Stephen Harper visited New York where he spoke at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations, a group of influential businessmen and financiers, on the need for the U.S. to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands bitumen to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
In its study the US State Department concluded that tar sands oil will get to markets whether Keystone goes ahead or not. Some of the output from the tar sands is now being transported by rail to the U.S for refining. Still Keystone XL is necessary as it has the capacity to handle the future output of the tar sands in a way that railway transport cannot.
Up to now the task of selling the tar sands oil had been the job of Cabinet Ministers, Provincial Premiers and civil servants. Apparently these efforts may not have been enough to tip the balance in favour of approval. Why else would Canada’s Prime Minister go to New York with his sales pitch?
The Prime Minister spoke with his usual directness and emphasis. He had previously described approval of Keystone XL as a “no brainer”. On this occasion he expanded these two words to a short phrase: “All the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval.” Those facts reduced the decision to “the real immediate environmental issue. . . do we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail?”
For Harper, the “real immediate environmental issue” apparently involves the impact of oil spills on the environment. We disagree. For rail, accidents resulted in spills of 0.00006 percent of the total quantity of oil transported in the year 2012: for pipelines in the same year the quantity lost to leaks was 0.0005 . Given the small quantities lost by both means of transport, the real issue is not rail versus pipeline.
Climate change is the real concern here. Harper dismissed climate change, referring to “emissions issues” similar to those occurring in other oil producing countries. He will never recognize that the world does not need any more such “emissions issues”, and certainly not the tar sands, the project that is the largest single source of Greenhouse Gases on this planet.
For more commentary on Keystone and the selling of the Tar Sands go to