Top Scientists to President: Tar Sands Oil “Does Not Make Sense To Exploit”

posted by Rainforest Action Network
Tar sands oil site
Tar sands oil site

In a letter released today, twenty top scientists wrote to President Obama to ask him to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, the 1,700 mile-long fuse that, if lit, could help ignite climate chaos.

If built, the pipeline would carry bitumen from Canada to the Gulf Coast, putting fresh water supplies at risk and further increasing our dependance on oil at a time when we should be investing in clean energy sources.

The letter, signed by Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Michael Mann and other prominent scientists, is a powerful reminder of the choices that now confront us: Will we continue to develop sources of energy from fossil fuels, essentially choosing to double down on the dirty and dangerous technologies that have led us to the brink of catastrophe? Do we have the resolve and the vision to build a better energy system fueled by clean sources of energy that don’t pollute our communities and damage our shared climate? And do we want to leave a legacy of pollution for the generations to come?

The 1,500 people who have registered for the Tar Sands Protest in August have collectively answered those questions by saying that they’re ready for a world powered by clean energy. You can find out more information here.

The full letter is available here.

President Obama:

We are researchers at work on the science of climate change and allied fields. We are writing to add our voices to the indigenous leaders, religious leaders, and environmentalists calling on you to block the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands.

The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit. It takes a lot of energy to extract and refine this resource into useable fuel, and the mining is environmentally destructive. Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline system that would practically guarantee extensive exploitation of this resource.

When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy — and that we leave the tar sands in the ground. We hope those so inclined will join protests scheduled for August and described at

If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is “in the national interest.” As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it’s not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest.