Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"It's no pipe dream"

It's no pipe dream

Politics has no place in Keystone review

For Calgary Herald April 10, 2011

Politicians on both sides of the border should cool the rhetoric over TransCanada Corp.'s contentious pipeline to Texas and get back to dealing with the facts.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama contradicted his earlier message about the need for increased imports from friendly countries such as Canada.

"These tarsands, there are some environmental questions about how destructive they are, potentially, what are the dangers there and we've got to examine all those questions," said the president.

The pipeline would transport more than half a million barrels a day of oilsands crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While Obama shouldn't have called them "tarsands" -an inaccurate description favoured by anti-oil lobbyists -his comments sparked an over-the-top response from Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert, who said the president should just "sign the bloody order."

While there are many economic and political advantages for both countries if the pipeline gets built, decision-makers must ensure the risks are properly considered. Liepert, instead of lobbying so intently for the U.S. government's approval, should ensure Alberta jobs don't move south, as alleged Friday by the Alberta Federation of Labour.

But if there's frustration on the part of Albertans and Alberta politicians, it's because of a double standard that's being applied to Canadian oil. The U.S. shouldn't talk about "dirty oil" from Canada without examining the dirt on its own hands from buying Middle Eastern oil, much of which fuels despots who trample human rights. How conveniently that gets forgotten in the debate, which has seen several major U.S. newspapers weigh in with editorials that are pro and against the pipeline to Texas.

Premier Ed Stelmach fired back at the New York Times for its editorial, "No to a New Tar Sands Pipeline." Stelmach's letter to the editor noted that when the U.S. buys Canadian oil, it's fuelling its own economy. He says 91 cents of every dollar spent winds up back in the U.S.

Stelmach pointed out the hypocrisy of criticizing oil from Canada -one of just three democracies among several dozen countries that export crude oil to the U.S. Canada has strong environmental standards and Alberta is the only jurisdiction in North America to put a price on carbon, at $15 per tonne.

Emissions from the extraction and processing of oilsands are greater than from light crude oil; however, most people don't realize it's on par with California's heavy oil.

Ironically, the management of emissions would be far better if Alberta oil is processed in the U.S., rather than in China -another option if the pipeline south does not get approval.

If the project clears environmental hurdles, it should be approved by the Obama administration, which should act based on the evidence, instead of the politics.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


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