by Shari Balouchi
The Keystone XL Pipeline has been a controversial topic on Sewanee’s campus since last year. In Nov 2011 Sewanee honorary degree recipient Bill McKibben led students to a rally in Washington D.C. where President Obama showed support for environmental efforts against the Keystone XL Pipeline by rejecting a plan that routed the pipeline through Nebraska’s Sandhills region. This year, an alternative route has been proposed and will soon be voted upon by the President. McKibben, alongside the Sierra Club, led a rally of tens of thousands to, once again, protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Feb 17.
A group of Sewanee students were eager to attend the rally, but they needed around $600 to cover the cost of transportation. In order to raise money, students held a bake sale beginning Feb 12, just five days before the rally. Cookies, breads, and brownies were sold for the next three days outside McClurg Dining Hall and in Dupont Library. Sustain Sewanee, the campus leaders for environmental issues, provided ingredients for the baked goods and several Sewanee students and community members baked and sold the treats. The bake sale yielded $351.72, which went directly towards transportation for the seven Sewanee students via a Sierra Club chartered bus. Due to support from the bake sale, attending students only had to pay $15 each.
Though the southern half of the pipeline is already under construction, the president has yet to approve the section that would allow tar sands oil to be transported from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. This would be the largest pipeline outside of Russia and China and could transport more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
Proponents of the pipeline claim that the project would create thousands of jobs and provide economic independence for the country in the production of oil. Critics of the pipeline are unconvinced of the 57 special conditions outlined by TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline initiative, and fear an increase in carbon emissions as well as other environmental threats. Leakage is also a concern for critics who fear land and water contamination. Though the president has not yet made a formal decision, the impact of the rally cannot go unseen. The Feb 17 rally involved 168 organizations and was the largest climate march in United States history, according to The Sierra Club website.