Teachable Instant: President Obama Vetoes the XL Pipeline

This 10-15-minute activity touches on key arguments for and against the XL Pipeline proposal President Obama just vetoed.  


On February 24, 2015, President Obama vetoed something that has been described in these ways:

  • "The fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet." 
    - 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben
  • "A no brainer. Moves us toward energy independence & creates jobs."  
    - Former Florida GovernorJeb Bush
  • "An act of war against our people."   
    - President Scott, Rosebud Sioux Tribe

What is it?


The Keystone XL Pipeline



On February 24, 2015, President Obama vetoed a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Obama’s veto - this time - was procedural.  Congressional Republicans brought the bill to the President’s desk in an effort to bypass a federal review process that is still underway.  It is unlikely that Congress will have the votes to override the President’s veto. The final decision about the pipeline will probably be made once the federal review is completed.

However, whether the pipeline is approved or not may well depend not on the President or Congress, but on activists, who have organized hundreds of militant protests against the pipeline all across the U.S., Canada, and the world.  Activists include many indigenous peoples from both the U.S. and Canada. The pipeline would run through both the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and is opposed by First Peoples in Canada as well.   

  • Why does Bill McKibben say that the Keystone Pipeline is the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet?

Pipeline opponents say that building this expensive pipeline virtually guarantees that energy companies will eventually try to extract all the oil they can from the Alberta tar sands - probably hundreds of billions of barrels of this especially dirty fuel.  The world’s climate scientists agree that the great majority of the planet’s fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to prevent climate catastrophe.  Climate scientist James Hansen said, "Once the spigot is open, Trans Canada [the company that would build the pipeline] will have every incentive to milk the massive tar-sands basin for all that it is worth."  

  • Why does Jeb Bush say it’s a no-brainer that will move us toward energy independence and create jobs?

Bush and other pipeline supporters argue that importing oil from Canada through the Keystone XL Pipeline would reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil, and support increased U.S. oil production as well, since the pipeline would also carry some U.S.-produced oil.  In addition, they argue that the pipeline would create thousands of jobs that our economy needs. Republican Sen. John Barrasso put the number of potential jobs at 42,000 - a number challenged by media fact checkers.  Supporters of the pipeline also say that opponents are greatly exaggerating the environmental threat it poses.


For more extensive discussion, see previous TeachableMoment lessons on the Keystone XL Pipeline: