When a crowd estimated between 35,000 and 50,000 demonstrated against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17, it showed a new sense of urgency over climate change — not only by the ranks of the environmental movement, but also by some of the usually cautious organizations at the top.
The plan is for the long pipeline to bring heavy and very dirty crude oil from tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries in Texas. Petroleum capitalists in both countries have lobbied heavily for it, as it will also bring them enormous fortunes.
But climate scientists say that the vast amount of thick oil this would make available would lead to the eventual release of so much planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it would “tip” the planet into the irreversible collapse of present biosystems.
What can be a worse prospect for the future than that? Shouldn’t this dire prognosis sway even the most hard-hearted, pig-headed capitalists?
Perhaps the answer was given by the White House heavies who carefully plan out what the president does each day and who he sees.
Even as the crowds were gathering on the Mall, President Barack Obama was in Florida playing golf — with not only Tiger Woods but also Jim Crain. Crain may be best known to the public as owner of the Houston Astros, but he is also a partner in Western Gas Holdings, a company that gathers, processes, compresses and transports natural gas and crude oil for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. You may not have heard of Anadarko, but it is one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production companies.
Now, most of that vast crowd of people calling for Obama to veto the pipeline undoubtedly voted for him. Some, like the head of the Sierra Club, said from the podium that they believed he would veto it.
If Obama listens to them and the scientists, then he will do what is right for the planet. But that is a very, very long shot. For he would be walking into a meat grinder, and he knows it.
To go up against Big Oil is to go up against this entire oil-driven economy. The U.S. capitalist government is at the present time fighting at least half a dozen wars, whose real objective is to secure U.S. corporate control of the oil of the Middle East and Northern Africa. Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, has given his blessing to kidnapping, torture, killer drones and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars to keep these wars going.
If and when he signs the pipeline bill, he will undoubtedly talk about the need to create jobs and other panaceas. But at the same time his government continues to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers at every level so the bankers can get paid their interest on the debt.
It is good to see that well-funded organizations are finally calling on their followers to not just lobby their representatives but get into the streets to struggle against climate change. The next step is to break with the idea that big capital can be won over to the concept that green can be profitable.
The profitability of individual corporations is not compatible with the gigantic task of reorganizing society on a sustainable basis. Already, the climate crisis has awakened anti-capitalist consciousness among millions. The struggle against capitalism is the real wave of the future.