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As with much of the environmental opposition to Keystone, this claim drew significant press attention. Yet it was scientifically dubious. A November 2011 review of the existing research on bitumen corrosiveness by Alberta Innovates, an Alberta governmental agency, found that in fact bitumen oil’s characteristics “are not unique and are comparable to conventional crude oils during pipeline flow.” Moreover, the report found, the historic data showed that the internal corrosion and failure rate of a pipeline transferring bitumen oil was “statistically comparable” to conventional oil.
If these facts failed to register on the media’s radar, RBF-funded groups were a major reason why. Yet another group fueled by the RBF cash was the so-called Sustainable Markets Foundation. In 2010, the RBF gave the foundation a $100,000 grant for its 350.org program. The purpose of the program was to put pressure on the Obama administration to oppose the Keystone pipeline. In a direct appeal to the president, the group claimed that the “sands represent a catastrophic threat to our communities, our climate, and our planet” and demanded that Obama reject the permit. When the Obama ultimately did reject it, 350.org claimed victory, declaring on its website: “After relentless campaigning, the Keystone XL pipeline has been effectively killed!”
The twist in the environmental left’s victory on Keystone is that it was made possible in large part by a foundation whose funds are the legacy of Big Oil. Founded in 1940 from the fortune of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund gradually fell into the hands of political progressives who steered it toward anti-capitalist and environmental causes. The fund’s success in scuttling a major oil pipeline may mark the crowning achievement in its decades-long political conversion.
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