Talking Keystone XL Pipeline with the Vice President
By Elaine Cooper
Last Friday, at a fish fry, Vice President Joe Biden made my year by telling me that he does not support the Keystone XL pipeline. Those of you who know me may be wondering how a Sierra Club volunteer managed to be chatting with the Vice President of the United States.
Well, as it happens, Biden was visiting Columbia to speak at the Democratic Party Jefferson/Jackson dinner. My husband and I are lifelong Democrats and strongly support this administration.
I was there last Friday with thirty-five other South Carolinians who care about the climate crisis that is already generating more hurricanes and extreme weather, to which our state is so vulnerable. We were there to greet the vice president with a small demonstration and to ask that the administration step up and honor its ambitious commitment to solve climate disruption. We went there to let the vice president know that this commitment will ring false to the American people if the administration fails to reject the Keystone tar sands pipeline. Keystone will not only increase the risk of spills and pollution along its route, it guarantees that much more carbon is pumped into the atmosphere.
I went to send a message, but what I got was much more than I bargained for. After the demonstration, I attended Representative Clyburn’s fish fry, and it was there that I was able to speak with the vice president. I asked him about the administration’s commitment to making progress on climate and whether the president would reject the pipeline. He looked at the Sierra Club hat on my head, and he said “yes, I do – I share your views – but I am in the minority,” and he smiled.
Now I’ve worked on political campaigns for many years. I’m a South Side Chicago girl, transplanted to beautiful South Carolina, and I know that this vice president is a man who isn’t afraid to speak from his heart, and who sometimes gets out in front of the rest of the administration on moral issues. It was nearly a year before, on May 6, 2012, that Biden said that he was “absolutely comfortable” with marriage equality. What the vice president said to me on Friday was equally brave and equally right.
Nice talking to you Mr. Vice President. I’m looking forward to a day when I can pose the same question to President Obama: Will you reject the pipeline?