November 2nd, 2011 by

Credit: tarsandsaction

American energy independence continues to be a hot political topic as the 2012 presidential debates heat up and protests continue to make front page news. Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed the streets of D.C. transform into a protester’s paradise — from the Occupy D.C. folks to the tar sands rallies in front of the White House. While I’m not sure about camping out for weeks in the middle of a city, I’m probably wondering the same thing they are: what’s in America’s future?

We’d all like to hear that everything will be okay, but political decisions can be complex and take a long time to make. As an example, it looks like the demand for energy in the U.S. will continue to rise, but it hasn’t been determined where all this new energy supply will come from. There’s a lot to consider.

Renewable energy sources are becoming more popular and increasingly more available, but the production is not currently at a level that can support the nation’s rising demands. That’s why people are continuing to look for drilling opportunities like the Keystone Pipeline XL project and areas like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). ANWR is the largest national wildlife refuge in the country, consisting of 19,286,722 acres. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would run through the middle of the U.S. to connect oil reserves, also known as “tar sands” for the hard formations where the oil is found, in Canada to Texas refineries. The Keystone XL is also set to run through the largest freshwater resource in the country. Many environmental advocates oppose these efforts because they are concerned about the disturbance to wildlife habitat and wilderness areas. Although the administration has yet to comment on the measure, there is a decision deadline set for the end of this year.

People have gathered outside the White House in the hopes of grabbing the administration’s attention through peaceful protest. They’ve certainly grabbed the media’s attention through spokespeople, like activist Bill McKibben and Environmental Film Festival film Pipe Dreams by Leslie Iwerks. I don’t oppose people protesting this issue. I want to see the government back away from oil dependency and move towards renewable sources too. However, I’m starting to wonder about the return on their time and effort. What kind of impact will these protests actually make on political decisions?

UPDATE (11/3/11)
Since the Keystone XL issue will continue to make headlines in the coming weeks, I just wanted to reiterate that this project represents important environmental concerns and that it deserves attention and debate. Many people throughout North America are working to make their voices heard on this issue, and I appreciate their passion. I think it’s important that everyone has forums in which to express their views and opinions. I’m interested to see how the discussions, protests and policy work around the Keystone Pipeline XL project evolve in the future.

For more background and information on the Keystone Pipeline XL project and the tar sands, visit these links: