Keystone XL Pipeline Protests Throughout South Florida Tonight

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The release last Friday of a State Department study that some have read as a green light for the Keystone XL pipeline has sent those opposed to the project into overdrive. A nationwide protest against the pipeline has been set for tonight, with local demonstrations in four South Florida counties.

Pipeline opponents argue, among other things, that Keystone XL will drastically increase the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions, since extracting the tar sand oil it will transport produces significantly more such gases than traditional oil. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist widely credited with first sounding the alarm on climate change, has called the pipeline "Game Over for the Climate."

Keystone XL's supporters claim the new report frees President Obama to sign off on the pipeline. The president has said he would approve the project if it would not "significantly exacerbate" the problem of greenhouse gas emissions; the report assumes that even if the pipeline is nixed, the tar sands oil it is meant to transport will still be extracted and shipped to market, most likely to China.

If that's the case, supporters argue, we might as well build it and reap the jobs and profits. They also argue that killing the project would injure relations with Canada, where the oil originates. Here's how the State Department study put the domestic economic impact:

During construction, proposed Project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced), and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States. Of these jobs, approximately 3,900 would be direct construction jobs in the proposed Project area in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas (3,900 over 1 year of construction, or 1,950 per year if construction took 2 years). Construction of the proposed Project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion (or 0.02 percent) to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The proposed Project would generate approximately 50 jobs during operations. Property tax revenue during operations would be substantial for many counties, with an increase of 10 percent or more in 17 of the 27 counties with proposed Project facilities.

Climate scientist Michael Mann, writing in the UK Guardian, counters that:

A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier... The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting of its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands.

Tonight's protests are organized by a long list of environmental organizations, including CREDO, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, 350.org, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Hip Hop Caucus, the League of Conservation Voters, and Friends of the Earth. Their purpose, they write, is "to send the message to President Obama that Keystone XL fails his climate test and he must reject it."

Vigils to Protest Keystone XL:

Miami 6 p.m. State Department Office, 1645 Biscayne Blvd.

Fort Lauderdale 6 p.m. Federal Building and Courthouse, 299 E. Broward Blvd.

Palm Beach 7 p.m. Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach

Port St. Lucie 5:30 p.m. TD Bank, 8000 S. Federal Highway

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

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