carbon-emitting oil, 53% of which is owned by America's Koch brothers. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Industries.)
David Goldwyn, who was former Secretary Clinton's Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, is yet another lobbyist for TransCanada. So, TransCanada has two of Hillary Clinton's friends working for it. Elliot and Goldwyn worked with Clinton's people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm or governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline.
Secretary Clinton's State Department allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and the resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth's climate would be additionally heated if the pipeline is built and operated. Its report ignored that question and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, which was estimated to be none.
President Obama is now trying to force the European Union to relax its anti-global-warming regulations so the EU will import the Kochs' dirty oil. His agent in this effort is his new U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, from Wall Street.
But on December 20, Senator Warren signed onto a letter criticizing the Obama administration's apparent effort to force the European Union to agree to purchase this oil. As the Huffington Post's Kate Sheppard reported, "Six senators and 16 House members, all Democrats, wrote a letter to Froman on Friday asking him to elaborate on his position on the matter. 'If these reports are accurate, USTR's [the U.S. Trade Representative's] actions could undercut the EU's commendable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its transportation sectors,' these 22 Democratic lawmakers wrote."
This is, essentially, a rebellion by 22 progressive congressional Democrats against the Clinton-Obama effort to provide a market for the Kochs' oil. The letter was actually written by Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and co-signed by senators Barbara Boxer, Ed Markey, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren; and Representatives John Conyers, Jr., Barbara Lee, Raúl M. Grijalva, Rush Holt, Louise M. Slaughter, Jerrold Nadler, Judy Chu, Peter DeFazio, Anna G. Eshoo, Sam Farr, Peter Welch, Alan Lowenthal, Mark Pocan, and Steve Cohen.
What is at issue in the Keystone XL and Alberta tar sands matter is governmental policies that will determine whether the tar-sands oil will undercut the production-costs of normal oil. Right now, normal oil costs far less to mine, process, and get to market (because tar sands oil is so dirty and so landlocked). However, if the Kochs win, existing governmental policies will change in ways that will eliminate this cost-advantage of normal oil. The result would be increased sales and burning of the tar-sands oil, and thus reduced sales and burning of cleaner oil. That would throw into the atmosphere "more than $70 billion in additional damages associated with climate change over 50 years." That added $70 billion would be the added harms to the entire world, not to the owners of the tar sands.
The benefits to Koch Industries, from this competitive re-allignment in favor of tar-sands oil, have been estimated to be around $100 billion. This would add about $45 billion to the net worth of David Koch, $45 billion to the net worth of Charles Koch, and $15 billion to the net worth of Elaine Marshall. (David and Charles Koch would then become the two wealthiest individuals in the world.)
On December 17, the Republican House budget chief, Paul Ryan, threatened to drive the U.S. government into default unless President Obama approves the Keystone XL Pipeline.
President Obama holds the sole authority to approve or disapprove this project, because it crosses the international border. He has delayed this decision for years because he doesn't want to enrage the environmental community. Also, tipping his hand in that way would be a waste if he cannot first get Europe to weaken its environmental standards and allow this oil to compete in Europe with normal oil.
Senator Warren has now joined with the progressives on two big issues that arouse intense opposition from the aristocrats who finance most political campaigns. Warren opposes the taxpayer handouts to Wall Street, and she now also opposes the environmental handouts to the owners of the most harmfully polluting corporations, such as Koch Industries. (The other owners of tar-sands oil are Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco.)
This could be a turning point in Elizabeth Warren's political career. She's no longer at war against only the corrupution in the financial industry, she is also at war against the environmental corruption so widespread in the Republican Party.
In another example of that environmental corruption, on Oct. 2, 2013, Joe Romm at Think Progress reported that "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that methane... is far more potent a greenhouse gas" than previously known, so bad it "would gut the climate benefits of switching from coal."
Just five days after that, Jon Campbell in upstate New York reported that at Hamilton College, Hillary Clinton praised fracking for methane by saying, "What that means for viable manufacturing and industrialization in this country is enormous."
If Warren won't be able to get either Wall Street or the oil patch to finance her political campaigns, how can she possibly rise within the power structure?