Is protesting the Keystone XL pipeline the most effective way to make a difference?

Today organized a series of rallies in Washington D.C. and other U.S. Cities like San Francisco to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.  This project has been in the making for a long time, the Keystone XL will (if built) be responsible for carrying oil from Alberta Tar Sands to oil refineries in the Gulf Coast region.  Building the pipeline will facilitate the tapping of those oil reserves, will continue the process of desequestering carbon that had been sequestered as oil deposits.  In this case the oil is bound with sands and is hard and sticky, like tar, making it an extremely expensive and energy intensive process to release the oil, and additionally requires strip mining vast swaths of what should remain as virgin forest in Northern Canada.  All the way around this is a horrid situation.

But I’m not at the protest rally, and instead at home getting ready to plant a garden with my sweetie.  It’s not just to have togetherness with her, but it’s a way to implement what I see as the most effective way to solve these problems.  I’m doing my part, at home.

I have a few thoughts to share.

One is – just how many of these people protesting this project are driving electric cars?  The point of the protest is to stop the oil production and consumption system.  But if you drive to the rally in a gas guzzler,  you’re missing the point.  If you are holding a sign at the rally pushing for wind power, but your daily driver car gizzles gasoline, you’re missing the point.  It doesn’t matter how efficient your car is, it could be a 45 miles/gallon wonder car, but if it runs on gasoline your dollars are being spent to support the need for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The best most effective protest against this is to

Bill McKibbon
  • Stop using gasoline
  • Ride a bicycle as much as possible – it’s quite possible to do grocery shopping with a bicycle if you use a trailer
  • Take mass transit as much as possible
  • Buy an electric car / use car sharing programs
  • Relocalize your lifestyle
  • Look for where your food comes from, and buy locally produced food
  • Plant a garden to grow food
  • Likewise for clothing etc
  • Research and perhaps buy electricity from solar or wind resources – it’s quite possible to power your house and car off solar panels on your roof

My reasoning?  The dollars you spend are like a vote.  Buying gasoline is a vote for the oil companies.  The oil companies do horrid things, and the extraction of fossil fuels in general is the problem.  As much as possible get yourself off of the fossil fuel system.

Would attending a rally like today’s make any difference?  Hard to say.

The political arm of the organizations involved are looking for numbers.  They want to report we had 50,000 people, we had 10 rallies, total number of people, and so on.  That means, each person at the rally lets the organizers report a bigger number of participants.  But it’s just a body count.

Is going to a rally, shouting your lungs out for clean energy, then driving home in an SUV to a house heated with natural gas going to make a difference?  What’s the more practical difference one can make?  It’s to wean yourself off fossil fuels and to help others know how to wean themselves off fossil fuels.

Okay, it’s fair to ask my status:  electric car, electric motorcycle, electric bicycles … but gas central heating, electric space heaters, gas stove, the electricity is the usual mix from PG&E which in California means primarily natural gas.  I have a ways to go before my life is fully clean.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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