Over 1000 people are reported to have turned up to keep climate change action in the spotlight and to greet President Barack Obama at a $32,500-per-person dinner in Pacific Heights, San Fransisco, to keep the pressure on for him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal which would see tar sands oil flow from Alberta Canada to the Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The protest even includied a brass band (youtube video), to provide a festival atmosphere.
Related Protest: "No XL Pipeline" Protest Near Obama Fundraiser on the Peninsula
President Obama was attending a Democratic party fundraising dinner function at the Getty Mansion, home of Ann and Gordon Getty. Earlier he attended a $5000 per person fundraising cocktail reception put on by billionaire Tom Steyer, where he said "Despite a very aggressive agenda on the other side to block action, we've been able to double fuel-efficiency standards on cars, we've been able to take mercury out of our air, we have been able to reduce carbon emissions in this country," according to a Reuters report. Although he never mentioned the Kestone pipeline, he repeatedly mentioned the need to address climate change, "We've got more work to do in terms of dealing with climate change and making sure that we've got an economy that is energy-efficient," Obama said.
This last week there were two substantial oil spills associated with the tar sands: a train derailment in Minnesota spilled 15,000 gallons of tar sands oil, and in Mayflower, Arkansas there was a major ExxonMobil pipeline leak in a residential community requiring 22 homes to be evacuated. See Tar Sands Blockade Reports: Dispatches From Exxon's Spill Zone | Massive Spill from Train Derailment in MN Confirmed as Carrying Toxic Tar Sands.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Ross Hammond took his two sons to the protest in Pacific heights. He described in a statement before the protest his dis-satisfaction with the State Department review of the Keystone pipeline, "The State Department's handling of the environmental review process for the pipeline has been severely corrupted by the undue influence of TransCanada and the oil companies who stand to win big from this boondoggle. The president alone has the power to kill this destructive pipeline once and for all. We need him to stand up for our kids and the climate instead of giving another gift to the oil industry."
One of the organisers of the protest, Becky Bond the Political Director of CREDO Action, said "The American people want President Obama to stand on the right side of history and take the real action he promised on climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, The only oil Americans will ever see from the pipeline that benefits foreign oil companies is the dirty tar sands crude that spills from it. Over 1,000 Obama volunteers, voters and donors turned out in San Francisco to remind our president that his legacy will be judged harshly if he approves Keystone XL. And we have over 50,000 more Americans from every state of the union willing to risk arrest in peaceful civil disobedience to stop him making the most catastrophic decision of his presidency."
Credo Action have an online Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance for people to take non-violent civil disobedience if Keystone is approved by Obama. Over 53,000 people have so far made this pleadge.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, released the following statement:
"Americans understand the connection between the president's decision on Keystone and the safety of our homes, our drinking water, and the health of our children. The Arkansas tar sands disaster demonstrates that our backyards are threatened by the very presence of dirty, dangerous crude oil pipelines. Americans are showing up by the thousands to tell the president in person: you must be bold on climate; you must reject Keystone XL."
The protests come as NASA climatologist James Hansen has announced his retirement from civil service with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. But Hansen has retired to better devote his time to climate change science and communicating that science to citizens and agitating for action to mitigate global warming impacts without the encumbrance of being a civil servant. On April 4 Hansen had an opinion article (Op Ed) published in the LA Times: Keystone XL: The pipeline to disaster in which he said:
"The science on climate change has been in for a quarter of a century. There are no more mixed messages, just catastrophe after catastrophe. The president stands at a fork in the road: Rejecting the pipeline will show the world we are serious and determined to be on the right side of history. Approving it will signal we are too entrenched with business-as-usual to do what's right by the people, planet and future generations. All of President Obama's achievements will fade if he doesn't act swiftly and decisively on climate change. Rejecting Keystone is the first step." Hansen said to conclude the article.
- Image of No Keystone pipeline crowd outside the Getty Mansion, Sanfransisco - Photo by Credo Action. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Image of Polar Bear by Rose Braz from the Center for Biological Diversity via twitter, used with permission.
- James Hansen, LA Times, 4 April 2013 - Keystone XL: The pipeline to disaster