mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author

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Keystone, Obama and the US Petro-state

Why is President Obama finding it so hard to announce a decision on Keystone XL? Because, I argue in Bloomberg Businessweek, Mr. Obama presides over a petro-state, a country whose political economy has been dominated by oil so profoundly and for so long that it ranks as an OPEC nation in all but name. The only way Obama (or any US president) can successfully stand up to Big Oil is if he is pushed by a strong, insistent popular movement. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-02-27/oil-industrys-power-in-u-dot-s-dot-petro-state-shapes-keystone-xl-debate#p1/

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2 Responses to “Keystone, Obama and the US Petro-state”

  • Amie Ziner says:

    I’m about to buy your book HOT. I think the premise that climate change is here, and we have to deal with what is really happening instead of hand-wringing, is vitally important. In my own small way, I am trying to teach about what suburban homeowners can do -realistically- to reduce carbon footprint.

    My family got a solar roof, a plug-in hybrid car that only needs gas every 6 weeks. We have a water barrel for rain collection, because even here in the NE, by August the reservoirs are very low and water gets rationed.

    I’m starting a community garden this year at the place where I work, and hope that as many as 50 families will take the understanding garnered while making this garden, home with them, and grow at least some of their own food.

    I am also organizing a Green Fair on Earth Day at the Y. I still don’t know if there will be lots of people in attendance, or just a few, but getting the word out to people living in one of the most resource-intensive communities that exist – the ‘burbs- has to start somewhere.

    I get disheartened, and then I read an article like the one you wrote on soil carbon sequestration, and I think, “Yes! I want everyone to understand this!” It keeps me going, imparting whatever I know about living ‘greener’; it’s hard-won personal understanding.

    I’m grateful for your educated and perceptive writing. Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words and especially for all the actions you are taking to alert others to the challenges and opportunities that climate change presents. Our only hope, I think, is to get as many people as we can to understand what is happening and, above all, to join the movement to change things. The individual lifestyle changes you outline have many benefits and are an excellent place to begin getting involved. But in the end what is decisive is taking political action that will lead to fundamental reforms in government and corporate behavior. That’s what a number of us are pursuing through the group, Climate Parents, and I invite you to check us out, but whatever group you join–the anti-Keystone pipeline work of 350.org and Friends of the EArth is impressive–it’s important to work with others for political as well as lifestyle changes.

      Thanks again for writing and for all that you are doing.


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By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did: leak top secret documents revealing that the US government was spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. But if you want to know why Snowden did it, the way he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men.


The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same surveillance ten years before Snowden did and got crushed. The other is The Third Man, a former senior Pentagon official who comes forward in this book for the first time to describe how his superiors repeatedly broke the law to punish Drakeā€”and unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches.


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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.

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