Dear President Obama…

This letter was originally posted at the Stanford Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars blog.


Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) is a project-based student group concerned with addressing sustainability in all its forms on Stanford’s campus, with sub-groups dedicated to water, waste, climate, and environmental justice issues. With President Obama set to approve or reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline by the end of the year, the SSS Outreach team is campaigning on campus to involve the Stanford community in this national issue. Below is a letter written by outreach leaders Judee Burr, Noemi Wazlebuck, and Akwasi Abrefah and signed by concerned Stanford community members.  We challenge our President to support the well-being of the American people over large corporate interests and reject the measure to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Join us this Friday, 3pm at Columbae to discuss these issues! Contact with questions or to join our anti-pipeline campaign.


Dear President Obama,

We are writing to you as members of Students for a Sustainable Stanford and as concerned citizens of the United States. We are asking you to take a stand for the well-being of the American people – block the measure to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Oil extraction from the Canadian tar sands will release an appalling quantity of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Tar sands produced 49 million tons of CO2 in 2010, likely to increase to 92 million tons by 2020, according to Environment Canada. According to a report by the US Department of Energy, the well-to-tank carbon emissions generated by Canadian tar sands oil extraction and transportation are 5 to 15% greater than the average crude produced in the United States. Do we want to incentivize this major contributor to CO2 emissions, at a time when we should be taking action to protect our climate?

In addition to the environmental destruction caused by the process of extracting oil from the tar sands, constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline will endanger key water sources across the United States. The Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska supplies water to 20% of United States agriculture – we would be shipping 800,000 barrels of oil per day directly over this vital water source. There is always a chance of leaks – even more so with heavy bitumen crude oil from the tar sands which is heavier than other forms of liquid crude. The Keystone pipeline that currently exists has experienced 14 spills. It is horribly short-sighted to make the environment, our agriculture, and the public health of the American people suffer for the prospect of increased revenue, even in these tough economic times.

Claims that the Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs in a tough recession are unsubstantiated according to recently released studies. Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute released a report examining the job impacts of the pipeline’s construction with some alarming results. Oil will be diverted from Midwest markets to be sold at higher prices of the Gulf Coast and Export markets – causing people of the Midwest to pay 10 to 20 cents more per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. Such additional fuel costs, estimated at an increase of $2 to $4 billion, will suppress other forms of spending and cost jobs. Furthermore, TransCanada’s claim that 20,000 jobs will be created with the construction of the pipeline is factually incorrect. Manufacturing jobs will not be created because half of the steel used to construct the pipeline is being sourced from outside of the United States. Construction jobs will be “of a temporary nature…without significant long term effect on the surrounding communities” according to Canada’s National Energy Board. The Keystone XL Pipeline is not an answer to our jobs crisis. The temporary construction jobs that will be created are not worth the risk to our drinking water and the environment.

If our aim is to find a secure supply of oil, of course we would rather get that oil from Canada than from Mexico, Venezuela, or the Persian Gulf. But it is obvious to anyone who has looked at the scientific evidence that we cannot afford to build our lives around non-renewable resources that destroy our world while we live under the illusion of growth and profit. By locking us into Canadian tar sands oil production, you are locking us into an oil dependent future. The path to a less polluted, less petroleum-based, less detrimentally impacted Earth is not a path through tar sands. The path to a more sustainable, more responsible, and more conscious Earth is not a path through tar sands. This pipeline would represent a step backwards in environmental initiatives when there are so many potential steps forward: rapidly expanding wind energy production, R&D for wave energy resources, varying implications of solar power, biomass energy production, greening fossil fuels technology…the list goes on.

It is true that, in the short term, finding more oil means our lives can continue as they always have. But the bottom line is that we should be thinking ahead and moving away from our destructive dependence on oil, not finding new ways to feed our country’s addiction. You spoke of change. Our lives have to change now, while we have time to adjust to a new climate. Look at the way our oil-driven economy has forced us to interact with the world. We are completely decoupled from the sources of our food, our water, our energy, and the environmental impacts of our actions. When we pause to think about where our energy comes from, when we look at the pit mines of the tar sands, it becomes obvious that we should not support this dirty system. The United States has always been a leader, a country that others strive to live up to. Let us set the example now! At Stanford, I remember the day that you were elected. Everyone in my dorm room was cheering. We were sure our country was FINALLY changing for the better! Please don’t prove us wrong. Block this invasion of dirty oil from our country. Say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Anna Doty, Co-President, Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS),
Alex Luisi, Co-President, SSS,
Judee Burr, SSS Vice President Outreach,
Andrew Schein, SSS Vice President Subgroups
Brittany Rymer, SSS Vice President Communications
Akwasi Abrefah, SSS Outreach Coordinator
Noemi Walzebuck, SSS Outreach Coordinator
Nicole Gaetjens, SSS Outreach Coordinator
Conor Doherty, SSS Water Subgroup Coleader
Christina Zhou, SSS Webmaster,
Clémentine Stip, SSS Water Subgroup Coleader,
Geffen Oren, SSS Climateers Subgroup Coleader
Will Troppe, SSS Climateers Subgroup Coleader
Nick McIntyre, President, Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project,
Eric Stoutenburg, Stanford Solar & Wind Energy Project, Project Manager
Isaac Caswell,
Mehrdad Azim
Alex Simon
Daniela Uribe,
Leticia Velez Ericson,
Joshua Loftus,
Elena Stamatakos,
Grant Glazer
Jacob Lehr
Ramzi Salti, Ph.D.
Ahmad Al-Qousi
Elizabeth Quinlan
Eli Katz,
Lauren Rose Gimmillaro,
Lila Neahring
Analisa Shields-Estrada,
Matt Walter
Zachary Gold,
Nick Hartley,
Terry Xu,
Sherri Billimoria,
Jaron Moore,
Brenda Acevedo
Daniel Lupin
Sean Senters
Gregory Valdespino,
Clare Bailey
Anh Truong
Lauren Edelson
Kyle Milo Dumovic,
Johanna Hanson,
Daniel Vinh,
Connor Gilbert,
Kelsey Suggs
Sam Sciolla
Josh Schott
Ty Olson,
Felipe Pincheira,
William Nguyen
Dimitry Burdjalov,
Melissa Rohde,
Michael Grabstein
Aldric Ulep
Daniela Hamann-Nazaroff
Emily Thomas,
Kristin Landry
Milena Gonzalez,
Himani Phadke
Gaurav Handa
Torin Herndon,
Theo Gibbs,

(Letter written by Judee Burr, Noemi Walzebuck, and Akwasi Abrefah)

Tagged , , , ,

One thought on “Dear President Obama…

  1. […] by the Environmental Justice subgroup, Students for a Sustainable Stanford […]

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: