A group of close to 60 gathered Friday evening at the Two Harbors Breakwater to protest the continued construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

A group of close to 60 gathered Friday evening at the Two Harbors Breakwater to protest the continued construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Katya and Mark Gordon of Two Harbors planned the protest as part of a national “Draw the Line” day, a 350.org-led day of action designed to showcase public disapproval of the Keystone XL pipeline. According to 350.org, 218 protests in the U.S. and Canada were planned for Sept. 21, including 86 in the Midwest.

“The Keystone is the trendsetter. It’s setting the direction of the country,” Katya Gordon said. “What happens with Keystone will set a precedent.”

The Keystone pipeline, owned by the TransCanada Corp., is being built to transport oil products from Canada and the northern United States to the Gulf Coast of Texas. It already runs from Alberta to Nebraska, and proposed expansions, dubbed the Keystone XL, would install a more direct section from Alberta to Nebraska and a section from Oklahoma to Houston.

Though the Keystone pipeline doesn’t run through Minnesota, others, such as Enbridge Inc.’s Alberta Clipper line, do. Mark Gordon said that while they are opposed to pipeline expansions because of potential oil leakages and spills, they are more concerned about increased climate change because of continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Burning fossil fuels releases previously trapped carbon into the atmosphere, and many scientists say the global climate could reach a tipping point if the concentration of CO2 remains above 350 parts per million (hence the name 350.org) for long.

“We’re here for the pipeline but we’re here for climate change, too. That’s the bigger issue,” he said. “Scientists are saying if all those emissions go into our air, there’s no turning back. Right now, we still have the ability to turn things around.”

Leo Babeu, a Two Harbors resident who helped the Gordons organize the protest, said he hoped to see a movement toward greener energy.

“We need to change the way we do business as usual,” he said. “We don’t oppose the use of fossil fuels, but we’d sure like to use them to create new energy economy options.”

The group gathered on the breakwall to take a photo, which will be uploaded and shared with protest pictures from around the country at 350.org. Katya Gordon said the ultimate goal is to have President Barack Obama curb the pipeline’s expansion. He has yet to approve the project, which requires a presidential permit.

Proponents of the pipeline say it would be the safer and greener way to transport oil from North Dakota and Canada. Approval of Keystone XL would remove 300 to 500 truckloads from North Dakota highways, and one to two fewer trains would leave the state each day, according to North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. Compared to pipelines, greenhouse gas emissions from rail transportation are 1.8 times greater and for truck transportation, 2.9 times greater.

Pipeline opponents say it would be better to leave the oil unburned, or at least to burn less of it.

“I’m convinced there are 20 times more people that didn’t come tonight but feel similarly. I’m convinced that we really do have a grassroots, vast majority of people who are concerned about climate change but are feeling too overwhelmed to do anything about it,” Katya Gordon said. “But cultures really do change. If we don’t do this, no one else is going to do it.”