Choking the oil sands

Environmentalists are opening a new front in their war on Alberta oil—attacking pipeline projects vital to the industry’s future

by Chris Sorensen and Luiza Ch. Savage

Choking the oil sands

Jiri Rezac/WWF/Polaris

Over the next few weeks, as many as 2,000 climate change protesters are expected to descend on Washington in an effort to draw more Americans into the debate over Alberta’s oil sands—one of the most carbon-intensive sources of fossil fuel on the planet. But this time, anti-oil sands groups aren’t focusing on the vast open pit mines near Fort McMurray, which one activist memorably compared to J. R. R. Tolkien’s fire-spewing and charcoal-covered realm of Mordor, but on a major pipeline project that the industry needs to move forward with its expansion plans.

Supported by such high-profile environmentalists and left-leaning luminaries as David Suzuki and Naomi Klein, the protesters, who will risk arrest during their White House sit-in, hope to stop President Barack Obama’s administration from approving the proposed 2,673-km Keystone XL pipeline that is being built by TransCanada Corp. and would move crude oil from northern Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, north of the border, anti-pipeline rallies are scheduled to take place over the next few months in Vancouver and Ottawa. In addition to the Keystone XL project, the Canadian rallies will also focus on a proposed 1,170-km pipeline, built by Enbridge Inc., that would connect northern Alberta to an oil-shipping terminal in Kitimat, B.C., running through an area that opponents claim is pristine wilderness and the habitat of a sacred species of bear.

It all amounts to a new front in the war environmentalists are waging against the oil sands. “I really think this should be seen as part of a global campaign that’s been gaining steam against the tar sands, which has used various pressure points,” Klein told Maclean’s. “Some are demonstrations, others are consumer-based strategies to put pressure on companies not to use oil from the tar sands, while others have employed shareholder activism against companies like Shell and BP. This is just another piece of the puzzle.”

While pipelines carrying potentially dangerous liquids are nothing new in North America (there’s already enough pipeline in Canada alone to wrap around the globe 2½ times), anti-oil sands groups have found a receptive audience in local communities along proposed pipeline routes. (Although it’s questionable whether farmers in the American Midwest and First Nations in B.C.’s Interior are as worried about planetary catastrophe as they are about a potential leak in their backyard.)

The industry, meanwhile, is critical of the activists’ strategy. Oil sands proponents point out that, pipelines or not, as long as the world has an unquenchable thirst for cheap energy, Alberta’s vast reserves will continue to be extracted from the sandy soil, whether through open pit mines or in situ technologies, and sent to refineries for processing. And it’s not as if moving three million barrels of crude every day on diesel-swilling trucks or trains is much better for the environment.

Even so, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the challenge of tapping the world’s second-largest reserves is no longer limited to the enormous costs associated with getting the oil out of the ground. It now also includes the long, drawn-out, and increasingly politically charged process of trying to deliver it to paying customers.

Opposition to TransCanada’s Keystone XL has been heating up in the U.S. all summer. The planned 36-inch pipeline would stretch from Hardisty, Alta., to refineries around Port Arthur, Texas. It’s an expansion of TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline that terminates in Illinois, and would more than triple the existing pipeline’s capacity to 1.3 million barrels per day.

While environmentalists have posed a variety of concerns about the pipeline’s safety along the route, the Keystone XL has emerged as a national environmental cause due to concerns over the greenhouse gas emissions produced in Alberta—and more generally as a symbol of entrenching America’s dependence on fossil fuels. “It just makes it easier to prolong that addiction if we come up with a new dealer—and that is what Canada is,” says Bill McKibben, a leading U.S. environmentalist who organized the Washington rally. He explains the oil sands to Americans as “the world’s second-largest pool of carbon on Earth after Saudi Arabia,” and accuses Canada of losing its integrity by heavily promoting the projects in the U.S. “Being a junkie is not a very dignified position, and being a dealer is not a very honourable position either,” he says.

The activists, with their White House protest, want to spotlight the fact that the Obama administration has the exclusive power to approve or deny a permit for the pipeline. “The administration has used Congress as an excuse to not get much done on energy and climate. But this is a unique chance for President Obama to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a fossil fuel project that we think would take the country in the wrong direction,” said Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for the organizers.

Keystone XL is heading down the final stretch of what has been an unprecedentedly long approval process by the U.S. government, having received intense scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has twice criticized draft impact statements prepared by the U.S. State Department. State, which says it has been working closely with the EPA to answer concerns, has been conducting an environmental impact review that is expected to conclude this month. Then it will determine whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” That process will include a series of public meetings this September in all of the states along the pipeline route, as well as in Washington.

In all of those places, anti-oil sands activists will find plenty of useful allies who oppose the pipeline out of safety fears and the potential for local environmental damage. Critics have pointed to a spate of recent pipeline spills in the U.S., including in May when the first phase of the Keystone system spilled 79,500 litres of crude in North Dakota, and in July, when an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured, spilling some 3,800 litres of crude oil into the Yellowstone River.

Opposition is particularly strong in Nebraska, where opponents are concerned that the pipeline will cross an aquifer that provides a large portion of the state’s drinking water and agricultural irrigation. “We think it’s ridiculous people even think that the pipeline could go through the aquifer and it would be okay,” says Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Nebraska, an activist group that is fighting the pipeline. Her group is considering launching a push for a ballot initiative to ban pipelines from sensitive areas if Keystone XL is approved. Earlier this month, the group surrounded the governor’s mansion with flashlights to “spotlight” his complacency in the face of the threat.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, supporters of the pipeline complain that the process has been taking too long, and that increasing imports from Canada at a time of upheaval in the Middle East is a “no-brainer” that will enhance America’s energy security. Among the supporters of the pipeline are the oil industry and leading business groups of both countries. In addition, five labour unions wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in support of the project, claiming that it would spur the creation of 118,000 jobs and generate more than US$585 million in state and local taxes for the states along the pipeline route. At a congressional hearing in May, Stephen Kelly, assistant general president of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, told lawmakers, “This project would provide a tremendous and needed boost to the U.S. construction industry, generating thousands of high-quality jobs at a time when the industry is wrestling with nearly 20 per cent unemployment.”

The local battle over the pipeline has become in part a PR battle over the image of the oil sands in America. Liz Barratt-Brown, a senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, says the debate over this single project has introduced the existence of the oil sands to many Americans. “A few years ago, very few people in America knew much about the tar sands,” she says. “Keystone XL has galvanized the concern about the impact of tar sands oil on our clean energy future.”

The permit process has also resulted in American pressure on the Canadian and Alberta governments to do more to regulate the oil sands. “I think [the provincial and federal governments] are in a process of trying to figure out how much they need to do,” says Barratt-Brown. “The customer is always right, right? If your customer says we have issues with how you are mining this oil, then Alberta has to answer for that.”

The deadline for a decision is Dec. 30. But environmentalists say even if they’re unsuccessful in preventing a permit from being issued, the battle will not be over. Barratt-Brown says that if necessary her group will join with others in challenging it in U.S. courts. “There will certainly be litigation—a lot more litigation,” she says. “I don’t expect this to be concluded for a long period of time.”

The high-profile debate over the cross-border Keystone XL project has also made life difficult for Canada’s Enbridge and its proposed Northern Gateway project. In the planning stages for over a decade, the $5.5-billion twin pipeline would pump oil from the town of Bruderheim, Alta., near Edmonton, to a shipping terminal in Kitimat, B.C. (condensate used to thin the oil would be pumped in the opposite direction). From there, it would be loaded on giant tankers that would then navigate some 290 km of inland waterways until they reach the rugged B.C. coast, where many would continue on to China. The rationale for the Northern Gateway project is to open up a new market in Asia for oil sands crude, which could become critical if rising American opposition to oil sands crude actually puts a dent in demand.

Of course, that assumes mounting opposition to the Northern Gateway can also be overcome. The project has already encountered stiff resistance from local communities, fishermen, and more than 80 First Nations. But Paul Stanway, a spokesperson for Enbridge Northern Gateway, says that what makes the opposition to this particular project different from other pipelines built by Enbridge is the involvement of high-profile environmental organizations hoping to stunt oil sands development. “I’ve heard it referred to as the octopus theory: you cut off the tentacles and the octopus dies,” he says.

As a result, Enbridge has found itself waging a battle that is as much about emotion as it is about regulatory approvals and community engagement. The Northern Gateway was recently featured in an issue of National Geographic, which two years ago created a “baby seal moment” for the oil sands by publishing a 20-page spread, complete with glossy pictures of vast open-pit mines, murky tailings ponds and discoloured fish. The more recent article was titled “Pipeline through paradise” and focused heavily on the region’s pristine beauty, including the Kermode, or “spirit bears” (black bears that are coloured white), that roam the soggy temperate rainforest. It also highlighted a B.C. ferry that sank in the area in 2006, and which continues to seep fuel 1,400 feet below the surface, leaving the impression that the Northern Gateway is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.

Stanway wasn’t thrilled. “What a B.C. government ferry accident has to do with us running tankers in and out of Kitimat, I have no idea,” he says, adding that the article ignored key information. He touts the pipeline industry’s safety record, which boasts that 99.99 per cent of the liquids transported in pipes make it to their destination safely. Stanway also noted numerous precautions being taken with the terminal side of the operation, including a requirement that all tankers calling at the port have a double-walled hull, the installation of a navigation system along B.C.’s north coast, where none currently exists, and plans to use B.C. pilots to navigate the tankers through the tight inland waterways.

He also questions whether anti-oil sands groups are acting in the best interest of communities along the proposed route. “These are outside groups that are bringing in outside resources and a lot of money to campaign against the building of the pipelines,” Stanway says. “Now, they’re perfectly entitled to do that, but they need to be upfront about their agenda and where their funding comes from.” Enbridge estimates that the pipeline would contribute about $270 billion to Canada’s GDP over the next three decades, as well as create some 1,150 long-term jobs. And, despite the widely publicized opposition of several First Nations, Stanway says Enbridge has signed memorandums of understanding regarding an equity stake in the project with about 30 affected First Nations.

It’s not clear what will happen if the remaining First Nations groups dig in their heels. “A lot depends on the willpower of the parties involved,” says Gordon Christie, an associate law professor at the University of British Columbia. He says that because B.C. has relatively few treaties, unlike other parts of Canada, any serious dispute is likely headed toward a lengthy court battle. “Ultimately, I don’t think [First Nations] could stop a pipeline from being built, but they could throw up so many roadblocks that it would take a really long time.”

Early next year, a federally appointed joint review panel will begin conducting oral hearings with affected communities, followed by a more formal process. While some First Nations leaders say recent comments by federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver in favour of opening up oil sands exports to China suggest the outcome of the process has already been determined, Stanway says Canadians should have faith that a fair decision, balancing economic and environmental interests, will ultimately be reached. “Canada probably has the best and most rigorous regulatory process in the world,” he says.

Klein, for one, is not so sure. She argues that the potential riches represented by the oil sands has blinded many Canadian policy-makers to the big picture. And she says the mounting protests over projects like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway suggest that both Canadians and Americans are beginning to take a long, hard look at the true costs of cheap energy. “Personally, I think a lot of this has to do with the lessons learned from the BP disaster,” she says, referring to last year’s massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “It just keeps happening again and again, and people are saying, ‘We don’t want to gamble our communities based on the word of an oil company who says they’re using the best technology so there’s no risk.’ People don’t buy it.”




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Choking the oil sands

  1. While I usually agree with Ms. Klein in terms of generalities, I’m usually annoyed by her ability to take the results of brilliant, highly rigorous research that nobody else thought to do, and to use it to create two hundred pages of highly readable anecdotes and sound bites.

    If Canadians and Americans are really “taking a long, hard look at the true costs of cheap energy”, we wouldn’t still be buying big trucks to drive around on paved roads.  (Yes, anecdotal sound bite.)

  2. Keystone XL will happen.

  3. It always amazes me how these “high-profile environmentalists and left-leaning luminaries” can sleep at night.  Just read in the G&M that the “usual” crowd is protesting the go-ahead being given for two new nuclear plants for Toronto.  

    Meanwhile, China is re-thinking making electric cars and the solar industry is failing now that their is no more money for subsidies. 

    “Perhaps the biggest casualty so far is U.S. solar wafer maker Evergreen Solar Inc. It was once at the leading edge of the solar world and boasted a market cap of $9.8 billion, but failed to keep up with Asian competitors and filed for bankruptcy protection last week.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/us-solar-idUSTRE77O5GC20110825

    • Take a look at the windmills in Ontario to see how well green technology works

  4. Environmentalist should just forget it. Canadians are just concerned about making a buck and nothing matters as long as they can make a buck. That’s why the Conservative won the election. Until it can be proven that the tar sands is responsible for increasing cancer rate in Alberta, the tar sands will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.

    • Have the Green Freaks figured out a way for Canadians to live without gas and oil

  5. Hey how do these protesters get up to the oilsands? Do they bike there, walk? Or do they jump in a gas powered car, hypocrites!!!!!

    • That is akin to someone saying that if you enjoy bacon then you can’t talk about the risks of cholesterol

    • What these protestors are protesting against is not the use of oil itself (because obviously it is the cheapest fuel source for cars right now), but the way oil is extracted from the oil sands. So jumping in a gas-powered car to go protest does not make them hypocrites. 

  6. Well, there are not enough of rich lawyers, let`s make some more and the rich richer!

  7. how many disasters like the golf oil crisis that effect communities, jobs and environment or the nuclear ones – need to wake people up to ‘solar’ and alternate energies?  Here in the north we are dependent in the cold harsh winters on ‘heat’ to survive – and we need it affordable – but let me tell
    say – my experience with something as simple as a solar passive home in 1980 afforded me great benefits and comforts.  If solar was promoted but more so supported  by our gov. as it is is some European countries we’d be on our way to a healthier nation and economy.  It doesn’t have to be
    turned into a big corporation unaffordable commodity – (think back 30 years) – everything is FOR PROFIT THESE DAYS………and thus everything wise is sacrificed.
    It isn’t so much the pipeline – it’s the carbon print and rape of the land in AB oil sands that is sad –
    getting it to Kitimat might be almost totally safe but once it hits the pristine shoreline of the BC coast and is shipped by tankers…………there in lies a future problem with another natural disaster and there has been more than a few.

    I am against promoting reliability on oil but that’s what we will get from a PM from AB and oil reliant
    U.S. who uses are gas and resources cheap so does not want to change while we pay for it here.
    Maybe if nothing else the oil co should build a refinery in AB and not add all those jobs to the U.S.

  8. In my opinion, to silence this ridiculous facade and show it for the money-grubbing pat-down of sincere people it is, go to Google Earth.  Try and find these “Mordor” like pits.  Yes, the vast ones. 

    That’s it. Done.  They are pin-pricks against the back ground of vast boreal forests.  Now don’t you feel silly?

  9. In my opinion, to silence this ridiculous facade and show it for the
    money-grubbing pat-down of sincere people it is, go to Google Earth. 
    Try and find these “Mordor” like pits.  Yes, the vast ones. 

    That’s it. Done.  They are pin-pricks against the back ground of vast boreal forests.  Now don’t you feel silly?

  10. I think that it’s important to acknowledge the Department of National Defense report on global warming, oil and water supplies. The time for arguing about whether it exists and what causes it has come and gone. If I was elderly, cared only about myself and making enormous profits off of fossil energy investments then I might be willing to overlook this but I’m not. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that looking at natural resources through the lens of the profit motive is an entirely selfish and narrow vision. 

  11. The resource developmet has become a whole disaster to the natural world. Just look at what is going on.

  12. A “fruit fly” PHD guy and a left wing nut, both masquerading as a know-it-all luminaries, both are given way too much time and print in the media.  I would like to see the carbon foot print created by carrying Suzuki’s butt around the world “yattering” against what gets him there.  Just think of the energy saved by not making mention of these two again.  Neither one appreciates the monetary and strategic importance to Canada and the United States of this resource.  The oil companies are doing us a great service in cleaning up one of nature’s largest oil spills and they are continually striving to find better and cleaner ways to do it.  Our Universities are graduating engineers who are doing their very best to meet ever growing stringent regulations in the processing of the tar sands.  We as Canadians should be proud of the effort, care and expertise they are bringing to the projects here.  We at the same time are benefiting greatly for our current lifestyle (dollar above par US instead of 70 cents) and the massive amount of taxes and royalties that our governments collect to support and pay for our “Canadian” welfare system.  If Suzuki needs something to be concerned about he can come to Wolfe Island (Kingston) and collect the various dead birds including hawks, bats, etc that are killed daily by 86 windmills.  Not a peep out this hypocrite or Green Peace about this.  What a self-serving bunch. 

    • Ahem. Climate Change. It’s real. I know I’m not going to convince you on an internet message board, but rest assured, your grandchildren (should you have any) will be deeply ashamed of you. 

      You’re right about one thing: tar sands oil makes a MASSIVE and irreplaceable contribution to our overall wealth as a nation. Which is why we’re in big, big trouble. 

  13. Its hardly shocking to read an article that primarily highlights
    the potential damages of pipeline projects: the Keystone XL pipeline and the
    Northern Gateway Project, while only giving a little time and space to the
    potential benefits.  The arguments
    of Klein and Suzuki are focused on the potential environmental damage that can
    be caused if we have another incident akin to the BP pipe-bursting in the Gulf
    of Mexico. Their argument relies on neighbouring population’s fearing that
    another catastrophe might occur in their own backyard, and damage the health of
    themselves, their families, and by extension hurt their property values.

    For some, opposition to these pipeline
    projects is just another form of NIMBYism (not in my backyard), which threatens
    the construction of any major project. In other energy projects, such as the
    creation of wind farms in Ontario, residents who live near the proposed farms
    (or in this case pipeline) are vehemently opposed to their construction. It’s
    not because they don’t agree with the potential renewable energy benefits, or
    the economic benefits of job creation, but it’s because the nearby building a
    wind farm or pipeline might lower their property value.  It is the fear of a potential disaster
    happening in your backyard, ok, even less extreme, the potential minor
    pollution and other negative externalities that will frighten people away and
    lower the resale value of the nearby plot of land. All that any group, who
    opposes capital projects needs to do, is find a group of local residents,
    insight fear in them, and rally them to fight for their cause (whatever that
    may be). By inciting NIMBYism, rationale discussion is often discarded in place
    of scare tactics and fear mongering.  

    Although this article highlights the
    benefit to the sounds of $270 million increase in Canada’s GDP, it doesn’t
    highlight the economic effects for the local areas, who, need I remind you, are
    potentially being put in “life-threatening” danger with the construction of the
    pipeline.  The construction of the
    pipeline is a multi-million dollar under taking that will provide numerous
    people with jobs in any number of fields from construction to environmental
    assessment. For many areas, the influx in workers will cause a secondary
    effect, where the areas now have to grow to provide more housing, restaurants,
    and amenities, in order to create livable places. For some places this means
    reinvestment into the current housing stock or creation of new housing units,
    and for other places it means the creation of new urban centres. The
    construction and operation of these amenities will result in further employment
    and economic activity, and the local economies will continue to grow in
    addition to the employment resulting directly from the pipeline’s
    constructions.  The echoing
    economic benefits from the construction will have a much greater impact in our
    current economic climate that just the mere $270 million quoted in this
    article.

    Bill McKibben’s argument that likens
    Canada to a drug dealer, and the U.S.A to a junkie is a cute argument, and if
    it’s extended further will invalidate it. McKibben argues that it is unethical
    for Canada to facilitate and ease America’s addiction to oil consumption. This
    in itself is a valid argument, however what happens if one’s current dealer
    decides to leave the business. McKibben might argue that the addict will be
    unable to easily access it and thus start weaning themselves off their drug.
    However this is likely not the case, and America will just go to other sources,
    such as Central/South America and will continue to extract oil from Gulf of
    Mexico. Extracting from both these areas could have much worse environmental
    impacts than what has already been going on in the Alberta tar-sands. So
    instead of kicking the addiction by cutting the supply, an extension of
    McKibben’s argument would say that the new source won’t be as reliable as the
    old Canadian dealer and the consumption of the oil will come laced with nasty
    side-affects.

    The energy that is being put into the
    anti-pipeline campaigns by environmentalists is a waste of time and money, and
    relies heavily of resident’s inclination to NIMBYism. It would be more
    productive if these individuals would start lobbying for more money and
    resources to be dedicated towards the discovery or creation of alternate energy
    sources. It is widely accepted that oil is a finite resource, so it would be a
    precautionary measure to plan for a world without oil. One facet of our
    economic system is trade, which is a function of the movement of people and
    products from one locale to another. To keep our economic system in place, it
    is imperative that alternate fuel sources be found. Returning to McKibben’s
    analogy, it appears that America will always be addicted to energy consumption.
    When one source is depleted another one must be found, or like a drug-addict
    gone “cold turkey”, society will become very unstable. 

  14. Yet another article in Maclean’s that treats climate science as if it weren’t a reality. How the oil and gas companies managed to make hard science a partisan issue is baffling; our persistent ignorance is our greatest failing and our children’s greatest problem. 

    Shame on climate deniers. If you’re not a scientist, shut up and start listening to the people who’ve studied this stuff for lifetimes (and preferably not the outlying 1% of them who are funded by the oil and gas industry). 

    Journalists, editors, stop framing legitimate, prudent concern for the environment and our future well-being as if it were some kind of extremist stance. 

  15. The Northern Gateway pipeline should not be built. For
    environmental and economic reasons,
    the pipeline would be disastrous for Canada. While the above article suggests
    that the opposition consists of big-name environmentalists exploiting the
    desires of local communities to fit with their needs, the opposition to the
    pipeline is in fact sound – it is backed by scientific evidence, and supported
    by multiple communities. The real “dirty player” in this debate is the Harper
    government, who is not taking Canada’s
    “best
    and most rigorous regulatory process in the world” seriously. Instead it seems
    the Harper government is insistent on keeping Canada an export-dependent
    economy that is one of the worst contributors of green house gases. Yay Canada!

     

    Fighting the pipeline is a step, as Klein says, towards
    fighting the tar sands, and fighting Canada’s and the world’s dependence on
    fossil fuels. Climate Change is happening around us, and we need to take action
    – standing up against the tar sands and its infrastructure is something we all
    should be doing, for the sake of our grandchildren. But the pipeline also has
    more specific environmental problems. Kitimat, the town on the coast of BC that
    would host the end of the proposed pipeline and the port to transfer the crude
    oil onto tankers, already has plans to add natural gas plants in its region.
    Adding the tankers, which take 3 hours to berth and then spend 16 hours on
    standby as they load and unload, would result in air-quality levels far worse
    than objectives set for the region.

    Another of many examples of the pipelines environmental issues
    is that it would interrupt with the territory of the endangered spirit bear.
    The article states “opponents [to the pipeline] claim its pristine wilderness
    and the habitat of a sacred species of bear.” This phrase makes
    environmentalists seem to be hokey spiritualists who prey to bears – it should
    read, “opponents know that the
    pipeline will ruin the habitat of the spirit bear, an endangered species.” And a third inevitable environmental
    impact: tanker accidents. Despite all the precautions Enbridge claims,
    Environment Canada reports that Canada can expect one major spill offshore each
    year, and a catastrophic spill once every 15 years. Supporting the pipeline
    means supporting the continuation of climate change, as well as supporting the
    degradation of British Columbia’s coastal environments. This means supporting
    continued human dismay caused by global climate changes, as well as supporting
    increased human illness in British Columbia (inevitable with the worsening air
    quality and tanker spills which the plan would bring about).

     

    The above article suggests that big-name environmentalists
    working with small communities against the pipeline is a bad thing, saying
    “it’s questionable whether farmers in the American Midwest and First Nations in
    B.C.’s Interior are as worried about planetary catastrophe as they are about a
    potential leak in their backyard.” I don’t know how having support for the
    opposition movement from multiple groups for multiple reasons can be seen as
    dirty politics. The desires of environmentalists to prevent climate change
    coincide with the desires of communities to have safe environments – how does
    this weaken anybody’s argument? Rather, it strengthens the opposition.

     

    The dirty politician in this case is really Stephen Harper.  Harper was accompanied by the head of Enbridge
    on his recent trip to China. Enbridge is the company that, with mostly Chinese
    investment, is planning to build the pipeline, which will allow Alberta’s oil
    to reach Chinese markets. Bringing the head of Enbridge along with him to China
    is a clear signal from Harper that he approves of the project regardless of the
    outcome of the environmental review. Clearly our regulatory process doesn’t
    mean much.

     

    Lastly, from an economics perspective, the proposed pipeline
    raises many questions. Canada’s Labour Unions are against the pipeline, because
    they wonder why we aren’t building refineries here. Canada has a history of
    having a staples-based economy, which is vulnerable to boom and bust cycles,
    and heavily dependent on the countries it exports too. Exporting crude oil is a
    step backwards for our economy. Also, the pipeline plan is funded by many
    foreign investors, mainly Chinese state-owned energy companies. This raises
    questions about who is going to benefit from the pipeline. Canadian citizens,
    who will suffer from environmental degradation and dependence on an export
    market, or the large foreign companies invested in the project, who have
    already been guaranteed discounted shipping rates if and when the pipeline
    begins operating?

     

     The only hopeful
    thing from this article is that maybe with the XL keystone debate, American
    environmentalists will gain insight into the Canadian issues and we can
    continue to fight against climate change, local environmental degradation, and
    stupid economic choices, together.

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