11/03/2011 11:16 am ET | Updated Jan 03, 2012

It's Time for Obama to Say No to 'Big' Oil

I think it is safe to say that the 99% is fed up with false promises. In the last election, many Americans -- including a rather surprising number of young people -- opted to vote for Barack Obama because they believed in his words about bringing change to the country and the world. Sadly, so far at least, too often and in too many ways, this has not been the case.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments is Obama's unwillingness to make good on his promise to end the "tyranny of oil". A case in point was his recent thumbs-up to BP to do more drilling in the Gulf. It is stunning to me that the response to the 2010 Gulf oil disaster is to say 'sure go ahead'. Do more of the same. Make more profits at the expense of the average American, and destroy the planet while you are at it.

We know that taking on the oil industry will not be easy. But for those of us deeply concerned about the future of the planet, this seems like a no-brainer. We must break our dependency on fossil fuels. It's that simple. If we don't, life as we know it will come to an end -- and future generations of Americans will be living with the very ugly consequences.

The latest test case of Obama's commitment to "heal the planet" is the Keystone XL pipeline. Before the end of this year, he is expected to accept or reject TransCanada's request for a permit to move forward with this massive pipeline that will bring tar sands oil from Alberta through America's heartland down to the Gulf of Mexico.

As the battle over this permit reaches a feverish pitch, the rhetoric becomes more absurd. Oil lobbyists are sensing that public support for the pipeline is getting weak, and they are getting desperate. So their latest stroke of marketing genius is to call the oil dredged up from the tar sands of Alberta the 'ethical' choice. You could buy oil from those 'dirty' countries in the Middle East that engage in conflict, the argument goes, or you can do the right thing and buy it from 'clean' Canada.

And now they've got American politicians parroting some of their best lines.

Here is what Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina had to say a few weeks ago. "We have a supply [of oil] to our north that, to me, is just like finding it in America. Dirty oil is buying oil from someone who takes the money and sponsors terrorism and tries to make the world a dark and sinister place to live."

The authors of this ethical oil argument are none other than Conservative party insiders in Canada. These clever strategists realize that most Americans understand that fossil fuels are a major environmental and health hazard. Thus they are changing tack and putting forth the "ethical oil" pitch.

But there is nothing ethical about tar sands oil. The oil coming from Alberta's tar sands is the single largest source of emissions in Canada, and is contributing rather dramatically to catastrophic climate change. For the millions of women, men and children around the world suffering the immediate impacts of climate change--including drought, flooding and dislocation -- it is a cruel joke that oil lobbyists would try to call any oil "ethical."

The false dichotomy between 'ethical' oil and 'conflict' oil is not only offensive and of course insulting -- it will, in my view, ultimately only make more Americans cynical about big business and the politicians who blindly support them. Americans know that if America is to really demonstrate leadership on stopping climate change, it will have to lead by moving away from fossil fuels. We know that the right thing to do is to start investing in alternative energy sources. And we know that it is time for Obama to finally make good on his promises.

That's why this Sunday, November 6, I am going to be joining thousands of other Americans at the White House. We are going to respectfully ask our highest elected politician, Barack Obama, to unlink his arms with Big Oil and join hands with us, the American people. We are going to call upon President Obama to fulfill the pledges he made about the environment as candidate Obama. We are going to call upon him -- again -- to say NO TO THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE.

Please join us and send a strong message to our politicians that 'we the people' know what we need, and yes we can make our politicians listen. A clean energy future is the one that will give future generations of Americans real security.