It may be a non-binding amendment, but a Senate vote last Friday that passed 62-37 in favor of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is more than a little concerning. The proposed pipeline would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf States—and while the southern portion of the line is reportedly halfway finished, many continue to speak out, protest and even attempt to blockade further construction of a pipeline that would serve minimal economic benefit while inflicting irreparable harm on the environment. The bipartisan vote, which occurred as an amendment to a budget resolution, demonstrates the support the pipeline has within government, while highlighting just how much sway oil industry money continues to have on politicians across party lines.
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The vote gives us an insight into how receptive senators can be to contributions from the fossil-fuel industries, as well as to how popular those senators believe the approval of Keystone XL could prove with voters. The permit that would allow construction of the pipeline across the US-Canada border has yet to be approved by President Obama. A US State Department Environmental Impact Report rather absurdly suggested that the pipeline would have little environmental impact, and signaled that Obama may well approve the construction permit. The vote, which received support from 17 Democrats in addition to being favored by all Republicans bolsters concerns that the cross-border section of the pipeline will go ahead.
But the motivations behind the votes of those 17 Democrats are concerning. As the Washington Post points out those 17 “included every single possibly vulnerable incumbent facing reelection next year,” implying that they believe their support will be favorable in the eyes of voters. In addition, simply put: money buys support. Grist quotes Oil Change International’s Statement that “New analysis… reveals that supporters of the just-passed non-binding Keystone XL pipeline amendment received 3.5 times more in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests than those voting “no.” In total, researchers found that supporters took an average of $499,648 from the industry before voting for the pipeline, for a staggering total of $30,978,153.”
Meanwhile polls show that the majority of those who voted for President Obama do not support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A recent study published by Public Polling Policy found that, according to the Huffington Post “68 percent of Obama voters oppose building the pipeline, 76 percent are concerned about its contribution to climate change, and 57 percent believe approval would break the president’s State of the Union vow to fight climate change.”
Lead image (cc) Dru Oja Jay via Howl Collective on Flickr