Revolution #273, June 24, 2012

This is the Imperialist System
This is What They Want You to Vote For

An environmental emergency confronts humanity and earth's ecosystems today. This emergency has many dimensions, but most grave is the threat of unstoppable climate change. The reliance on and accelerating demand for fossil fuels—gasoline and natural gas—are the greatest source of the carbon emissions that are choking, and warming, the planet. The U.S. alone, with just five percent of the world's population, is responsible for more than one-fourth of all the carbon emissions in the atmosphere. The ever-expanding search for oil has also led to massive oil spills that have done immense environmental damage.

So it is not surprising that the Keystone XL Pipeline has become an early hot-button issue between the sitting president and his challenger. Environmental concerns are supposed to be one of the issues where the Democrats and the Republicans, and their presidential candidates, stand in stark relief.

If built, the 1,661-mile pipeline would connect the oil sands of Northern Alberta, Canada, with refineries in Texas and other states. When completed, the pipeline will pump 900,000 barrels of heavy, "dirty" oil a day—oil with a carbon output 20 percent higher than conventional oil supplies. It will cross more than 70 rivers and streams, and "the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides nearly one-third of the groundwater used to irrigate US crops, supports $20 billion in agriculture, and supplies drinking water to about 2 million people." (Sheppard, Mother Jones)

Last August thousands of environmental activists protested in front of the White House to highlight the environmental dangers of building Keystone; hundreds were arrested. Yet after months of refusing to take a clear-cut stand on the pipeline, expressed through a series of delays, on March 21 this year Obama announced that his administration will "cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles," and make the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline "a priority."

And in case anyone was confused about where preventing environmental catastrophe stands as a priority for this president, he went on: "Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of our all-of-the-above strategy." And with a symbolism that could not be missed, he went to Cushing, Oklahoma, the site where the southern portion of the pipeline will begin construction, and stood next to TransCanada's giant oil pipes to make this announcement!

But Obama wasn't through. He bragged, "We're drilling all over the place right now," and cited a directive to open up millions of acres for oil and gas exploration in 23 states. He said under his watch the number of operating oil rigs has reached a record high, and the U.S. has added enough new oil and gas pipeline to "circle the Earth and then some." All this includes clearing the path for aggressive and very risky drilling for oil in the Arctic.

You see this is the capitalist-imperialist system; it cannot take into account, nor do anything fundamental about, the many-sided effects of its own production. Nor can it plan for future generations. Why? Because the measure and motivation of all production under capitalism must be profit, which can only be realized through succeeding in the cutthroat competition with rival capitalists. They cannot take into account the impact of the continued reliance on fossil fuels on the environment or on future generations. And in the present era of capitalism-imperialism, this empire/superpower must secure its hold over crucial sources of the world's oil, while expanding domestic production as much as possible. When efforts at reform come up against these dynamics, those efforts are swallowed up.

The rhetoric may be different, but this underlying dynamic and the solutions it calls forth are not.

This is what is represented by both candidates and both of their political parties; this is what their policies and programs have to serve. And THIS is what you are being called on to ratify and become actively complicit with by voting for either of these candidates or parties.

See Revolution's Special Issue on the Environment, #199, April 18, 2010, and "What's All the Fuss About the Keystone XL Pipeline?" Kate Sheppard,, August 24, 2011

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