Thursday, June 14, 2012

Keystone XL: The truth comes out

The purveyors of dirty oil are getting impatient:
LONDON, Ontario — As the United States continues to play political Ping-Pong with the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian officials and companies are desperately seeking alternatives to get the country’s nearly 200 billion barrels in oil reserves — almost equal to that of Saudi Arabia — to market from landlocked Alberta.

Oil companies complain that they are losing revenues from pipeline bottlenecks. So Canada is plunging ahead with plans to build more pipelines of its own. 

To hasten development of new export routes, the Conservative government is streamlining permit processes by accelerating scheduled hearings and limiting public comment. The government has also threatened to revoke the charitable status of environmental groups that are challenging the projects.
Wow, they sound a little desperate, don't they?  It's a far cry from the lazy confidence of the "they'll just sell it to China" crowd, well represented by the noxious Joe Nocera:

  “The effort to stop Keystone is part of a broader effort to stop the expansion of the tar sands,” Brune said.  “It is based on choking off the ability to find markets for tar sands oil.”

This is a ludicrous goal.  If it were to succeed, it would be deeply damaging to the national interest of both Canada and the United States.  But it has no chance of succeeding.  Energy is the single most important industry in Canada.  Three-quarters of the Canadian public agree with the Harper government’s diversification strategy.  China’s “thirst” for oil is hardly going to be deterred by the Sierra Club. And the Harper government views the continued development of the tar sands as a national strategic priority.
Thus Joe, in the ironically titled "The Poisoned Politics of Keystone XL." The government of of Canada is still eager, obviously, but its power is not limitless.  The environmentalists opposing the project have obviously shaken the Harper regime rather badly:
And Public Safety Canada, the equivalent of the United States Department of Homeland Security, has classified environmentalists as a potential source of domestic terrorism, adding them to a list that includes white supremacists.
"Sell it to China" turns out to be easier said than done:
Indigenous groups must be consulted if new pipelines cross their land. To gain coastal access, pipeline companies must also navigate the politics of some of the most environmentally conscious Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Quebec, where public opinion tends to be against both pipelines and further fossil fuel development.
Vancouver’s City Council recently passed a motion requiring that pipeline companies take on 100 percent liability for the economic and environmental costs of a worst-case spill. Even though the federal government gives permissions for pipelines, such local maneuvering and lawsuits can cause severe delays.
“It’s poetic justice that Vancouver, the birthplace of Greenpeace, stands between the last big oil deposit on Earth and the expanding markets in Asia,” said Ben West of the Wilderness Committee, a consortium of environmental groups. “I’d anticipate it won’t get built for years.”
By which time we will maybe all be a little wiser, have gained some years to observe and reflect on the damage that has been done so far.


  1. Frankly this is very over-optimistic. As you noted the Canadian government is working hard to re-write legislation to ensure that opponents to the pipeline don't get in the way.

    I would be very surprised if the pipeline is not built before the next election in 2015.

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