Melissa Harris-Perry | February 24, 2013
>>> welcome back. i'm melissa harris perry. since day one, president obama put climate change on the top of his agenda as we heard in his inaugural address .
>> we will respond to the threat of climate change knowing the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. some deny the overwhelming judgment of science. none can avoid the devastating impact of fires and crippling drought, more powerful storms.
>> yet, one of the first decisions president obama will make on environmental issues may be to approve an expansive energy project that would have devastating effects on the climate. it would connect canada to american refineries around houston and the gulf of mexico . it would deliver 700,000 barrels of heavy crude oil into the country allowing production at canada to explode and emit what activists are calling a carbon bomb. extraction of crude oil from tar sands is a dirty process. if it goes forward, it could release into our atmosphere two times the amount of carbon dioxide burned in all the oil used throughout our entire history. in fact, one of the country's climate scientists from nasa said, building the keystone pipeline would be game over for the climate. which, of course, means game over for us. we live in the climate. so, approval of the pipeline appeared imminent but was delayed. now the proposal is back on the president's desk. technically, it is the jurisdiction of the state department to decide. president obama has the unique singular authority to decide. republicans were calling on the president to rubber stamp it. mila whiley is here and josh fox and francis president of the national resources events counsel. i want to start with you. often we hear the president is constrained by congress, by all the other forces he's facing. in this case, this is the president's call.
>> yes, it is. the president has to decide whether this is in the national interest . the state department is going to do the environmental review. it's completed and on the president's desk. it is his decision to decide whether this is in the national interest or not. it's not because of the climate of locations that you just described.
>> the claim, josh, there are jobs. the national interest is a short term interest based on jobs. how do we balance this game over for the climate next to jobs?
>> there are more jobs in the energy sector. what i want to say is i come into this not as a lifelong environmental campaigner, but a person in the area invided by the fossil fuel industry. when you are in the sights of the national gas industry or if you are in the line of the keystone xl, or in appalacia where they are blowing up mountains. it's extreme enery. you can no longer tap and get oil. you are fracturing rocks and scraping off the entire surface to get at this energy. this is a moment, actually, the president can take bold leadership and say, you know what? we cannot allow more and more of the environment and now with the climate, everybody is a member of the front line community.
>> as you describe that, this extreme energy development , part of this is a fundamental, ethical moral decision. if a resource exists, does it belong to us, humans, to do with it as we want or does it belong to the earth? part of it is yes, there's oil there. it doesn't mean it's ours. it might belong to the earth itself.
>> it's interesting, i got a tweet before coming on the show from someone who said this is a devine resource given to us. therefore, it's our devine right to use it. i think it's one thing to say, i think it's important to see the divinity of this resource. the planet is part of thoo and people are as well. if you actually look -- does that mean we use it in a way that exhausts it and destroys? i think that's the frame we are talking about. when you look at what's happening in native populations around the oil sands and the tar sands , we have seen incredible jumps in cancer rates, deformed fish. we are not talking extracting a resource that exists. we are talking the impacts on people's lives when we do it the way we are doing it and the great and tremendous health risks.
>> i think what's happening is we have a choice as a country, are we going to go down a clean energy pathway that addresses climate change that we are seeing in new york? we had hurricane sandy and her honor here that was on the front lines of that or go down a pathway we have been on for 100 years and causing more and more and more devastation across the world, not just across the united states . in is a leadership moment for the president. to say i am going to step forward and make -- act on climate principle and we are not going to continue down that pathway.
>> it feels to me like the lbj moment. johnson at that moment of the 64 civil rights act has to make the decision in signing 64 civil rights and 65 voting acts he's going to give away the south to the democratic party . he does so because of what it means for the country. that feels like who the president is called to. it is not easy. i don't want to make it small in that sense. politically, our time horizon is much shorter. i live in new orleans. i saw bp. we all saw it.
>> the fourth piece of this extreme energy is deep water drilling. we were drilling into water into depths that are uncontrollable. you saw what happened, the devastating effects. that's part of the other thing, there's no accountability or long term planning for when disaster occurs. with these forms, it's a conclusion that you are going to have absolutely environmental ruin. what's happening now is whether they are coming from fracking or from removal or the gulf or climate change is this incredible movement of people. i toured the country with bill who really is to be credited with these keystone protests. we had thousands of people at every location. 50,000 people in washington, d.c. on what was the coldest day of the year. this is what i'm seeing over and over again. extreme energy moves into these places in america. you get all of the above resis tense to this strategy.
>> the harris poll about support for the keystone pipeline . this is part of your question about whether or not we see a movement. we have 69% of americans support the keystone pipeline . that feels to me in part because they may not have clear information about what the consequences are of building it.
>> going back to the point about the president and the political position he's in right now. one thing that makes it different from the '64 civil rights act of johnson, it's a moral dilemma . part of the problem is the notion of scarcity. we are in a frame of scarcity. we have so many people who need jobs. we are in part where our economy is not recovered from a tremendous recession. where the president rightly used, as an opportunity to try to rebuild the economy, invest in renewable energy , which is incredibly important. now, trying to figure out how in the context of incredible, real pain that real people are feeling on the job market , most of how people are seeing keystone is in this frame of jobs. jobs, jobs, jobs.
>> you end up with 69% of the people supporting.
>> the part of the conversation that's not happening to your point about information is if we invest, it's 1.9 million jobs compared to 20,000 keystone will create. what are the jobs going to produce in terms of our communities? i would rather see the energy that ensures our kids aren't getting cancer and asthma rates are not increasing and that, you know, one of the biggest contributors to the deficit is health care costs. when you think of the big problems we are trying to solve in the country, we are not talking about whether or not keystone is good or bad for 20,000 jobs. the impact on health, communities and environment and whether there are better solutions.
>> with more jobs. we are going to stay on this issue with everyone at the table and also with julian bond who got arrested on this issue. i want to ask him why when we