The Problem with Image Making

In our last post we referred to the opposition in the United States to the Keystone XL pipeline. Today’s Globe and Mail expanded on the difficulty of obtaining US approval.

Based on recent scientific reports The US Administration doubts industry claims that exploitation of the tar sands does not cause on-the-ground pollution. The Alberta Government representative that is leading its efforts to obtain approval suggested that Alberta would boost environmental performance in the tar sands. (Naturally the representative referred to “oil sands”, but, for reasons we have explained, we use the more graphic description- tar sands.)  The Premier of Alberta appears to have dismissed that suggestion.

The Canadian Government’s position that the industry is responding reasonably to pollution risks is also under question.  Further Government announcements that all is well will be taken with a grain of salt.  This includes Prime Minister Harper’s comment about “ethical oil”, and his recent statement in the House of Commons that the Government policy is “enhanced environmental protection”.

We suspect that the US Administration is positioning itself to reject Keystone XL on the more popular ground that it is causing immediate pollution and health risks.  This rejection will leave the door open to a further application for approval when these risks are resolved by regulatory action.   That may be some time coming, but if it does come there is every likelihood that the climate change dimension will have altered public opinion in the US.

In other words, the tactical way out that avoids a US- Canada confrontation is to invite Canada to come clean on immediate pollution issues, remedy them, and re-apply.

Good luck!  Besides the tar sands Canada needs to clean up its own international image.

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