09/01/2011 05:26 EDT | Updated 11/01/2011 05:12 EDT

Daryl Hannah: You Are Free to Protest. Saudi Women Are Not

Why has Daryl Hannah chosen to lend her celebrity to a cause that pits her against the interests of the free society she enjoys living in, and on the side of oil producing nations where women don't have free speech to speak about their concerns?


Actress Daryl Hannah hasn't made this big a splash since her movie, Splash!: Having been arrested earlier this week in front of the White House for protesting the Keystone pipeline, she has continued to speak out against the project, including braving questions from Bill O'Reilly.

Hannah may have single-handedly brought more attention to this issue -- so familiar to Canadians -- than any Albertan politician; but like so many celebrities who wade into political issues, her involvement will only fan more ignorance about the pipeline rather than less. But maybe worse, why has she chosen to lend her celebrity to a cause that pits her against the interests of the free society she enjoys living in, and on the side of oil producing nations where women don't have free speech to speak about their concerns?

I attended the still-ongoing protests at the White House this morning: Just as I arrived, the police were ushering all observers and press personnel out of the way of the some 50 organized protestors, who had planted themselves in front of the White House lawn.

"This has the potential to destroy ecosystems," said a protester in a "STOP The Pipeline" shirt, Whole Foods bag thrown casually over his shoulder. His cohort, a bandana-clad man with his shirt unbuttoned at the chest, added that, "the oil imports from the Middle East that this pipeline would offset are not that significant, and the cost is great."

They were parroting the same talking point as Hannah, who told O'Reilly:

"And this pipeline is proposed to go all the way to the Gulf of Mexico through family farms, through ranches and over our most precious, fresh water aquifer that supplies water for 20 million people and for a third of the nation's most rich farm lands and ranch lands. And it's just not a wise thing, aside from the fact that the tar sands is just recognized as one of the world's largest ecological atrocities."

Uh, not true. The 1,700-mile pipeline is to run from Western Canada's Alberta province, through six American states, down to Texas' Gulf Coast.

The Keystone XL pipeline has potential to generate more than a million barrels of crude oil per day. That's an insignificant amount? A significant amount of oil from Canada, an ally, no less, as opposed to a Middle Eastern autocracy or Venezuela.

Even if the potential impact on Canadian and American ecosystems were the chief and solitary contention, concerns would still not be well-founded. In fact, installation plans meet very strict environmental requirements, many of which -- such as the commitment to running the pipeline deeper underground at river crossings -- go beyond requisite standards.

But despite the assertions of many green-thumbers, environmental concerns are neither irreconcilable nor paramount. What about simple fact that reliance on Middle Eastern oil imports means funneling money into pockets of regimes that shamelessly oppress women?

When I posed the question to a one of the many women protestors in the crowd, she responded that "oppression of women will continue whether or not we are giving them money. The issue at hand here is the destruction of the environment."

Indeed, just before I arrived, two women had been protesting the protestors clad in full-length burqas. Needless to say, their presence was not well-received by the Mother Earth advocates. The burqa-ladies were accompanied by Ethical Oil's spokesman Alykhan Velshi. When Velshi attempted to take pictures of the burqa women, Keystone opponents threw themselves in front of his camera. The police also issued three warnings for everyone except organized protesters to clear. After 20 minutes and a second warning, Velshi and the burqa women left to avoid getting arrested. When I went to interview Velshi, we had to meet by a statue because he didn't want to get too close to crowd. "I'm not looking to get arrested," he said. "They'll recognize me." Which they did. Within two minutes of walking away, we were harassed by an environmental activist who was videoing us on his iPhone. He was particularly curious to know if I was one of the girls in the burqa. I was not, but didn't give him any information. He followed us and accosted us for about 10 minutes. Apparently, it's perfectly fine to block off Pennsylvania Avenue for hours - nay, days! - on end, but heaven forbid a voice is raised in opposition to the opposition!

No. The issue at hand is that while importation of foreign oil has decreased, the United States is still reliant on countries like Saudi Arabia for 12 per cent of its oil and petroleum. While developing alternative energy is all well and good, oil will remain a necessary commodity for the foreseeable future. Why not get as much of that oil as possible from allied countries like Canada, where the stoning of women is not sanctioned by law and money generated from oil revenues is not lining the pockets of corrupt autocrats?