Robert Redford Video Op-ed in NYT: President Obama: Stand up for America, Say No to Keystone XL

NRDC Trustee Robert Redford’s moving new video, recently released to the New York Times, is a strong critique which quietly tears apart the sales pitch for the unnecessary and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline.

Highlights of Redford’s video are a repetition of all honest voices questioning the integrity of this issue and asking our government for accountability in regards to the tar sands. It is timely that we demand foresight with business, especially oil, and shine a light on the sheer lack of ethics and legitimacy in this process.

robert redford tar sands video

Recent Man-made Disasters

In the past year, our country has experienced man-made horrific disasters due to big business in the Gulf, the Yellowstone River, and in the North Seas. How is there even remaining a possibility of approval of the tar sands pipeline, which would pipe the dirtiest oil in the world through the heartland of our country. Intelligent, clear thinking, Redford, well-educated on the matter, points out that to build this pipeline is simply to ask for more disaster — an exploitation with destruction bound to happen. That this is in process for approval speaks to something so removed from common sense, so outside the voice of sustainable and honest America, that one must consider it stupid or worse.

Conflict of Interests

Indeed, Danielle Droitshch of NRDC has pointed this out: “lawmakers have ‘little confidence’ that the current process has been conducted appropriately.” Lacking proper measure due to conflict of interest, the permitting process that passed this is highly in question. One wants to believe that government is more than just the padding of pockets of big business. However, in this case, we cannot believe it. There are critical questions which demand more objective review. Lacking humanistic and ecological protection, this is part of the disheartening game and of the filthiest of considerations called tar sands. The dirt of the crude oil itself combines with the dirt and manipulation of protective controls.


Five billion gallons of drinking water for children, families, and all people comes from the area through which the pipe line will run. Precious water is a limited and dwindling resource that we on this small planet earth must preserve, protect, and nurture. One tiny leak, which could take up to weeks to detect but would compromise the drinking water of millions in a short amount of time, is not needed. Obama has to step up to the plate with this one or he will lose all respect and trust from the growing number of environmentally concerned citizens. This is a turning point in our ability to trust him or not, as the decision will come down to him. Let’s hope that Obama has the integrity to protect our water and the safety of the folks in the heartland for whom his station makes him responsible.

Track Record of the Dirtiest Oil in the World

Last year, the tar sands had 36 accidents that killed 22 people. The Canadian company piping its dirty oil 2,000 miles through the Oglalla Aquifer, a critical source of water for millions of Americans, is, unquestionably, playing with life and death in terms of what lack of clean water can mean – not to mention the potential damage to ecosystems and wildlife.

Peter Lehner for NRDC states it as it is:

“Let’s be honest. The Keystone XL pipeline is an accident waiting to happen. This past spring, two pipelines operated by TransCanada, the conglomerate behind Keystone XL, ruptured. In the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, all it would take is a leak the size of a pinhole—which TransCanada admits could go undetected for weeks—to ooze tens of thousands of gallons of low-grade crude into our drinking water.”


In regards to the idea of creating jobs due to the pipeline, this is also dishonest rhetoric. NRDC:

“Cornell University says the pipeline, which would be built from foreign steel, may actually destroy more jobs than it creates. It would increase gas prices in the Midwest by diverting oil from that region to the Gulf Coast.”

Redford, on his video points out: At best, it would give only a handful of construction workers temporary work. More jobs created through sustainable endeavors are what this part of the country needs, not dead ends such as this.

Failing Our Greenhouse Standards

America has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. If this pipeline is passed, our country will quickly lose credibility as a global participant in any progressive movement towards increased wellness on our planet. This pipeline will make us unable to honor our commitment, to stand among the empowered governments that are keeping trust with global issues of climate change, that are keeping humanistic concerns of present and future generations alive and well.

This all as a means to what end?

The result is none other than to make richer the dubious oil powers that be. The result evokes more sadness due to our ongoing inability to break free of the use of oil, of gas, and the sense of isolation that goes with that, as too many of us are still locked into cars running on such toxic fuels. Availability and convenience  of sustainable transportation is what we need more of — not toxic sludges and dangerous piplelines of oil.

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