Environmentalists say there's plenty not to like.
Of greatest concern initially, the Keystone XL pipeline was designed to run through Nebraska's Sandhills, which lie above the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of drinking water and irrigation for millions of people. Now, even though refined plans show an alternate route, environmentalists worry that if the expected 500,000 to 700,000 barrels of crude oil flow through the pipeline each day, leaks could contaminate the water and soil.
Michaels said those fears are unfounded, and "climate change is becoming the last refuge of regulatory scoundrels."
"It reminds me of the TransCanada pipeline that was supposed to cause all these problems and wreak all this havoc. It never did. All it did was supply oil," Michaels said.
He posited that U.S. emissions from the energy sector are at their lowest level since 1992, despite -- not thanks to -- government intervention.
"That didn't happen because of subsidizing solar energy and windmills. There's just not a lot, not enough electricity coming from those minuscule rays. It happened because of natural gas, hydrofracturizing and horizontal drilling, which has increased the supply dramatically," he said.
The Department of Energy has taken credit for laying the groundwork for the current natural gas boom, citing research and development dating back to the 1970s that led to today's hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques of extracting gas from shale.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says increased use of natural gas has come at the expense of coal, which tends to emit significantly more carbon dioxide than natural gas.
"It wasn't because people wanted to save the planet. It's because they wanted to make money. Gee, that's how to make people efficient. Don't fetter the economy and you'll find out that people want to produce, either want to produce things efficiently or produce efficient things. They are advantaged in the marketplace. Get the government out of it and you'll get a greener planet," Michaels said.
But the crowds that braved temperatures in the low 30s and winds exceeding 20 mph to make their point heard in Washington couldn't disagree more.
"Climate change is established science. And it's time we get our act together and find a better way is renewable energy," said Lissa Spitz, Allison's mother. "If they put a minuscule amount of the money into research and development for renewable energy that they spend on fossil fuels, we'd be there now. You know, it's not because it can't be done. It's because of the political and financial powers that be that have a vested interest in keeping the system that we have now. And it's not working."
The Sierra Club, the anti-climate change consortium 350.org, and the civil rights organization the Hip Hop Caucus put together the rally.