Bad news for Keystone XL – good news for the environment

Last February a flurry of Canadian Politicians descended on Washington DC as part of a campaign to win President Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport bitumen from the tar sands to US Gulf Coast refineries.

One campaigner was Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who often stated she was proud of Alberta’s management of the tar sands environment.  In her words, Alberta was

“. . . the first place in North America to require by law all large industry across all sectors to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. We have a $15 price per ton on carbon for those who do not meet legislated limits. We take the revenue generated from this levy and direct all the money into a clean technology fund. To date Alberta has collected $312 million and has already invested nearly $167 million into 43 clean energy projects. This fund has also allowed our province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 million tons.”

Redford added:

“Expectations are high for Alberta to continue to push the bar on greenhouse gas reductions and this is why our environment minister is reviewing options to renew our climate change strategy.”

As a demonstration of these high expectations, she suggested that the levy per ton of carbon could be increased to perhaps $30 per ton.  Yet nothing has been done.

Redford had no comment on the lengthy delays in passing regulations applicable to tar sands emissions.  These delays continue:  since last February neither the Canadian nor the Alberta Governments have released a draft of these long overdue regulations.  A rather lackadaisical pushing of the bar!

Unfortunately Canada’s public relations campaign did not work. This time it was President Obama who raised the bar on approval of Keystone XL.  And very recently he raised the bar again.  In an interview with the New York Times he suggested that Canada could “potentially be doing more” to control emissions from its oil sands.

This obvious comment about Canada’s apparent indifference to tar sands emissions raised the ire of certain Republican Senators to whom climate change is an unproved hypothesis, if not a hoax.  Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) slammed Obama’s comments that Canada needs to strengthen its environmental rules:

“After five years of delay, the president is talking about adding new requirements to a project. He’s talking about adding those requirements in another country.”

The Senator should know better. It wasn’t Obama who put Alberta’s (and Canada’s) reputation on the line in the campaign for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline!

Don’t be surprised if some time in the next several months the Alberta and Federal Governments produce the long-delayed regulations.  After this step Canadian politicians may renew their campaign to pressure Obama.  Unfortunately for our politicians these regulations may prove to be too little too late!




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