Archive | March, 2013

“Runaway Catastrophic Climate Change” and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal

23 Mar

Carrie Saxifrage – January 18th, 2013

My name is Carrie Saxifrage. I am a reporter for the Vancouver Observer which has extensively covered the pipeline proposal on its news website and recently produced the book Extract, Volume 1, Enbridge. The facts I rely on come mostly from this reporting, but I am testifying in my individual capacity.

My objection to the Northern Gateway pipeline is that it externalizes the risks and costs of the project. Enbridge and the corporations it contracts with would receive huge profit from the project. The BC public and future generations would pay the unbearable costs of the project.

Democracy and the free market tell us that we should not be forced to pay the costs of private corporations. Fairness dictates that those who profit pay the costs. Those costs should be included in it the price of the product.

In the technical hearings under questioning by the Province of BC, Enbridgestated that it would not consider a commitment to guarantee 100% of cost of an oil spill clean up. It will insure $280 million for a 20,000 barrel spill. That’s the size of the spill in Kalamazoo which has already cost close to three times that amount.

Enbridge refuses to assume its own costs because they are so enormous. It wants to impose them on us.

That isn’t democratic and it isn’t fair.

Not all costs of an oil spill that can be monetized. For example, after the Exxon Valdez spill, Alaskan Native communities were severely disrupted and many experienced high levels of depression from the trauma of seeing so many animals die, the stress of loss of subsistence livelihood from the sea, and the influx of clean-up money. No one knows how many animals died outright from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The carcasses of more than 35,000 birds and 1,000 sea otters were found after the spill, but since most carcasses sink, this is considered to be a small fraction of the actual death toll. The best estimates are: 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.

Twenty three years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, nine species are not fully recovered and some species such as herring and pigeon guillemots may never recover. One of the two orca pods in the area is slowly dying out. An estimated 21,000 gallons of oil remain and oil has been found in the coastal substrate up to 450 miles away.

An even bigger cost that Enbridge would externalize is the cost of climate change.

At the Smithers JRP intervenor hearing, I had the opportunity to ask Paul Stanway what he thought of the International Energy Agency’s 2011 report that states with new infrastructure we will lose forever the chance to prevent the two degree increase in temperature that means catastrophic costs for us all.

I taped Stanway’s response: “I’m not familiar with that report” he said.

Upton Sinclair noted that it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

But when that something includes include making the planet uninhabitable for humans and other species, not understanding it is unconscionable. Enbridge has put itself in a very questionable position.

“Making the planet uninhabitable for humans” – That strong statement might seem overblown. Enbridge might call it a myth stridently stated by an environmental activist. Minister Oliver might call it the statement of someone who wants to block Canada’s opportunity to diversify trade.

But I want Canada to diversify trade. I want it to be a world leader in renewable energy technology. It’s in a perfect position to do so, with good education, plenty of resources and a history of helping when the world needs help, which it certainly does now. Enbridge has a wind power portfolio. I could support the expansion of that. If this debate is really about jobs, renewable energy creates 3 to 34 times the number of jobs for investment than oil infrastructure.

Back to keeping the planet habitable, Enbridge doesn’t seem to know about the immense body of research on the consequences of new fossil fuel infrastructure. That research states that warming of 6 degrees means mass extinction, which may include humanity. We will come close to six degrees by 2100 if we follow our current trajectory of rapidly expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure without any regard to climate pollution.

Enbridge may be money blind enough to bet against the world saving itself, but the government of Canada, must not make this bet.

Here’s a sampling of what the world’s most knowledgeable scientists and leading institutions are saying:

MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calculates that current emissions will push us toward 5.5 C by 2100. It called for “rapid and massive” action to avoid this and warned that “there’s no way the world can or should take these risks.” It also produced research showing that the expansion of the oil sands is not economically viable under any scenario in which the world takes effective action against climate change.

Bob Ward, from the London School of Economics comments:  

” As the IEA points out, we have little chance [of avoiding the point of no return] if we continue to lock-in fossil fuel sources of energy today … the window of opportunity for action has almost closed.

And, of course, the world’s most important climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, said that the plan by private oil corporations to radically expand extraction of climate damage out of the tar sands will mean “game over” for our climate. 

Here is a rough estimate of the climate damage the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would enable. It can viewed either as the costs which Enbridge proposes to externalize, or it can be seen as how the project is no longer economically viable if those costs are internalized through a price of carbon.

The new flow of tar sands oil through this pipeline would result in the release of around 150 million tons of CO2 per year. That is nearly triple all the climate pollution emitted by people of BC from all their fossil fuel burning. Nearly triple. Over thirty years, the proposed pipeline would enable more than four billion tonnes of CO2.

Several reports, including those from the federal government, the BC provincial government and energy economists conclude that a carbon price of between $100 to $200 will be needed by 2020 to meet our climate commitments. Using $100 as a very conservative estimate of the damages caused by climate pollution over the next 30 years, we can estimate over $400 billion of climate damages enabled by this pipeline if built. I would likely be glad to support Enbridge infrastructure choices if the climate costs were internalized with a carbon tax of $150 per ton. But $400 billion of climate damages must not be foisted onto the public.

Let’s look at where we are now:

  • Records show that extreme summer temperatures are 50 times more frequent now.

  • Global food prices are teetering at record levels because of extreme weather events around the world.

  • Hurricane Katrina smashed into a coastal city causing more than $100 billion in damages the most costly weather event in history and Hurricane Sandy brought over $60 billion in damages to NY and NJ.

  • The sea ice in the arctic is collapsing at breathtaking speed and the spring snow cover in Canada, USA and Russia is disappearing.

  • These two events are driving increased global warming beyond our direct control.

  • Warmer winters are releasing pine beetles into vast tracks of our forests. Half the pines in BC are dead and the western boreal is dying faster than it is growing back. Continued warming will release pine beetles into the boreal at which point they will eat our Canadian forests from coast to coast.

I could go on for hours about clear and present climate dangers, but you get the picture that Northern Gateway would help paint: runaway catastrophic climate change with massive death, destruction and extinction. Again and again climate change is out-racing worst case scenarios and costing humans billions of dollars in BC and around the globe.

Enbridge might be money-blind enough to not care, although if they love their kids, and I’m sure they do, they might want to think things through in a different way.

But the Government of Canada can’t expect us, our children, their future, and the incredible biological diversity of the world to pay Enbridge’s tab of hundreds of billions of dollars.

It’s just wrong.

In a best case scenario, the world will put a price on carbon, oil sands expansion will become unprofitable and the Northern Gateway Pipeline would be a huge investment loss and a stranded asset.

In the worst case scenario, the Northern Gateway pipeline hastens the end of the world as we know it.

Either way, it is against the national interest and morally wrong.

Over the holiday, I picknicked with my extended family on a beach. A seagull grabbed a plastic bag smeared with peanut butter from my backpack and I thought to myself, there is no way that a plastic bag that originated in my kitchen is going to end up in the ocean. So I chased the seagull up and down the beach for about ten minutes, not knowing what good it would do but knowing that I had to do what I could. After ten minutes of chasing, the sea gull landed next to another group of picknickers for protection. Four other seagulls landed next to my seagull and caused it to drop the plastic bag. A little boy who had watched me chase the seagull for so long, grabbed the plastic bag and ran down the beach to give it to me.

This event reminded me that sometimes you just have to do what you can to prevent harm even if you aren’t sure how it can help, and that can create the opportunity for good things to happen.

I’m determined to prevent the harm of the Enbridge pipeline from occurring and will not be surprised if the JRP’s report provides the opportunity for good things to happen for Canada, like investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Republished from the Vancouver Observer:




Sierra Club Blasts ‘Sustainable Shale’ Center’s Partnership Between Industry And Environmental Groups

23 Mar

AP / Kevin Begos – March 21, 2013

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Sierra Club and some other environmental groups are harshly criticizing a new partnership that aims to create tough new standards for fracking.

The criticism Thursday came a day after two of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies made peace with some national and regional environmental groups, agreeing to go through an independent review of their shale oil and gas drilling operations in the Northeast.

If Shell Oil, Chevron Appalachia and other companies are found to be abiding by a list of stringent measures to protect the air and water from pollution, they will receive the blessing of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development, created by environmentalists and the energy industry.

But some are questioning whether a partnership between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry should exist at all.

“We know that our continued reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, like natural gas, will not solve the climate crisis, even with the best controls in place,” said Deb Nardone, a Sierra Club campaign director, who called the new plan “akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”

“The majority of natural gas must stay in the ground if we want any chance of avoiding climate disaster,” Nardone said.

An Ohio environmental group wasn’t happy, either.

“This deal in no way represents the interests or agreement of the people being harmed by fracking in Ohio,” said Sandy Buchanan, the director of Ohio Citizen Action. “A hydraulic fracturing peace treaty? Not so fast, my friend.”

In addition to Shell and Chevron, the participants in the new center include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Heinz Endowments, the Clean Air Task Force, EQT Corp. and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The organizers hope to recruit new members, too.

The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio — where a frenzy of drilling is under way in the huge, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations. If fracking is approved in New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling, it could apply there, too.

The Environmental Defense Fund responded to the Sierra Club criticism by noting that the new plan is meant to be a complement to strong regulations, not a replacement.

“When an opportunity comes to engage companies constructively and hold them to a higher standard, we’re going to take that opportunity every time,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF associate vice president. He added that the new partnership with oil and gas companies comes with “a heavy dose of trust but verify” reality.

Brownstein noted that extensive oil and gas fracking is already taking place in many states and that it makes sense to improve standards in those places in every way possible.

During fracking, large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected into the ground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas. In some places, the practice has been blamed for air pollution and gas leaks that have ruined well water, but President Barack Obama’s administration and many state regulators say the practice is safe when done properly.

Last year, the Sierra Club acknowledged that from 2007 to 2010, it had secretly accepted about $26 million from individuals or subsidies connected to Chesapeake Energy, one of the leaders in the fracking boom. After deciding it would no longer take such donations, the group launched a campaign that is critical of the gas drilling industry.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania regulators have endorsed the new plan.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Kevin Sunday said the agency “applauds this collaboration between natural gas operators and non-governmental organizations. The best practices this group’s document speaks to — better on-site waste management practices, more recycling of wastewater, progressive fracturing fluid disclosure, and protecting private water supplies — are vital concepts of responsible gas development. “

Sunday said the state has toughened standards over the last few years, and he praised “a cooperative spirit among oil and gas stakeholders to continually raise the bar of performance.”

Another person who was involved with the creation of the Pittsburgh center suggested that the Sierra Club and others are missing a key point.

John Hanger, the former director of the Pennsylvania DEP, wrote in a blog post Thursday that “ultimately, it will matter not that individual gas producers like or dislike CSSD. What will be decisive is that consumers of gas from Washington DC to Maine and from New York to Chicago will demand that their gas is certified as sustainably managed.”

Other members of the Pittsburgh center note that independent certification programs in forestry and seafood have had some success. The first such program — Underwriters Laboratory — has been certifying electrical products since 1894.

The Pittsburgh project will be overseen by a 12-member board consisting of four seats for environmentalists, four for industry and four for independent figures, including former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency chief.

Republished from the Huffington Post:

Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Measure Passes Senate

23 Mar

Lucia Graves – March 22, 2013

In a big symbolic victory for proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Senate on Friday approved a measure introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to approve its construction. Though non-binding, the vote marks the most recent attempt by Republicans to pressure President Barack Obama to move forward with the controversial project.

Hoeven’s Amendment 494 to the 2013 budget resolution passed Friday evening by a vote of 62 to 37. The amendment puts the Senate on record for the first time in support of the Keystone XL, the 1,700 mile pipeline that would carry tar sands from Canada to oil refineries in Texas.

“The Department of State has done four environmental impact assessments over the past five years,” said Hoeven as he rose to introduce his measure. “It’s time that the Senate step up with the American people … time for us to join every single state on the route to say we support this pipeline.”

The vote was part of the Senate’s “votearama” — a legislative quirk in which lawmakers take strictly symbolic votes as a way of opening up dialogue. The process, while tedious, offers a glimpse of senators’ feelings and priorities on the issues at hand.

The amendment’s co-sponsors include Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke out against the measure on the Senate floor. “This amendment has already made the decision for us that everything is hunky-dory with this pipline,” she said. “We don’t know if our national security people think this is going to create climate disruption … there’ll be another day to fight, but I want to say … I hope we will vote no and allow the process to continue.”

Boxer introduced her own counter-amendment — Amendment 622 — which would create a fund to protect U.S. interests in the Keystone XL decision. Hoeven called it merely “an excuse to kill the project.” Boxer’s measure was voted down 33 to 66.

Bill Mckibben, founder of climate advocacy group, denounced the Senate’s vote.

“The fossil fuel industry asked the Senate to approve Keystone XL, but ordinary people around the country pushed back — our ‘leaders’ ended up taking a meaningless vote instead, and giving us more months to convince the president not to sign off on this boondoggle,” he said. “Everything that happens in D.C. happens ugly, and this is no exception — but it’s been beautiful to watch people rallying around the continent.”

Over the coming two weeks, will be targeting the senators who voted to approve the pipeline, according to a press release.

Republished from the Huffington Post:

Alberta premier pipes up about controversial game showing bombing of pipeline

22 Mar

The Canadian Press – March 22, 2013

Alberta premier pipes up about controversial game showing bombing of pipeline

This screengrab from the online game Pipe Trouble shows bombing and protests are part of the Ontario taxpayer-funded game, with which Alberta Premier Alison Redford has taken issue.

Photograph by: Craig Small/Vimeo , Screengrab

TORONTO — Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she is disappointed to see a taxpayer-funded online game showing the bombing of a gas pipeline.

TV Ontario provided money to create the game, called Pipe Trouble, to accompany a documentary about the pipeline debate in British Columbia.

But questions have been raised about the game’s introductory video, which appears to show activists protesting before a pipeline blows up.

The provincially funded broadcaster says the game is meant to engage people on both sides of the pipeline debate and it’s not taking sides.

But Redford says a taxpayer-funded game depicting the blowing up of pipelines is contrary to Canada’s interests given that the entire country benefits from a strong and diverse energy sector.

Redford says she’s encouraged that Ontario’s governing Liberals are looking into the matter.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that her government isn’t taking a side in the pipeline debate.

Pipe Trouble:

Story Republished from the Edmonton Journal:

Alberta Lobbies for Keystone XL in New York Times ad: Influential Newspaper Ran Editorial Last Week Urging Obama to Reject Pipeline

22 Mar

The Canadian Press – March 17, 2013

Crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline east of Winona, Texas, on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline east of Winona, Texas, on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (Sarah A. Miller/The Tyler Morning Telegraph/Associated Press)

The Alberta government, continuing to press its case for the Keystone XL pipeline, took out an ad in Sunday’s New York Times newspaper, tying the controversial project to core American values and to U.S. pride in its military.

The half-page ad is headlined “Keystone XL: The Choice of Reason.”

It acknowledges the validity of environmental concerns, but stresses the $7-billion pipeline is about much more than that.

“America’s desire to effectively balance strong environmental policy, clean technology development, energy security and plentiful job opportunities for the middle class and returning war veterans mirrors that of the people of Alberta,” reads the $30,000 ad.

“This is why choosing to approve Keystone XL and oil from a neighbour, ally, friend, and responsible energy developer is the choice of reason.”

Stefan Baranski, a spokesman for Alberta Premier Alison Redford, said the ad was taken out to counter a New York Times editorial that ran a week ago urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the 1,800-kilometre TransCanada line.

“It’s important for Alberta to get the facts on the table as widely as possible,” said Baranski.

“Certainly the Sunday Times is a critically important audience to speak to, and I think Alberta has a good track record, a very good story to tell, and it’s important that we’re out there telling that story at this very critical time.”

Obama is expected to decide the fate of the pipeline in the next few months.

If approved, Keystone XL would take oil from Alberta’s oilsands through the heart of the U.S. Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas for transshipment to consumers around the world.

Protests held in Washington

Alberta and the federal government are urging Obama approve the deal to open up new markets for the oilsands.

A glut of oil due to new finds in North Dakota coupled with pipeline bottlenecks in Canada are squeezing the price of the oilsands product compared with the North American benchmark West Texas Intermediate. That price gap will cost Alberta an estimated $6 billion in lost revenue this year alone.

‘It’s important for Alberta to get the facts on the table as widely as possible.’—Stefan Baranski, spokesperson for Alberta Premier Alison Redford

Keystone proponents, including labour groups and the petroleum industry, got a boost two weeks ago when the U.S. State Department, in a preliminary report, said rejecting Keystone XL would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions or slow down development in the oilsands.

Protesters, meanwhile, have gathered by the thousands in Washington in recent weeks to demand the project be abandoned.

For them, the carbon-intensive oilsands operations are a symbol of greedy, shortsighted thinking. Approving Keystone, they say, encourages producers to pursue high-carbon operations that will boost the greenhouse gases already causing climate problems like higher temperatures, superstorms and severe flooding.

The New York Times, referred to by some as the paper of record in the United States, agreed with that position in its editorial last Sunday.

The Times said Obama must adopt a broader view and take a stand.

A yes to Keystone XL, said the Times, makes it economical to expand the oilsands, resulting in even higher greenhouse gas emissions to go along with more collateral environmental damage like denuded landscapes and polluted waterways.

“In itself, the Keystone pipeline will not push the world into a climate apocalypse. But it will continue to fuel our appetite for oil and add to the carbon load in the atmosphere. There is no need to accept it,” said the editorial.

Economic benefits touted

The Alberta government ad takes pains to make the case for the province’s environmental responsibility. It reiterates previous arguments that Alberta is financing more clean energy projects and is the first North American jurisdiction to charge large emitters $15 a tonne on carbon.

The ad focuses on the economic benefits of Keystone, including 42,100 jobs during the construction phase.

It also makes the case, suggested previously by Redford and others, that the oilsands have been unfairly scapegoated despite much larger emitters burning coal on both sides of the border and around the world.

“Greenhouse gas emissions from all the oilsands in Alberta, Canada, make up just over one-tenth of one per cent of the world’s emissions,” said the ad.

Provincial officials, however, have previously conceded Alberta isn’t even close to meeting its goals for reducing greenhouse gases. The province has pledged to reduce emissions by 50 megatonnes a year by 2020 but has averaged just over five tonnes a year since 2007.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Redford has stated her case in mass-circulation newspapers in the United States. She made a similar pitch in a guest column in USA Today three weeks ago.

Baranski said they requested a guest column in the Times but were turned down, leading to the decision to take out the ad.

The newspaper offensive is being matched by work on the ground. Redford, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and federal politicians have been jetting down to Washington in recent weeks to make the case for Keystone.

Redford has been to the U.S. capital twice and is scheduled to return there on April 8th or 9th for three days of meetings with decision makers, said Baranski. A detailed itinerary has not been set, he said.

Republished from CBC News:





New York Times Editorial on the Keystone XL Pipeline: When to Say No

22 Mar

March 10th, 2013

The State Department’s latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.

The 875-mile pipeline avoids the route of an earlier proposal that traversed the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills of Nebraska and threatened an important aquifer. It would carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to pipelines in the United States and then onward to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there, most of the fuel would be sent abroad.

To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States. But its dry language understates the environmental damage involved: the destruction of the forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon, and the streams that flow through them. And by focusing on the annual figure, it fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today’s technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether.

It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.

Supporters of the pipeline have argued that this is oil from a friendly country and that Canada will sell it anyway. We hope Mr. Obama will see the flaw in this argument. Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself. And that will require Canadians to play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent. At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.

The State Department will release a fuller review in early summer, and at some point after that the White House will decide. That decision will say a lot about whether Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are willing to exert global leadership on the climate change issue. Speaking of global warming in his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama pledged that “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Mr. Kerry has since spoken of the need to safeguard for coming generations a world that is not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts and other destructive forces created by a changing climate.

In itself, the Keystone pipeline will not push the world into a climate apocalypse. But it will continue to fuel our appetite for oil and add to the carbon load in the atmosphere. There is no need to accept it.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on March 11, 2013, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: When to Say No.

Harper Government in Frenzy as Doubts grow Over Keystone XL Pipeline

22 Mar

Dave Coles – March 19, 2013

Stephen Harper’s government and a big part of Canada’s ruling establishment are in a frenzy over Keystone XL. 

The Conservatives and their provincial allies have spent millions (probably tens of millions) of dollars in public money to push a pipeline that will export Canadian jobs, trample First Nations rights and, overall, be bad for the environment. But it’ll be good for the profit margins of some of their oil industry friends. 

In recent weeks, a half dozen Conservative ministers have trekked south to push for the approval of the pipeline while Harper has made it the top priority for Canada’s embassy and 22 consular offices in the U.S for the last three years.

 With a team at the Washington embassy devoted entirely to KXL, Canadian officials have presented at town council meetings, responded to critical press commentary, taken newspaper reporters to high-end restaurants and organized countless other activities in their zest for the pipeline. In a recent example of this diplomacy at work the Canadian consul general for the Pacific Northwest, Denis Stevens, spoke to Idaho’s House and Senate saying that KXL “would allow you to free yourself completely from oil imports from Venezuela.”

Next month, Alberta Premier Alison Redford will make her fourth trip to Washington in 19 months and over the weekend the provincial government took out a $30,000 half page advertisement in the New York Times promoting KXL. For his part, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has flown to Washington, worked with U.S. governors to push the pipeline and paid $50,000 for a Canada West Foundation study that absurdly claimed Canada loses between $30 million and $70 million every day the pipeline is not built. 

TransCanada has spent millions of dollars lobbying federal and state politicians as well as establishing pro-KXL ‘grassroots’ groups such as Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence. The Calgary-based company has been supported in their efforts by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and business columnists who are taking an increasingly strident tone.

In a ludicrous article entitled “The New York Times calls for war on Canadian oil,” Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran condemned an editorial by the U.S. paper stating: “It looks like the Keystone XL pipeline is coming down to a nasty war on Canada.”

Apparently, Thomas Mulcair and half of all Canadians who tell pollsters they oppose KXL are part of this war on Canada.

A number of media outlets insinuated that the leader of the official opposition was a traitor for voicing mild criticism of KXL during a recent trip to Washington. An Ottawa Citizen editorial demanded “Whose side is Mulcair on?” while a Calgary Herald editorial foamed about how Mulcair allegedly “disparage[d] Canada,” “oppose[d] our own country on foreign soil” and (in case the point still wasn’t clear) “there is nothing loyal about attacking one’s own government and country with our nation’s largest trading partner.”

The Conservatives stoked this McCarthyite sentiment with foreign minister John Baird saying Mulcair was “trash talking Canada” and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall claiming Mulcair “betrays our country’s national interest.”

Unfortunately, the least principled political leaders will tend to succumb to this type of intimidation. The new head of the Saskatchewan NDP, Cam Broten, caved in the face of Premier Wall’s demand to “have the courage to stand up, go against Mr. Mulcair and support the Keystone pipeline.” (Real political courage, of course, is to stand with the federal and provincial government, big oil and entire media establishment.) 

In a bad omen for his leadership, Broten responded to Premier Wall’s pressure by telling reporters: “To clear the record … I support the Keystone XL pipeline because of a triple bottom line assessment looking at environmental, economic and social reasons.”

But Broten is wrong on all three counts. KXL will accelerate already unsustainable rates of Alberta bitumen extraction, undermine a domestic industrial policy and does not have a social license. 

Despite near unanimous support from big media commentators, half of the public isn’t on side. A November poll found that 47 per cent of Canadians were against KXL and 53 per cent in favour while a January study found 41.7 per cent with an unfavourable impression and 45.2 per cent favourable. Both of these polls were taken prior to the big demonstration against KXL in Washington last month. 

With results like this and a growing doubt around the ability of oil companies to live up to their environmental responsibility, it is no surprise that half the public can see right through the KXL frenzy.

Republished from