Someone owes Bill McKibben an apology over the Keystone pipeline

A new study shows that Jonathan Chait's crusade against anti-Keystone organizers is little more than contrarianism

Keystone XL
(Image credit: (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images))

Ever since Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org chose the Keystone XL pipeline as a rallying point for their anti-climate change movement, a few persistent critics, led by New York's Jonathan Chait, have questioned McKibben's political acumen. Given the undeniable fact that EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants will have a far greater effect on overall carbon emissions than Keystone XL, aren't McKibben and company wasting their time on a side issue?

A key piece of support for this argument was a State Department estimate that the pipeline would have a negligible effect on total carbon emissions, because the oil would simply be shipped by rail. This gave credence to the Chait view, since it implied that McKibben hadn't just picked a less-than-ideal issue as a stand-in for climate change as a whole, but was spending a whole lot of time and energy on an initiative that would literally have almost no impact on climate change.

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