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Over 100 protestors arrested as civil action begins against tar sands pipeline to US

In the first two days of a planned two week sit-in at the White House in Washington DC, over 100 activists against the Keystone XL pipeline have been arrested, reports Reuters. If approved by the Obama Administration, the 1,700 mile pipeline would bring around 700,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada’s notorious tar sands to oil refineries in Texas.

Activists are targeting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline because oil from the tar sands carries a heavier carbon burden than other crude oil sources. Renowned climatologist, James Hansen, raised awareness of the issue when he wrote that if the tar sands are exploited along with coal reserves “it is essentially game over” for the climate. In addition, many fear the impact of potential oil spills as the pipeline crosses through both public and private land in the US, including watersheds and rivers.

Activists have dubbed the Keystone XL pipeline the most important environmental decision for President Obama prior to the 2012 election.

Those arrested to date have included influential environmental leader and head of, Bill McKibben.

“It’s not the easiest thing on earth for law-abiding folk to come risk arrest. But this pipeline has emerged as the single clear test of the president’s willingness to fight for the environment,” McKibben said in a statement. “So I wore my Obama ’08 button, and I carry a great deal of hope in my heart that we will see that old Obama emerge.”

Proponents of the pipeline say it will provide jobs and make the US less reliant on the Middle East for oil.

An op-ed this weekend from the New York Times came out against the proposed pipeline, citing a recent report by Canada’s environment ministry which estimates production in tar sands will jump to 1.8 billion barrels a day by 2020.

“That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest—a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution. One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020—even as other sectors are reducing emissions,” reads the editorial.

Despite decades of research that has shown burning fossil fuels such as oil is warming the planet, oil consumption has not slowed. Globally oil consumption hit a new all-time high in 2010 according to the Worldwatch Institute. Oil consumption rose 3.1 percent in 2010 after dropping in 2008 and 2009 due to the global recession. Over eighty-seven million barrels were consumed every day last year.

Over 2,000 people have signed-up to take part in the White House sit-in over the next two weeks.

McKibben sent this message from a DC jail: “The only thing we need in here is more company. We don’t need your sympathy, we need your company.”

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