'There is no doubt that Canada ... could potentially be doing more' - Macleans.ca

‘There is no doubt that Canada … could potentially be doing more’

The President throws shade


The President of the United States talks to the New York Times and the subject of Keystone XL is raised and the President is asked whether there is anything Canada could do to ease concerns about the environmental impact of the pipeline.

NYT: A couple other quick subjects that are economic-related. Keystone pipeline — Republicans especially talk about that as a big job creator. You’ve said that you would approve it only if you could be assured it would not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon in the atmosphere. Is there anything that Canada could do or the oil companies could do to offset that as a way of helping you to reach that decision?

MR. OBAMA: … Now, having said that, there is a potential benefit for us integrating further with a reliable ally to the north our energy supplies. But I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.

NYT: And if they did, could that offset the concerns about the pipeline itself?

MR. OBAMA: We haven’t seen specific ideas or plans. But all of that will go into the mix in terms of John Kerry’s decision or recommendation on this issue.

The Harper government is now twice overdue on the promise of new regulations for the oil and gas sector and it’s now Leona Aglukkaq’s problem.

One move of note: last month, the President increased the official estimate for the social cost of carbon to $36 per tonne. What this amounts to is now subject to debate, but this does put the America estimate above the social cost assumed by the Canadian government.

Eric Posner wonders about where this is all headed.

The bottom line is this: The current SCC calculation embodies the worst of both worlds: too low from the standpoint of global well-being, too high from the standpoint of law. When power companies challenge the new climate regulations in court—we won’t have to wait long—they will argue that the rules fail a cost-benefit analysis. Courts don’t always demand cost-benefit analyses, but they sometimes do, and even if they don’t here, the arbitrary assumptions underlying the government’s number will bother them, as they should.

Only Congress can solve these problems—by passing a law, which unlike a regulation by the president could withstand legal challenge, and by authorizing an international agreement, which would ensure that foreign countries reciprocate our actions. But Congress doesn’t want to play. The best defense of the Climate Action Plan, then, is that by driving the United States down the path of costly and futile regulation or endless litigation, it may finally prod Congress to get into the game.

Kevin Drum’s theorizing might be relevant here.


‘There is no doubt that Canada … could potentially be doing more’

  1. No wonder Peter Kent seems happier.

  2. And let us not ask what Obama is planning to do about coal burning pollution, eh!

    So easy for Obama to say that Canada can do more, but it’s a different story when all the facts are laid on the table.

    Come on Obama: what about that US problem of coal burning………………………………

    • Hey Francien, it is okay. The US is going to burn less coal at home and more natural gas. They are now going to export all that nasty coal to Asia. It isn’t like we all share the same air or anything so no worries. Who cares if the emissions in China are still going through the roof because Obama will have “shipped” the problem out of his country at a tidy profit. Meanwhile, he can talk down to his neighbors and insist they do a better job and lowering their emissions.

    • Hey everybody! Look over there! No, no, not over here, over there! Please! Look away! Please?

  3. Yes indeed Canada could…..instead Alberta and the feds have spent a whack of money on PR and feel-good vids instead of using it on green tech.

    • Yes and Obama and crew had a record year in 2012 for shipping coal to Asia. Awesome!

      • Obama hasn’t done anything about the Navahos either…..which is just as irrelevant as coal is in a discussion about the Keystone pipeline.

        • When you chastise another country for not doing what it potentially could for the environment and all the while YOU as President are knee deep in causing untold environmental damage by exporting a product that is by far more damaging, it is hardly irrelevant. However, you keep telling yourself that it is irrelevant, Emily because it fits your agenda to do so. Otherwise, you would have to admit that Obama and you are hypocrites as is Aaron Wherry.

          • Harper has constantly criticized other countries, so let’s not be tossing rocks.

            The phrase ‘no-brainer’ also springs to mind.

            And try to stick to the topic….which is Keystone….not coal, and certainly not me. Not Wherry either.

            Your mother should have ended this kind of argumentative nonsensical red herring when you were 5.

          • Hahaha! So now because Harper does it, Obama should. The topic is about the President chastising Canada’s environmental policy on tarsand oil while exporting more greenhouse gas polluting coal than ever before. Hyposcrisy!!! Meanwhile, Aaron Wherry continues to give only part of the story. Did your mommy tell you ladies don’t argue???? Mine didn’t. Thank goodness. Mine, however, told me not to upvote myself…tacky behavior Emily!

          • Matches your logic.

            If you had said to your mom ‘I hit the kid down the street, because yesterday my older brother hit my younger brother’….she’d have smacked you. Or she should have.

            No studying of logical fallacies in nursing school?

            <*(((—< . . . . .

          • Well we did learn that whale and dolphin meat is full of mercury and no it doesn’t kill them. It doesn’t kill tuna either but if eat sushi everyday, you might get mercury poisoning. Is that the kind of logic you are talking about?

          • Well that’s YOUR kind of logic, no one elses

            And again…..

            <*(((—< . . . . .


          • And of course, if you’re going to eat tuna containing mercury, you can’t object when someone wants to feed you something else containing toxins.

            Glass houses and all that.

          • You missing the inside story…EmilyOne denied that larger species in the ocean were full of mercury, saying if they were “lol, they would be dead”.

    • It would be nice if EmilyOne would get her facts straight. She is dramatically out of touch with massive leaps forward in environmental technologies in the oil sands. Including for example, the emptying and rehabilitating settling ponds; cold temperature extraction technologies that eliminate much of the natural-gas fired heating of the process: http://chenected.aiche.org/energy/penn-state-researchers-have-a-simple-new-process-to-cleanly-extract-oil-from-tar-sands/ is an almost famous article about this. A Canadian peer-reviewed article here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cjce.5450820403/pdf includes this quote:

      “To cope with the ever-increasing cost of energy supply, require-
      ment to reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emission,
      new technologies are emerging. The notable progress includes
      the development of OSLO cold water process (Sury, 1990, 1992;
      Hepler and Smith, 1994; FTFC, 1995), low energy extraction
      (LEE) process pioneered by Syncrude and the Albian’s paraffi
      n i c”froth treatment.

      Sadly Emily mouths tired old arguments about high temperature extractions and seems oblivious to the reality on the ground. But then this is the problem with the populism of the environmental sciences in general. What ever David $uzuk1 says must be true… right?

      • Bullshit.

        Even Obama has called Harper out on it.

  4. While some individuals once characterised the Keystone decision as a “no-brainer”, and others have touted its virtue, almost to the exclusivity of other pipeline options, this debate/decision/constant parsing of every word by the “cognoscenti” illustrates one major point:

    The cost/benefit analysis of the Keystone pipeline differs considerably depending upon your perspective/point of view. From the macro (what’s good for Alberta is good for Canada), through the NIMBY crowd who have the pipeline right-of-way running through or near their neighbourhoods, down to the pipefitter in Nebraska who is looking for a few months of high paying employment.

    Even extending to the new Venezuelan leader wishing to invite foreign investment and crank up Venezuelan heavy crude to feed the Gulf Coast refineries in the free market of competition.

    Why it should be a national obsession is debatable. But, hey, that’s politics.

  5. “…and it’s now Leona Aglukkaq’s problem.”

    She’s not allowed to talk to people. It’s PMSH’s problem.

  6. Kind of fun to see Obama ripping Harper a new one!

    • “Obama ripping Harper a new one”…..what?? That is actually funny. Do you realize that the US in 2012 exported 107 million tons of coal to east Asia, up from 20 million tons in 2002? Do you also realize that despite the inroads that natural gas have made the US, goal-fired electricity continues as the largest generator of electricity in the country? Further, coal has an exponentially higher carbon foot-print than oil whether it be conventional oil or “tar sands oil”. The US wants Canada to allow it to use Canadian seaside terminals in BC to load their coal going to Asia and are ticked because Canada won’t/can’t do it. This ‘ripping” Obama is giving Harper is all about ‘quid pro quo’ politics, nothing else. He doesn’t care about the environment or he wouldn’t be shipping so much coal to other countries, would he?

      • ” Further, coal has an exponentially higher carbon foot-print than oil whether it be conventional oil or “tar sands oil”.”

        I guess math isn’t a part of an education for the health care field.

        • Oh really???? I think YOU lenny missed the emissions lecture by the experts then cause if you don’t know that burning coal creates a hell of a lot more greenhouses gases than oil, you have missed more than mathematics deficiencies. Luckily you can just look it up.

          • Yes, really.

          • Check the Globe and Mail from Feb 18, 2013. There is an article that refutes what you and EmilyOne say is true. There is also information available on the Government of Canada website that outlines the emissions from coal-fired electricity v. oil. That is why we are getting rid coal-fired electrical plants. It is far easier to lower our emissions by fazing out coal-fired electricity than any other method because they are so much more significant.

          • And what exactly did I say was true?

          • lenny, this is deja vu all over again. If you can’t figure out what you said then I am not getting into with you.

          • I said you’ve got trouble with math. You do.
            Coal somewhere less than 20% higher emissions than tar sands oil.

          • Wow….I used the word exponentially and that bothered you. Boo Hoo. So, Obama is chastising Canada while producing, exporting and utilizing coal which gives off around 20% higher emissions than our dirty, tarsands oil. Like I said. He is a hypocrite.

          • Wow indeed.

            Hey, when I said the sky was green, I just meant it was a colour.
            Obviously he should be restricting tar sands imports and coal exports. Failure to do the latter isn’t a reason to do the former.
            And while he has the power to do the former, I’m not so sure he can do the latter against opposition from both Republicans and many Democrats.
            Whether he’s a hypocrite or not is irrelevant. Though if that’s your many concern, go wild.

          • Well, lenny you are so smart. Why don’t you tell us what the difference in emissions are between dirty tarsands oil and conventional oil. It is a hell of a lot less than around 20%.
            The really fascinating statistic though is the way those emission differences will equal differences in the global warming over the years. Check out Dr. Weaver’s findings on how coal will impact the planet’s warming compared to dirty tarsands oil. Then the difference is astounding. There was also a recent article (June, 2013) in the Financial Post telling how coal is #1 on the Greenpeace target hit list while the dirty tarsands have fallen to a paltry #5.

          • You do realize that we export coal to Asia, don’t you? You must, you’re such an expert.

          • Yes, I do know that. That is why we have no room to load US coal at the ports in BC. We are no better than the US but we are certainly, no worse. That is why Emily and others congratulating Obama on chastising us is a joke.

          • I read it before but you might want to take it down before your friend Emily reads it and starts a hate campaign toward BC for “spewing sewage”, etc. Did you read the Globe and Mail article from Feb 18, 2013? No matter how bad you try to make us look, the US is spewing 40 times more emissions from coal fired electrical plants than we are from the oil sands plus they export more coal than anyone on the planet. Don’t worry though, China, Australia and Europe are getting into the business too. Greenpeace now has coal as #1 on it’s hit list and our lowly dirty tarsands oil has fallen to #5.

          • So you read it but you still think calling Obama a hypocrite is wise?
            You know he isn’t under any obligation to approve the pipeline.

          • Of course he is under no obligation to approve the pipeline. However, to say he isn’t approving it because of Canada’s poor record on curbing emissions in the dirty tarsands is a joke when he is the leader of a country that is exporting a product in ever greater quantities (10 times as much as 10 years ago) that is far more emission intensive. He can turn down the pipeline but don’t give the excuse that it is for environmental reasons when you are polluting the planet at the rate he is.

          • Listen sweetie, having temper tantrums isn’t going to get your pipeline approved. He’s been upfront about what his criteria is – whether they are the real reasons or the political reasons, is neither here nor there.
            The oil isn’t even for U.S. consumption – it’s being refined and shipped out – that’s how ridiculous the ‘they need our oil’ argument is.

          • Yeah, and in any event he’s too busy approving fracking permits in North Dakota. Like the environmental hero that he is.

          • You seem to missed what I said. My bottom line is what Rob Silver said on twitter – ‘Calling Obama full of sh*t an interesting strategy to change his mind’. It’s kind of like calling a woman you’re trying to get into bed fat when she seems resistant. You might feel smug about it but you aren’t going to get laid. If he approves the pipeline it will be in spite of the Canadian strategy, not because of it.

    • What I’d like to see is Rosanna Lopez, American resident, graduate of American law school, and Hilary 2016 supporter, ripping Rebecca Fine, Canadian blog commenter, a new one! That would be sweet!

  7. If we could only help the US with their coal shipping problems out of the BC seaside terminals, they would have a much easier time getting their 107 million tons of coal exported to Asia and then I am sure Obama’s concerns about Canada’s lack of how much more it “could potentially do” for the environment would likely magically disappear. After all, Obama does seem to be a flexible kind of guy with regard to closing Gitmo, spying on citizens for the good of the country, occupying war-torn countries. He seems very easily swayed when the proper “enticements” are in place. Comedian, Bill Maher who contributed $1 million to Obama’s re-election is launching a “1 million” tour to voice his distaste for just how “flexible” the President is when it comes to making promises that he never keeps.

    • You can rant all you want about Obama’s hypocrisy re: coal vs. Keystone but the fact remains that the coal lobby has a hell of a lot more influence on Washington politics and policy-making than Harper’s noisy, ineffectual, little outsider’s PR campaign.

      Deal with reality.

      • I have no issue with Obama. Who I have an issue with are people who are Canadians who pretend that Obama has a point and that this is REALLY is about the environment and isn’t all about politics. All I am asking for IS a little reality. I don’t care what you think about Harper’s “ineffectual little PR campaign because in the end, Obama will do what is best for the US and that will likely be to okay the pipeline.

        • If it isn’t, equally, about politics for Harper, then it’s about his promotion of corporate interests despite the environment.

          Moreover, while I fully agree that Obama will “do what is best for the US”, his recent appointment of Gina McCarthy as the new EPA chief suggests that approval of the pipeline is, by no means, a slam dunk.

          • Why is it that people want to make Obama look like he really cares when in fact he has done nothing to prove that he does. This EPA chief might impose some sanctions in the US but what difference will that make to all the coal they export? Given that we all share the air on the planet, it won’t do anything but make him “look” like he did something. Meanwhile, Asia will pumping out the coal-fired emissions.

          • I’m not saying that he “cares” because, like you, I have no real way of assessing his motives. I have seen some suggestions that, this being his 2nd term, he’s looking forward to leaving his legacy and that making a difference in the issue of climate change might now be higher on his agenda for that reason.

            However, even if that were true, with the state of chronic gridlock that has paralyzed American government during his term, maybe he can’t get anything done. It may all come down to his ability to mediate among competing lobbies in coal, oil, and the environment.

            If so, it doesn’t matter at all what Canada (or, at least, what Harper) wants.

      • Ramping up coal exports is absolutely a disastrous policy.
        But, the argument that tar sands imports should be increased because coal exports are increasing is obviously fallacious.

        • That wasn’t the argument, lenny. The argument was that people who live in glass houses (Obama) shouldn’t throw stones.

          • He certainly should consider Canada’s efforts to mitigate emissions, when deciding whether or not to allow the pipeline, regardless of coal exports.

          • ….and should he consider his own efforts to mitigate emissions. Should he consider the fact that his country in 2012 shipped more coal to Asia than ever before…107 million tons v. 20 million tons 10 years earlier? Isn’t it a bit hypocritcal to chastise another country when you alone are responsible for increasing emissions by so much?

          • I think he has considered Canada’s mitigation efforts. And that’s exactly why approval remains in doubt.

          • Yes, he can tell himself, think how much more coal I can export without feeling guilty if I don’t import dirty oil from Canada.

          • Yeah, he could. But I doubt that he will. In fact, I suspect he doesn’t even link the two, so this whole equivalency debate is probably moot.

          • He might not but a true journalist should and would. My guess is Colby would.

          • Sorry…I thought we were referring to Obama, not Wherry (or any other journalist).

          • People who hired Ari Fleischer, wined and dined with Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch on taxpayers’ dime, leaked info on NAFTA are getting a taste of the boomerang effect.

    • We’re working on being able to ship 80 million…

      • Yes and Obama has his own dirty tarsands in North Dakota.

        • Those dam Americans – ask me how I feel about softwood.

        • Tit for tat is for kids. Let me know when you want to be serious.

  8. The only question Alberta is interested in is approval or disapproval on the Keystone Pipeline.

    And until Obama makes that decision everything else is useless spec.

    • Maybe they could try to lay off any more damaging remarks in the meantime.

      • Hah! I don’t think they know how!

        • This has to have been the most counter productive lobbying effort ever.

          • I’ll say! If there was any way to screw it up, Alberta managed it. At this point Obama’s probably sick of hearing about it, and ready to shoot on sight!

          • It was Hollywood, Darling! Alberta never had a chance. Obama was simply star struck.

          • No, it was whiny complaining Albertans.

            Enough with the making-shit-up.

          • Harper lead – really badly – and Alberta just sat by thinking their oil was so essential to the free world they didn’t have to do anything. Harper screwed up the file royally – Alberta does nothing and when it seems to be lost decides that Redford going to Washington an annoying number of times and talking about ‘values’ would fix everything. And now the whining.

          • Can you imagine if Obama says no?? LOL Alberta will probably declare war! The ‘you’ll buy my product or I’ll beat you senseless’ school of customer relations.

            I dunno what it is with oil…..anyone who has it seems to go berserk. They get paranoid and miserly and stuck in time…..like the Saudis. I think Norway’s the only one that used brains dealing with it. Other countries have built their whole economies on it.

            Remember the ‘gold fever’ from the old westerns? Seems like the same thing.

            And yet sooner rather than later, since the whole world is looking….we’ll switch to electric or hydrogen and it’ll be over. By that time Alberta won’t have any friends left.

          • Well really, who can compete against Robert Redford?

  9. Thermal coal exports to Asia exploded and were restarted to Europe under the Obama administration. Warren Buffett bought a damn railway, because the United States was exporting so much damn coal.

    Yes Obama is doing more! -).-).

  10. very nice think by us president thanks for sharing…