Certainly there are many reasons advanced by US supporters why President Obama should approve construction of the Keystone Pipeline. The construction will boost employment at a time when US unemployment is higher than average. The cash pumped into the US economy will assist a sluggish recovery from the 2008-2009 recession. Finally, the oil refining industry on the Texas gulf will benefit because the tar sands bitumen will be refined there for export to international markets.
There is another reason that probably does not serve to mobilize US public opinion, and will be taken into consideration by the Obama administration. The company promoting Keystone, Trans Canada Pipelines, has spent many years planning and obtaining environmental approval from the states through which Keystone will pass. For many years, Canada has lobbied the Obama administration and Federal US politicians, and our Federal Government has “counted” on ultimate approval.
As against those reasons there is one fundamental objection. At a time when we ought to be weaning ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels, the tar sands are on track to be the world’s second largest single generator of GHG Emissions.
US Environmentalists are adamantly opposed to Keystone, and many celebrities and other key public figures were arrested at a Washington, D.C. demonstration in the summer of 2011. A second demonstration was held in November of last year, just after the US elections. A large public demonstration is again planned in Washington on February 17 next. A leading US environmental organization, the Sierra Club, vows that it will engage in civil disobedience if approval is given, the first time in its long history of fighting environmental battles.
Western Canadians do not quite understand the US opposition to a pipeline built to facilitate the exploitation of the tar sands . The popular Mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, has stated:
“I think it is a shame that a one-metre-in diameter pipe is suddenly having to wear all of the sins of the carbon economy. . . . You know, it is not clubbing seals with child labour.”
Does Mayor Nenshi not appreciate the negative image that Canada has created by exploitation of the tars sand, by exiting the Kyoto Protocol, by the Canadian Government’s outburst against “radical” US environmentalists, by winning the Fossil of the Year award time and again?
These chickens have come home to roost!