Keystone XL must not 'significantly' add emissions to win U.S. approval: Obama - Macleans.ca
 

Keystone XL must not ‘significantly’ add emissions to win U.S. approval: Obama


 

WASHINGTON – American authorities should only approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline if they’re certain it won’t “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday as he unveiled a national plan to combat climate change.

In a highly anticipated speech on his second-term climate objectives, Obama weighed in on Keystone despite reports he would steer clear of the controversial project because it’s in the midst of a State Department review.

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” he said.

“And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Keystone XL has become a flashpoint for U.S. environmentalists, who have branded it a symbol of “dirty oil” and have spent the past two years pitching a fierce public relations battle against the project. The pipeline would transport millions of barrels of oilsands bitumen a week from Alberta to Texas refineries.

Calgary-based TransCanada has been pouring millions into lobbying efforts in the U.S. capital in recent months. The company’s CEO, Russ Girling, said recently that he’s confident Keystone XL will ultimately win approval.

The State Department’s draft environmental report on the pipeline, released in March, suggested Keystone XL’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal. The powerful Environmental Protection Agency later questioned that finding.

TransCanada is pleased with the president’s remarks because “the almost five-year review of the project has already repeatedly found that these criteria are satisfied,” Girling said in a statement released Tuesday.

“These reviews have found that, from a global perspective, the decision whether to build the proposed project would be unlikely to substantially affect the rate of extraction or combustion of Canadian oilsands crude and its global impact.”

The alternatives would be worse, Girling said: “the oil will move to market by truck, rail and tanker, which will significantly add to global greenhouse gas emissions to move the product.”

Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, cited the State Department report in saying that the U.S. already has evidence that Keystone XL won’t have an impact on emissions levels.

“That’s what the U.S. State Department itself had concluded, in a 3,500 page report which was the second major independent comprehensive study that they had done on this subject,” Oliver said in Toronto.

“This pipeline has been the most studied pipeline in the history of the world.”

TransCanada officials have long held that even if Alberta oilsands production doubled, the carbon emissions would be “immaterial” to global greenhouse gas levels. They say Canada accounts for only two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the oilsands make up only five per cent of that total.

In the wake of Obama’s remarks, the question now arises: Who will determine whether the pipeline would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions?

“I guess it will be Obama, based on which arguments he considers most persuasive,” Danny Harvey, a climate change expert at the University of Toronto, said in an interview.

Harvey added that TransCanada will likely argue that in a shorter time frame, while it’s having trouble getting its product to market via pipelines, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be a drop in the bucket.

“But anything that adds to the supply of oil and reduces the pressure to improve fuel efficiency and slow the development of alternatives to oil will increase emissions. So on those grounds, Keystone will increase emissions and so, by the president’s own criterion, should be disapproved.”

New Democrat MP Megan Leslie said that while Obama’s position on Keystone is now a lot more pronounced, it’s still unclear how a final decision will be made if it’s to be based on Keystone’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

“How will that be determined? Who will be determining it? I think we’re still in a little bit of a wait-and-see,” she said.

Environment Minister Peter Kent was not immediately available to comment on the speech.

Obama rejected the pipeline in early 2012, but invited TransCanada to file a new application with an altered route that would skirt Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region. TransCanada did so, earning the thumb’s up from the state of Nebraska.

A final State Department decision on the $7.6-billion project is expected this fall. After that, it will be up to Obama to bless or block Keystone XL.

The president’s comments came as he provided details of new U.S. climate change regulations will cut carbon emissions at power plants and require federal projects to better prepare for the sort of extreme weather that has left much of Calgary underwater.

He’ll use his executive authority to implement most of the proposals, bypassing congressional lawmakers reluctant to move on climate change.

Obama is directing the EPA, for example, to initiate regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal and gas-fired utilities by next June, and to kick-start similar rules on new power plants. And he’ll ask the Interior Department to issue permits for new wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects on public lands in efforts that could fuel more than six million American homes within seven years.

New energy-efficiency projects are also a big part of the plan — proposals that could present major opportunities for Canadian biofuel companies. The plan also calls for more forceful action in boosting efficiency for appliances such as refrigerators and lamps.

The president is also instructing federal agencies to help state and local governments with existing problems caused by climate change, including improved flood protection for roads and other infrastructure, better hospitals to respond to deadly storms, and drought relief.

Obama’s new plan, with its major focus on reducing carbon emissions at coal plants, caused coal stocks in the U.S. to drop shortly after the market opened. Coal producers and some electric utilities have warned that Obama’s proposals will mean higher energy costs for consumers.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said Obama’s plan is a “war on coal” that means a “war on jobs.”

“It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy,” McConnell said in a statement.

Environmentalists on both sides of the border, meantime, cheered Obama’s climate change plan, and especially his assertions on Keystone XL.

“President Obama denied the ‘deniers’ and inspired Americans and people around the world to address the most urgent crisis of our day: climate change,” said John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada.

“The reference to the Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t bode well for pipeline proponents. Stating approval could only happen if it didn’t lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions is clearly a death sentence for Keystone — it’s an impossible task.”

Keystone proponents, on the other hand, urged the president to “look at the facts.”

“In fact, if Keystone XL isn’t built, global greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase because more oilsands crude would be refined in countries like China, where current emissions standards allow three times more sulphur dioxide than in the United States,” said a statement from the group known as Oil Sands Fact Check.

“Canada accounts for only two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from oilsands are a small fraction of that.”


 
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Keystone XL must not ‘significantly’ add emissions to win U.S. approval: Obama

  1. Exactly the kind of weaselly answer I expected from this mobster president.

    Really, I am sure that he would approve it, it’s just that this tenuous and unachievable objective which was arbitrarily pulled out of his butt prevents him from doing so.

    What a great president O is, he will certainly set the example for generations to come of how not lead when leadership is required.

    • If Obama is a “mobster president”, I figure Harper must be the head of a crime syndicate.

    • Although Frenchfry couldn’t get elected as the town dog catcher in a one dog town, he still knows how to run a country the size of the US. He’s got all the answers on American foreign policy initiatives, military strategy, economic matters etc. If you don’t believe me just ask him. He’s a regular fountain of knowledge. LOL

      • Don’t be jealous, improve yourself instead.

    • Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the oil flowing through this line will be replacing imports from the middle east, hence Keystone will not significantly add emissions.

      Look for B Hussein Obama to give it the go ahead late July 3rd.

      • I doubt he will approve, but if he does then I agree they would try to bury the announcement.

        I hope I am wrong, I hope he approves it – but…..

  2. Sounds like keystone pushers should ‘grab your ankles, put your head between your knees….and kiss yer ass goodbye’

    • Sounds like global warming, cooling, climate change chicken littles should ;grab your ankles, put your head between your knees….and kiss yer free health care, free schooling, government jobs for life goodbye cause your free lunch has to be paid by someone.

      • Well, it won’t be oil.

        • Stop it Em, I know your humour isn’t intentional – but its damn funny anyways.

          Oil doesn’t pay, haha

          • Okay I think we’ve all had enough of you kids on here. You’ve had your fun so find something else to do with your summer.

          • Yes, I know – we shouldn’t interfere with your day job

          • You’re not….you’re just boring.

          • But apparently so fascinating that you’re either enthralled or infatuated, I am not sure which but it is clear that you WANT to agree with me.

  3. Just for the record. Just in case no one’s noticed. EmilyOne is Maclean’s resident troll. She’s worked hard to attain that lofty status so please show her the proper deference or else she’ll resort to her usual tactics. You’ll no longer be part of her inner circle. She’ll banish you from the tribe.

    • LOL that’s cute, but daft as gimmicks go.

  4. Even if the bitumen just gets shipped offshore for a higher price, it will still significantly increase emissions, somewhere on this overheated planet. Canada’s whole shell game of counting it’s own carbon emissions is based on exporting the mathematical responsibility of it’s own fossil fuel exploits to some other country.

    You’d think by now that we’d recognize “burn and talk” for what it is – fat cats delivering an insoluble disaster to future generations.