Radiohead front man’s serious concerns


British alternative rock band Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has appealed to readers of their online blog, Dead Air Space, to show solidarity with the environment and protest against the decision that President Obama may soon be pushed into taking: “whether to press one of THE big red climate self destruct buttons.”
This refers to Republicans and business leaders urging President Obama to turn talk of creating jobs into action by green-lighting a long-delayed $7 billion expansion of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that supporters say will create 20,000 jobs. The proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver Canadian crude oil from the oil sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, cannot go forward without the president’s approval, and has so far been stuck for three years in part because of environmental concerns.
These include the toxicity of the oil being transported, the subsequent severity of spills-aftermath, air pollution, and excessive setting-up and running costs in terms of energy and capital. The Alberta oil, known as “tar sands oil,” is the most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, the Dirty Oil Sands network says on its website. Tar sands oil produces three to five times more greenhouse gas pollution than traditional oil and is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada, the group says. To keep the pipeline running, electricity pump stations along the 1,700-mile stretch would have to step up production. That could lead to more expensive electricity costs for locals. It also would mean more greenhouse gases polluting the air. Environmentalists point out that 12 spills occurred during the first year along the extant portion of the pipeline, Keystone 1.
“Most spills are small,” said Rosemary Crawford, project director at the Center for Energy Matters. “However, this product is proving to be so toxic that even a small amount of it that spills is dangerous to the people in that area.”
Ms. Crawford said tar sands oil spills are “nearly impossible to clean up.”
President Obama is placed under considerable pressure, news reports claim, and Yorke alleges this is “from a fake grassroots campaign funded by … certain interested parties (its called Astroturfing)”. The nod here is made towards the military-industrial complex and business interests known to be behind numerous decisions made by the US administration to date. Astroturf is a brand of crude oil-based artificial turf developed by the Monsanto company.
The company’s development and marketing of genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive litigation, political lobbying practices, seed commercialization practices and “strong-arming” of the seed industry have blacklisted the company amongst alter-globalization and environmental activists. As a result of its unethical business strategies and licensing agreements, Monsanto came under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department in 2009. Yorke urges readers to attend the peaceful protests organized in the capital by the “Tar Sands Action” movement.
The latter’s website describes the event not as “not a single ‘day of action’, but instead a wave of civil disobedience from August 20th – September 3rd.” Yorke maintains that the “Tar Sands nightmare” will not be stopped “unless a strong show of resistance can be seen to help Obama say no.” The three-time Grammy-winning band originated in Oxfordshire in 1985 and has been known to address similar issues such as sweatshop labour and the environment through their music and outside it.