F C G C
THE WEATHER IS TOUGH ON THE PLAINS OF NEBRASKA.
TORNADOES AND LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE ANYWHERE.
BUT THE PEOPLE ARE TOUGHER, THE RANCHERS AND FARMERS.
THEY WORK WITH THEIR HANDS AND THEY DON’T PUT ON AIRS.
F Em Am
IN 2010 A MUCH BLACKER TORNADO
F Em D7 F
CAME DOWN OUT OF NOWHERE, THE FIGHT OF THEIR LIVES
F C G C
TAR SANDS FROM ALBERTA, TRANSCANADA’S PIPELINE
F C G C
IN LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, IT’S TIME TO TAKE SIDES.
Am E7 Am
BEHIND THE CLOSED DOORS IN THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION
F C E7 F
ALL OVER THE CAPITOL MONEY DOES FLOW
F C G Am
BUT THE SALT OF THE EARTH AND HEART OF NEBRASKA
F C G C
ARE DEEPER BY FAR THAN YOU EVER WILL KNOW.
IT’S TWO THOUSAND MILES FROM ALBERTA TO TEXAS.
RIGHT THROUGH NEBRASKA , RIGHT THROUGH THE SAND HILLS.
THEY’RE TAKING IT OVER THE GREAT OGALLALA.
YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING, TO THINK IT WON’T SPILL.
YOUR PROMISES WON’T KEEP A PIPELINE FROM LEAKING.
THIS AQUIFER’S NO PLACE FOR FOOLING AROUND.
YOUR PIPELINE WILL POISON OUR LAND AND OUR CHILDREN.
WE’RE TELLING YOU LEAVE THE TAR SANDS IN THE GROUND.
TEMPTATION’S AS OLD AS THE GARDEN OF EDEN,
BUT COURAGE GROWS FRESH FROM THE WORK OF OUR HANDS.
BAD LAWS AND BAD MONEY WILL NEVER DEFEAT THEM,
THE GOOD MEN AND WOMEN WHO LIVE I N THIS LAND.
THEY’LL TROUBLE YOUR SLEEP UNTIL YOU REPRESENT THEM;
IN THE MOMENT OF TRUTH, THERE’S NO WASHING YOUR HANDS.
ALL THAT THEY ASK IS A WORLD WE CAN LIVE IN.
NO PLACE IN THAT WORLD FOR ALBERTA’S TAR SANDS.
NO PLACE IN THAT WORLD FOR ALBERTA’S TAR SANDS.
Words & Music ©Doug Hendren 2013
What’s it about? Our dear planet is already seeing some climate alterations which have been foreseen by scientists around the world for decades. The global change is driven by carbon emissions (primarily CO2 and methane) from fossil fuels. At a time when we have the technological capability to steer modern industrial society into a low-carbon future (following the lead of Germany, Denmark and other countries), the United States is locked in a struggle between citizens who understand what is coming and the entrenched financial and political power of the coal, gas and oil industries.
The dirtiest and most controversial of all the fossil fuels is the “tar sands”, oil-bearing sands in Alberta, Canada. The “Keystone XL” pipeline, intended by the TransCanada Corporation to carry this thick, toxic mixture 2,000 miles from Alberta to Texas, has been identified by climate activists as a critical issue for the whole direction of energy policy in the United States, and has inspired thousands of Americans to engage in vigorous direct action and civil disobedience, in an effort to turn our great nation toward a survivable future.
The pipeline route passes through Nebraska, and over the enormous Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world, and the source of approximately 30% of all the agriculture irrigation water for the United States. The soil over the proposed route is very sandy, and it percolates rapidly. The water table in the area is very shallow, and an oil leak would be an unmitigated disaster.
All pipelines leak. The earlier “Keystone” pipeline leaked no fewer than fourteen (14) times in its first year of operation.
The farmers and ranchers in Nebraska understand what clean water means, even if Governor David Heineman and the Nebraska state legislators do not. It means healthy farms, livestock and families. Contaminated water, on the other hand, means sick and unmarketable animals and farm produce, illness and bankruptcy. In this predominantly “red” state, citizens of all political stripes who understand the issues of water, and of climate change, have joined forces under the banner of ‘Bold Nebraska”, to work for a future for their children and ours.
But doesn’t our economy depend on “cheap and reliable” fossil fuels? Pay attention. There are three parts to the answer:
1) Fossil fuels are not cheap. Gas, oil and coal are loaded with “negative externalities”, which means we are paying far more than we think. For example, today’s crude oil price is about $100 per barrel. However, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is there primarily to protect our access to this resource. If we divide that annual cost by the number of barrels per year, oil from that region is actually costing Americans several hundred dollars per barrel, in addition to the corrosive and demoralizing national and global effects of constant war. For coal, negative externalities include environmental devastation of mountaintop removal, asthma from particulates, fish laden with mercury eaten by pregnant women causing fetal mental retardation. Natural gas and oil produced by “fracking” has been lauded as an American energy revolution, but the potential risk and cost of contamination of our national water supply are incalculable. Finally, the economic cost of extreme weather attributable to climate change is measurable. Former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu reported the direct cost to the American people at $170 Billion in 2012. Who pays these costs? You do.
2) Fossil fuels are no longer reliable. Every year, the fossil fuel industry invests more and more into producing lower quantities of lesser quality fuel. Though gas and oil from fracking may appear to contradict this, the economics are far different than one would guess from mainstream media reporting. The typical yield from one of these gas wells declines by 60% by 12 months. So-called “tight oil” behaves the same way, with decline in production of 80-90% by 24 months. This unusually rapid field decline means very low recovery efficiency compared with earlier conventional oil fields. For discussion of this, see Richard Heinberg (2013), “Snake Oil: How fracking’s false promise of plenty imperils our future”.
An important concept in understanding this picture is “energy-return-on-energy-invested”, or EROEI. In the good old days, one barrel worth of oil energy in Texas or Saudi Arabia yielded 100 barrels of oil, for an EROEI of 100:1. By contrast, EROEI for offshore oil drilling is down to about 20:1, and EROEI for tar sands is reportedly as low as 5:1. These figures do NOT include “externality” costs such as the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, air pollution, groundwater contamination or climate change! A wind farm’s EROEI of 30:1 is starting to look pretty good, when we look at the big picture.
3) The fossil-fuel industry, and their well-funded “climate denial” industry (see above) exercises enormous influence over Congress and over American mainstream media. They actively cultivate ignorance in the American public and our legislators regarding energy sources, and they promote subsidies for fossil fuels, while obstructing policies which would allow the US to transition rapidly toward a sustainable economy. They would like you to believe there is no alternative. If you want to see what we could be doing, however, look at Germany: They are on track today to have an energy grid powered 50% from renewable sources by 2030, and 80% by 2050. The possibilities for a sustainable America today are limited not by technology, but by politics.
For more on the climate movement, see 350.org.
For a glimpse of what an oil pipeline leak looks like, see “Every Plant and Tree Died”; Huge Alberta Pipeline Spill Raises Safety Questions as Keystone Decision Looms”.
For more about the struggle between science and the fossil fuel industry, see this link: Fossil Fuel Army Versus the Planet: Battle Lines Are Drawn on Climate Change.
To see into the roots of the current well-funded “climate denial” industry, see Merchants of Doubt, by Oreskes and Conway (2010). It goes all the way back to the “tobacco scientists” of the 1960’s who denied the risks of cigarette smoking!
If you are starting to wake up about climate change and feel discouraged, please read Mary Pipher’s wise and inspiring new book, The Green Boat. Thank you, Mary, for the material for this song!