Barack Obama gave a speech today, the subject of which was his program for limiting carbon dioxide emissions. No television networks televised it (well, OK, the Weather Channel). Did he show some leadership? enough that he can claim that he did something. But it isn’t important, because it won’t change the ultimate result. It does not include a “veto” of the XL pipeline. This veto would be an essential part of limiting carbon dioxide emissions. But he will not do it. A hundred years from now, our grandchildren will be living in a very different world, and Obama will be part of the cause.
Extraction of the tar sands in Alberta will put the planet at the limit (one trillion tons) of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, that will put us at two degrees of global warming, at which scientists have estimated the effects will become truly awful (as if it isn’t already getting there). Stopping the XL pipeline will greatly impair the ability to develop the Alberta tar sands cost-effectively. But he isn’t going to do it.
It will be on him. What other legacy does he have? Drone assassinations worldwide, including U.S persons and citizens? Unprecedented surveillance of U.S. citizens?
Obama is a mixed race person, as we mostly all are, who has enough characteristics of a black man to be considered black. And he was elected president of the United States. That was historic and wonderful. That is what he will be remembered for, and that is all. Of course, his lack of accomplishments is not all his fault. The Republican Party, especially the real crazies and the financial criminals, created an economic mess, ran with the racism, and created enough confusion that the composition of Congress prevented much of anything meaningful on the legislative front. Further, the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court had been, shall we say, “re-purposed” under George W. Bush. Obama’s single claimed accomplishment, The Affordable Healthcare Act, was diluted into virtual nothingness, and will in the future be seen as nothing more than a nice thing for people with pre-existing conditions and unemployed children. He had a chance to reverse the sudden surge of militarism, illegal acts, spying, assassinations, and war crimes triggered by the events of 2001. Instead, after announcing “we do not torture,” he became the terrorist president, the only head of state in the world whose enunciated policy and personal activity is to select and execute without a trial, citizens of his own and other countries by sudden assault from the sky. “War crime” is now an anachronism. There is no such thing, in 2013. Similarly, so is the constitutional right to privacy.
Obama’s last hope for significance is about to be wasted, as he will approve the so called Keystone XL pipeline. This project does nothing for the US. It deprives us of land. It simply enriches a few already rich persons. And it will inevitably spill toxic petroleum and additives into our soil and our water supplies. Most importantly, it enables the development and burning of a massive store of fossil fuel, a quantity so great that it essentially means “game over” in terms of limiting the increase in atmospheric CO2. It means our chance of preventing radical climate change is really gone. It means that the sea level rise will probably be more like 200 feet, displacing millions, and the interior of the US will become “desert-ified.” It means starvation on a worldwide scale, extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals, acidification of our oceans to the point of radically changing their nature. The realities of the situation are that we HAVE to make fossil fuels more expensive, and renewables/solar/wind less expensive, to eventually eliminate fossil fuels, BEFORE we reach a trillion tons of carbon emitted. Vetoing the XL pipeline will be a huge step in shifting the cost equation in favor of renewables. Obama has failed to do it, and the significance of that dwarfs anything he has done while in office.
Obama will have no positive legacy other than being elected the “first black president.” He will have ensured that by approving the XL pipeline. OTL,S! is hard pressed to understand why, other than personal enrichment, he would do so. The majority Democratic Party has thus far watched his performance in rather slack-jawed amazement and (largely) silent anger, tempered by knowledge of the Republican tactics. But the XL pipeline is something that he can stop by his own action. With approval of XL, his support in the progressive base of the Democratic Party will collapse, and the party will begin to fragment.
Some dreamers have misinterpreted his statement today:
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest, and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,”….
‘This project” is just the pipeline itself. This is a clear statement of the excuse Obama will use to approve the pipeline. Pre-speech, there was no indication that he would even touch on it. He realized that without some statement about XL, his speech would be a ho hummer. So he put in this ambiguous statement. The Wall Street Journal for 6/26 has it right:
Mr. Obama also said he would approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline later this year if it didn’t “significantly” increase net greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Clearly, He will claim that the tar sands will be exploited one way or another, and that the pipeline is the most efficient way of doing it. He will claim that the oil companies have purchased offsets. He will approve it. He has the power, and he understands what it means (one should also note that even his announced program is less aggressive than that in place already in California).
He has misled the public again. He has no shame. George W. Bush has for his legacy literally millions of dead, orphaned, widowed, and handicapped persons at home and in the Middle East, all because of his juvenile fantasies of being a war hero without actually risking his life.
Barack Obama’s legacy will be much worse. His results will be, in human/ecological/biological terms, devastating and permanent. In global historic terms, he is a failure. And, by this speech, he is shown to be a cynical one. And that will be his legacy. And why? what would motivate him? What is in the world would make him do this? OTL,S! knows of only a few big motivators of humans, and there is very very big money behind the XL pipeline. Until proven otherwise, one would assume that Obama is headed for a very very large payday in the future. His adolescent fantasy is, apparently, to be very rich.