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The Keystone oil pipeline under construction in North Dakota.

Reuters

Keystone XL pipeline opponents in the U.S. found an unlikely ally this week following a call from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the project.

In a column, No to Keystone, yes to crazy, Friedman writes "I hope the president turns down the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Who wants the U.S. to facilitate the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada's far north?)"

Friedman acknowledges that he thinks it's unlikely Obama will reject the pipeline, but he hopes pipeline opponents react loudly if it moves forward - in fact, he wants opponents to "go crazy".

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"I'm talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change."

Friedman, a well-known advocate of globalization, made waves with readers on  Twitter for his stance.

Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and founder of one of the most vocal opposition groups, 350.org, tweeted "We're definitely putting @tomfriedman on the guest list for the next civil disobedience action."

President Obama is expected to decide on the proposed pipeline's fate this summer. Just earlier this month the U.S. State Department released a draft environmental impact statement, concluding that TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline project will not, of itself, have a major impact on development in the oil sands and, therefore, on global emissions of greenhouse gases.

The State Department has cautioned that the report does not provide a recommendation on the project.

Activists who oppose the pipeline condemned the work as a "botch job" that unduly minimizes the environmental impacts, while proponents welcomed its conclusions. In his column, Friedman writes that President Obama's time in the White House so far "have been a net setback for the green movement."

"We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, 'I'm going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base. Sasha and Malia won't even be talking to me, so I've got to get something really big in return.'"

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Keystone proponents – including the slew of Canadian premiers and ministers trekking south of the border to lobby the U.S. administration on the issue – tout the security, reliability and even the greenness of Alberta's carbon-heavy crude oil.

The Harper government – along with Alberta and Saskatchewan – has been lobbying heavily for approval of the $7.6-billion pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels a day of bitumen from Alberta to the major refining hub on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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