A number of senior technology company executives, including Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, signed a letter sent by Washington-based Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) refuting the State Department’s recent claim that the Alberta tar sands will be developed with or without the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone XL pipeline

On its website, E2 describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan group of business leaders and others who promote sound environmental policies that drive economic growth,” and also claims its members together created more than 570,000 jobs and manage over $175 billion in venture and private-equity capital.

Statement from E2 director on Keystone XL Pipeline

Commenting on the rationale for writing the letter, Anthony Bernhardt, the Northern California director of E2, explained, “Even beyond our group, I’d say it’s a consensus among tech leaders that developing the tar sands will not benefit our economy—and on the contrary, increase the risk of real harm.” Bernhardt also said E2 decided to speak up regarding an oil infrastructure project because he and the other business owners in his group wanted to rebut “the manifestly untrue” claims regarding the Keystone pipeline presented in the mainstream press.

Highlights from the E2 letter

For starters, the E2 letter takes issue with the state department’s claim that the tar sands oil would come to U.S. markets and would improve America’s energy independence. “With Texas and North Dakota, we are now producing, as a nation, two million barrels of oil more per day than we were [when Keystone XL first became an issue],” Bernhardt points out. “We have no use for this oil.” Yet by committing to its transport, the U.S. “will be creating an enormous incentive to increase tar sands production—for export—and all the carbon emissions associated with its extraction and consumption for energy.”

The letter also argues that the Keystone pipeline will eventually cost the American people up to $100 billion due to the long-term “social costs of carbon”.

Other signatories

A broad range of business executives were among the more than 200 signatories on E2’s letter to Secretary of State Kerry, including Bob Fisher, the chairman of Gap. Tedd Saunders, a fourth-generation Boston-based hotelier, also signed the letter. He focuses on global warming in explaining his reasoning. “Year after year, we’re seeing more major storms, more cancelled events for our clients, more flights cancelled—everything the scientists warned us about is happening—and all of it having a direct or indirect on our business.”