Anti-Keystone XL ad to air during Obama State of the Union

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Environmentalists are looking to sway President Obama against the Keystone XL pipeline by airing an ad bashing the project during the State of the Union address.

NextGen Climate Group has paid for the ad to air during Obama’s address Tuesday night. The deep-pocketed organization was founded by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who has been pouring millions into environmental causes and elections in the past couple of years.

Steyer’s ad, however, did not highlight the environmental impacts of Keystone, but instead argues that the pipeline would benefit China’s economy rather than America’s.

“It’s a sucker-punch to America’s heartland,” the ad says while the heads of Chinese and Canadian shake hands with one another. “(The Chinese are) counting on the U.S. to approve TransCanada’s pipeline to ship oil through America’s heartland and out to foreign countries like theirs. … “Keystone’s a sucker’s deal for America. Just say no to Keystone.”

Steyer told reporters in an email that he believes the ad will reach between 3 million and 4 million viewers. But the billionaire environmentalist did not say if the ad would run elsewhere.

In fact, the ad only briefly mentions environmental issues once, saying there would be more carbon pollution briefly at the end.

This ad appears amid a push by Keystone supporters to get President Obama to approve the pipeline. Last week, Republican senators sent a letter to Obama telling him it was time to make a decision on the pipeline after more than five years of delays.

“Your administration has had more than enough time to issue a final [environmental impact statement] and make a decision on the pipeline,” wrote Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming. “Given the length of time your administration has studied the Keystone XL pipeline and the public’s overwhelming support for it, you should not further delay a decision to issue a Presidential Permit.”

With the State Department set to issue their final environmental impact statement in the coming weeks, both sides of the issue are scrambling to push their case.

Obama’s speech to the country could be environmentalists last chance to get their anti-Keystone message across to the public, which is largely in favor of building the pipeline. A Pew Research poll from last September found that 65 percent of the public supported the pipeline while only 30 percent opposed it.

Anti-Keystone activists are planning to march around the Capitol Building with a 100-yard inflatable pipeline inscribed with the words: “Climate Champion or Pipeline President.” The march is being led by the activist groups 350.org, CREDO, Energy Action Coalition, Friends of the Earth and the National Wildlife Federation. This planned action comes after months of dwindling enthusiasm among environmentalists over Keystone XL opposition.

Pipeline supporters remain adamant that the Keystone is in the national interest of both the U.S and Canada.

“The Keystone project will create thousands of jobs and economic growth for people on both sides of the border,” said a spokesman with the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office. “The project is in the interest of both of our countries, which is a point that even the U.S. State Department has made. Fear-mongering isn’t in anyone’s interest, we’d rather let the project’s benefits to Canadians and Americans speak for themselves.”

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