Keystone XL Pipeline Jamming Up Arkansas and Louisiana Politics

0309-keystone-Oil-Pipeline_full_600New Orleans   If you look at a map of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline designed to move heavy, tar sands oil from the Alberta, Canada to refineries and shipping around Port Arthur and Houston, Texas, it doesn’t run through either Arkansas or Louisiana soil, yet somehow the pipeline is already running through the heart of politics in both places, confounding people near and far.

            Louisiana’s senior senator, Mary Landrieu, with a predictably close election is stirring the pot the hardest.  As the new chair of the Senate’s committee overseeing oil and gas, she is desperately trying to divide and conquer business interests using her close ties in the resource industries that fuel Louisiana to fill her campaign coffers and even publicly line up for her reelection.  Joining with Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who despite last year’s Mayflower spill disaster near Little Rock, is one of five Democratic senators imperiled in the coming election listed as cosponsors, she was able to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, despite his stated opposition to the pipeline, to allow it to go to the Senate for a vote if she could muster the numbers.  The legality of Congress usurping the role of the executive branch and the State Department’s management of this bi-national situation is questionable, though conservatives maintain that it is arguable, and the White House seems to be maintaining some reserve given how doubtful they are that she can muster the votes.  Meanwhile Louisiana’s other senator, Republican David Vitter, has thrown a monkey wrench in the deal as well by once again trying to attach his messy Affordable Care Act amendment requiring all of the Congress to go to the marketplace for insurance, which has been a nonstarter on both sides of the aisle and of course another flashpoint for the Obama Administration.

            Given that the Administration has already punted on the pipeline until after the mid-terms, arguing that litigation in Nebraska had to be settled, the speedup on a vote now is even crazier, since Landrieu’s bill is an “if and when” statue contingent on the Nebraska court decision.  I’m frequently asked, what the heck is really going on?

            My theory is that since the Koch brothers are the big winners to the tune of billions given their more than one million acres of land holdings in Alberta, that Landrieu is trying to use her buddies in the industry to send a message that they need to close down their anti-Landrieu campaign advertising which to date has run hundreds of TV and radio ads already blasting Landrieu’s vote on Obamacare.  Even neutralizing the Koch’s would dramatically improve Landrieu’s prospects.  Though all experts predict a close race, at this point her support is twice that of her Congressional opponent and her direct campaign bankroll, not counting the Koch’s independent expenditures, dwarfs her opponent.  If she were able to squeeze them out, my bet – and no doubt her own — is that she ekes out another win.

            National and global environmental catastrophe be damned, despite all of the current controversies in both Arkansas and Louisiana over oil spills, oil exploration triggered coastal erosion, and one calamity after another, Landrieu with help from Pryor and others, is proving once again that all politics are local.

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Pipeline Politics is All About Profit for Koch Brothers

kochtopusNew Orleans   One thing led to another and I ended up visiting on the phone recently with Victor Menotti, the executive director of the International Forum on Globalization, based in San Francisco, about how to get more traction for a significant piece of research, investigation, and reporting they have done on our friends, the Koch Brothers.   They did a report in the fall of 2013 called “Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb:  The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline” and created a website called www.kochcash.org and people need to take a closer look. 

            You might ask whether or not any of this is news.  After all the Koch Brothers seem to be everywhere these days by spending millions to finance every sort of conservative and Republican effort to take control of the Senate by targeting elections in Arkansas, Louisiana, and elsewhere.  Their millions seep down to many of the efforts for Republicans to control state legislatures and create these rightwing Taliban caves across the country with one set of anti-voter, anti-poor, anti-immigrant, anti-women moss-backed policies after another.  I had gotten so used to seeing their hands and money behind so many of these efforts that I had lazily just started assuming they were standard issue ideological zealots with more money than God.

            Much of that is still true, especially the fact that they have more money than God, Gates, Buffet and the rest combined.  The IFG report makes it clear that the brothers’ $100 billion pretty much trumps the rest, adding to the danger.  The real news in the report, and what makes it still worth reading, is the way they were able to dig out the truth behind the Koch denials that they had anything to gain from their advocacy in favor of the controversial construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring dirty oil from the tar sands of Canada all the way through the United States to refineries and shipping in the Gulf.  States from Arkansas to Michigan are still involved in cleaning up some of those train wrecks already!

            Turns out the Koch’s own 2 million acres already in Alberta, Canada, and by the calculations IFG was able to make, they stand to make a pretty penny if the pipeline increases the value of their holdings, at least if you think $100 billion dollars is big money, because that’s the number they could rake in.  So no wonder that spending $53 million in contributions to front groups, fake think thanks, and others to advocate for the construction of the pipeline for them is less a political contribution than just another smart, personal financial investment.

            Some other tidbits in the report’s unearthing of the Koch’s 50 year history in the tar sands include:

·  The Kochs could earn 1 million times more than the average worker of the pipeline.

·  Evidence suggests The Kochs alone be responsible for over 19 billion metric tons of carbon emissions in their tar sands holdings.

·  Think tanks funded by the Kochs have released nearly 1000 pro-KXL reports or statements.

Menotti might just have a point.  The more everyone realizes why the Kochs have suddenly become the go-to cash cows for the conservatives has less to do with Fox News kneejerk ideology, and cold hard calculation about what puts the most money in their pockets, the rest of us, and, heck, the planet we live on are just collateral damage for big billionaires on the prowl for more money now.  Makes you wonder why the Obama Administration still has the pipeline under consideration at all?

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