As more than 300 college students were arrested in Washington DC Monday, locking themselves to the White House fence to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Warren Buffett came out in favor of the pipeline, saying on CNBC that it would be “a good idea for the country.”

Keystone

300 arrests drop in the bucket as 86,000 sign pledge of resistance

The 300 arrests could be a drop in the bucket.  Elijah Zarlin, who is managing CREDO’s Keystone XL protest campaign, noted that 86,000 activists have signed a pledge of resistance saying they are willing to risk arrest in order to send President Obama a message.

Obama’s base won’t be motivated to vote if they’re in jail

“It’s inspiring to see these young people committed enough to go to jail to send a message,” Zarlin said, noting the political stakes.  “The president is heading into important mid-term election and he needs his base of young people to get excited about the election.  [The protesters] won’t get motivated to vote if they are in jail trying to encourage Obama to do the right thing.”

When reflecting on a number of environmental issues, such as President Obama allowing the expansion of fracking and lifting the moratorium on drilling for oil in the gulf of Mexico, Zarlin, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, said the president “needs to do a lot more if he wants to live up to his campaign rhetoric,” an understatement on several levels.

Zarlin says the Keystone decision is the litmus test for environmental liberals.  “Obama needs to energize his base.  It’s going to be hard to support him on other issues” if he approves the Keystone pipeline.  As he looks across a number of environmental issues, it’s hard for Zarlin not to express disappointment in Obama’s presidential term.  “I’ve been disappointed by him numerous times. As we were all fighting the Keystone pipeline… he bragged about wanting to speed up building the pipeline.”

“I don’t want to be disappointed… again”

Today’s demonstration in Washington DC, organized by a separate group of student groups, drew a crowd of approximately 1,200 students from 80 colleges.  Marching down H Street to the White House, some were dressed in “hazmat suits” drenched in “oil,” chanting “Keep your oil out of my soil,” referring to the potential for oil spills along the pipeline.  For his part, in the CNBC interview Buffett said “there are leaks on pipelines and the occasional explosion,” but they are “very, very, very, very rare.”

Will President Obama live up to his campaign promise?  Zarlin says it’s hard to handicap the issue, but “I don’t want to be disappointed… again,” he said.