Stating the Obvious that wasn’t stated!

Former President Jimmy Carter and other Nobel Prize winners signed a letter to President Obama urging him to reject the Keystone Pipeline. Prime Minister Harper’s office responded quickly, citing the many arguments in favour of Keystone that its supporters have presented over the past three years.

This response also referred to the problems of oil supply that followed on the Iranian crisis of 1979, a factor contributing to President Carter’s defeat in 1980.

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Keystone approval: a bargain with the devil?

The world knows that Ambassador Doer has been a cheerleader for the Keystone pipeline. So his writing a support letter for Keystone XL is not really a news story.

What makes his letter to the US State Department interesting was a two line statement buried in a three page letter. Doer wrote:

“Our energy and environment officials are currently assessing common energy issues, including potential oil and gas issues, which we could usefully address together.”

At beginning of 2013, we reported on the efforts of a group of Canadian politicians who blitzed Washington pressuring for a favourable decision on Keystone XL.  During discussions with high-ranking members of the US administration hints were dropped that approval would be easier if the Canadian Government showed it was serious about regulating GHG emissions from the tar sands.

Premier Redford of Alberta was negative about further regulation.  She stated that she was proud of Alberta’s management of the tar sands.  She wrote a column for the business newspaper US Today  “Keystone was Responsible oil Sands Development.”

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No stopping the exploitation of the tar sands!

Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law, penned an article with the title “Dear President Obama: In Canada climate change affects none of our decisions!”

His article is a good analysis of the recent State Department Review of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He compares the process followed by the State Department in conducting that Review with similar decisions of Canadian Government agencies.

We know that the State Department accepted that the tar sands bitumen would get to international markets whether or not the cross-border Keystone XL link was built.   Gage disputes this conclusion.

Regardless, he is right on the key issue!

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The Latest Sales Pitch for Keystone XL

The US Hill Times carried this headline: Canadian Ambassador: Path through Energy Independence is through Keystone XL.

(Photo Courtesy of TransCanada Pipeline, the backer of Keystone XL)

4RG has previously commented how the Canadian Embassy has been tasked with the job of selling Keystone. So our Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, has no choice but to do so. Our problem is with the accuracy of statements he made in his sales pitch.

In the course of his presentation Doer was asked whether Canada was prepared to clean up the carbon intensity of the Alberta “oil sands” in an effort to ease environmentalist’s concern. Doer replied:

“Canada is already doing that. . . . . We care about cleaner air and cleaner water and we have started on the oil and gas industry in reducing carbon intensity.”

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The Risks of Line 9

Did you know that Line 9, a 38 year-old pipeline connecting Sarnia and Montreal, may be the principal means for the international exploitation of tar sands oil?

The owner of Line 9 (Enbridge) applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for reversal of Line 9 as a means of getting tar sands oil (aka bitumen or, when transported by pipeline, diluted bitumen or dilbit) to an ocean port.  The NEB has already approved reversal of part of the western half of Line 9. Further NEB hearings into the balance of the line are scheduled for October 15-16 (Montreal) and October 17 (Toronto).

(Thanks to DesmogBlog Canada)

The problem is that Line 9 was originally built for the transport conventional oil from Montreal to the Sarnia petrochemical complex.  The consequences of a spill of dilbit are far more serious than a spill of conventional oil. The 2011 disastrous spill of dilbit in Kalamazoo, Michigan was from a more recently constructed Enbridge pipeline that will feed into Line 9.

As Montreal refineries do not have the capacity and/or ability to refine dilbit, Enbridge may re-ship the dilbit to “tidewater” via the Quebec – Maine (Portland) pipeline.  From Portland the dilbit can be transported by oil tanker for refining elsewhere.

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The President Raises the Bar

The fossil fuel industry seeking President Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline must show that when built the pipeline “doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

As noted in our last blog, both the Canadian fossil fuel industry and Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, think that this “condition” can be met. They agree with a U.S. State Department report delivered in January 2012 that most of the tar sands bitumen that would flow through the pipeline if approved would find its way to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast by other means of transport even if the pipeline was not approved. So approval of the pipeline won’t exacerbate anything.

In our view the condition is not just about practical calculations as to means of transport. There is a more fundamental principle at stake. To stay within 2 degrees C of global warming, half the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. The most obvious candidate for this “freeze” is the tar sands.

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The Latest in the Keystone XL pipeline decision

Background: The final approval of Keystone XL is with President Obama. Today he commented on a conclusion by the U.S State Department that approving Keystone XL will not result in an increase of oil sands product being exported to the US as oil from Canada will get to U.S. Refineries by other means of transport. The President advised that his administration will not approve the construction of this pipeline as “Our national interest will be served only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Rather than reject a project that has the full support of the Canadian Government, President Obama took a diplomatic way out. Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, characterized Obama’s requirement as just another step towards approval. ““Today President Obama made clear that Keystone XL would be approved if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. So the fossil fuel industry has a case to make, but if it succeeds in doing so Keystone XL will be approved.

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