The Keystone XL pipeline route doesn’t reach the borders of California, yet the debate over the merits of the plan are just as fierce in the state’s Silicon Valley as they are in the heartland of America.
Days ago, PayPal co-founder and Tesla founder Elon Musk pulled the plug on his involvement with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, a pro-immigration political advocacy organization that came under stark criticism for inadvertently funding campaign commercials for senators advocating on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline and Arctic water drilling. David Sacks, CEO and founder of Yammer, an enterprise social network, followed Musk’s lead.
On the same day Musk and Sacks pulled their support for FWD.us, more than 150 donors to Obama’s campaign issued a letter to the president, urging him to vote against Keystone.
“This decision more than any other will signal your direction, your commitment, your resolve,” the letter states. “It is the biggest, most explicit statement you will make in this historic moment, the moment when America turns from denial to solutions — or fails to.”
The bold moves made by tech industry and business leaders who make up Obama’s financial support base sent a message to the president that those who have been in his camp are now pressuring him to live up to promises to combat climate change.
The organization’s involvement in the Keystone debate came as a surprise, as it labeled itself as a pro-immigration reform political advocacy group. Campaigns against Zuckerberg and the organization spread throughout social media, including Facebook, calling on the tech giant to pull his organization’s support for anti-environmental ads and candidates.
Environmentalists’ messages were heard loud and clear by Musk and Sacks.
“I agreed to support FWD.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes,” Musk told AllThingsD. “I have spent a lot of time fighting for larger lobbying organizations in D.C. and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause.”
The move made by Musk and Sacks sent a message to fellow tech giants involved with Fwd.us that they would not stand by while the political advocacy organization was hijacked by those who play politics in order to sway politicians to vote for immgration reform.
At the heart of the nationwide FWD.us debate were two political campaign ads — one for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and another for Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). The advertisements were funded by Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth, both of which are subsidiaries of FWD.us.
While the ultimate goal of supporting such organizations could have been rooted in FWD.us’ push for immigration reform, it inadvertently lent support to Keystone and Arctic drilling — and brought Zuckerberg into the mix.
On Monday, CREDO, the politically motivated mobile phone company, called on all tech executives involved in FWD.us to pull their support for the website, following in the footsteps of Musk and Sacks.
“These technology leaders can’t have it both ways,” CREDO’s petition to tech leaders states. “They can’t be for clean energy and action on climate change and fund conservative propaganda that promotes the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
Obama supporters unite against Keystone
The letter sent on behalf of Obama’s most influential supporters comes in the lead-up to Obama’s decision. While previously expected in the spring, a U.S. official and analyst told Reuters news service Friday that Obama’s decision could come as late as the end of the year.
While Vice President Joe Biden has been vocal in his opposition to the pipeline, the president has not stated his viewpoint.
Instead, he’s claimed the need for a full environmental review regarding the pipeline’s concerns. But for those who in the past believed Obama would side with the environmental community, there’s reason to be nervous the president will side on behalf of TransCanada, the Canadian company pushing the pipeline.
Following the president’s State of the Union address, during which he claimed he would dedicate his second term to fighting climate change, the State Department released a report indicating the Keystone XL pipeline would not contribute to climate change, using the erroneous notion that drilling in Alberta’s tar sands would continue with or without America’s involvement.
Climate change isn’t the only concern that plagues environmentalists. The areas in the path of Keystone stand poised to suffer from oil spills, similar to that seen in Mayflower, Ark., which dumped more than 500,000 gallons into a residential neighborhood. Many of those areas are rural farmland and natural habitats.
“Transporting this dirty fuel to U.S. markets has proven to be extremely dangerous, unpredictable and and uncontrollable, as evidenced by the hundreds of devastating spills over the past decade,” the National Wildlife Federation said in a letter to the president. “The Keystone XL pipeline’s route would put our natural resources and communities at risk for a similar catastrophe.”
Meanwhile, construction for the pipeline in areas like Oklahoma has already begun. In Texas, the Motiva oil refinery underwent a $10 billion renovation, making it capable of processing Alberta tar sands oil.