Ex-US president Jimmy Carter comes out against Keystone XL

Ex-US president Jimmy Carter comes out against Keystone XL

Jimmy Carter in conversation at the LBJ Library in 2011. Via WikiMedia Commons.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has joined a group of Nobel laureates in an open letter calling Barack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

The message, published as a paid ad in Politico, tells Barack Obama that he stands on the brink of making a choice that will define his legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced — climate change.

This is the first time an ex-president comes out to officially express his refusal to TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) project.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change,” the Nobel Laureates write in the letter addressed also to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice…. We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."

The letter comes on the heels of an Environment Canada report blaming the oil and gas industry as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, due in large part to the expansion of the oil sands.

The proposed project would transport crude from the Canadian oil sands in Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf Coast. Supporters have said it would be a boon for job creation and domestic energy production, but opponents have warned that oil extraction from the tar sands —among the most carbon-intensive methods of energy production— would likely increase should the project be approved.

A University of Toronto study published last February suggested that the oil sands' impact on human health and the environment may have been underestimated due to flawed environmental assessment procedures.

The Keystone XL project has been pending before the Obama administration for years, and because it crosses an international border, the State Department holds primary responsibility for approving construction.

Other former US presidents have had their saying on the matter. George W. Bush said once that building the pipeline was a "no-brainer," and Bill Clinton said Americans should “embrace” the project and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work.

Obama has signalled that a decision on the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is imminent before summer.