Anti-Pipeline Protesters Greet Obama as He Visits SF: “Hope or Oil? We Choose Hope!”
Hundreds of protestors crowded outside the W Hotel in downtown San Francisco today, Tuesday, to raise their voice on a string of policies as President Obama paid the city a visit to participate in a fundraising event.
While some 200 big donors awaited the president for an exclusive $7,500 a plate luncheon inside the hotel, the messages on the streets were multiple: “The People Say No to Drones and War,” “Free Bradley Manning,” and “Stop Federal Crackdown on Medical Marijuana.”
But the loudest were the chants urging: “Barack Obama, Yes You Can! Stop the Dirty Pipeline Plan.” The campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline was initiated by Credo Action -- Credo is a mobile phone that funds progressive causes and organizes activist campaigns and has given more than$65 million to nonprofit organizations. Credo told AlterNet that 800 RSVP’ed for the event in advance and on the corner between Third and Howard streets people gathered delivering a simple message to the President: “It's time for the change you promised - you must stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”
And President Obama can actually stop the pipeline, which will run from Canada through the US to the Gulf. But with big corporate interests vested, the question is if he will.
The 2,000-mile pipeline will daily carry 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil out from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas. This $7 billion pipeline system would be the longest outside of Russia and China, and giant oil corporations with investments in Canada's tar sands are counting on the Keystone XL pipeline to make the expansion of oil extraction operations profitable by doubling the imports of tar sand oils into the US.
The flip side: The pipeline could devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources, jeopardize public health, and double the country’s reliance on tar sand oil. And Credo has no doubt about the consequences of the Keystone Pipeline. It would mean, “Essentially game over for the climate,” according to climate scientist James Hansen on the campaign webpage.
Friends of the Earth explains the hazards caused by tar sand:
“Pollution from tar sands oil greatly eclipses that of conventional oil. During tar sands oil production alone, levels of carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil, due to more energy-intensive extraction and refining processes.”
To put this into perspective, Friends of the Earth warns the pipeline system would “result in climate-damaging emissions equal to adding more than six million new cars to U.S. roads.”
A loudspeaker in the midst of the protesters highlight the irony of the scenario, projecting Obama’s words four years ago when he urged the nation: ”Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.” Back then it seemed unlikely that the nation would have to plead the president not to push the country into deeper oil dependency. But so is the reality when the president visits San Francisco today.
Secretary of State Clinton has already said she's 'inclined' to recommend the pipeline go forward and earlier this month an email correspondence between the State Department and TransCanada was disclosed revealing a warm and collaborative relationship between company lobbyists and department officials. As late as yesterday Politico reported that Obama’s presidential campaign has hired former lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline, Broderick Johnson, as a senior adviser. One wonders what his advice in the case will be. Bill McKibben, who is leading protests against the pipeline, has no doubt: “This is simply a reminder of the way that corporate lobbyists dominate our politics. Forget 'Hope and Change' — it's like they want their new slogan to be 'Business as Usual.’”
But the protestors outside the W Hotel refuse to forget, enthusiastically chanting, “Hope or Oil? We choose hope!” What Obama chooses is yet to be seen.” Yesterday SFgate reported that coverage of the fundraising event was being “restricted to a small pool of Washington-based reporters - a move that is a sharp departure from the practices of past administrations, political observers said.”
With local media frozen out from the event we can only ponder what goes on inside walls of the hotel as the voices of the street travel to the sky: “This is what democracy looks like.”