The Keystone dilemma -

The Keystone dilemma

It’s time to stop delaying the decision, writes Paul Wells

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, speaks during a news conference with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird last week. Talks included the Keystone XL pipeline project. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)


We sure picked a good day to be discussing the future of Keystone XL with CPAC and a blue-chip guest list in Washington. (Showtime is 7 p.m. and you can watch it all on CPAC. We’ve got Gary Doer and John Manley and many more, and Colleague Luiza Ch. Savage will keep them all honest. I’m writing from the U.S. departure lounge at Ottawa airport, and right now it looks like I’ll probably get to the Newseum before cameras roll.)

Fifteen months after Barack Obama delayed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it is getting time to stop delaying. Protesters in Washington this weekend urged Obama to say no to Keystone. This Wall Street Journal article suggests that, even if he’s inclined to say yes, it’ll be tricky. This New York Times article says the same, and in fact features somebody using the word “tricky.”

Times columnist Joe Nocera, the most consistently pro-business voice on that paper’s op-ed page, writes once again this morning that he’s all in favour of Keystone passing. He offers a novel argument: If environmentalists really don’t want oil sands development, they should seek lower world oil prices to make novel technologies unprofitable. Nocera’s no fool; he knows nobody will listen to that counsel.

I’m told that, in private meetings with John Baird last week, Obama’s new secretary of state John Kerry was sounding pretty sour on Keystone. Take that unsourced bit of gossip for what it’s worth. More publicly, there was the surprising spectacle of David Jacobson, the Obama administration’s (probably departing?) ambassador to Ottawa, linking Keystone approval to Canada’s generally lousy environmental image. In his nearly four years in Ottawa, I don’t ever recall Jacobson walking toward a political controversy before. Did he just want to try it once before leaving town, or does he know something we don’t?

Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman hopes Jacobson’s remarks reveal Obama’s thinking. Lorne Gunter wishes Alberta’s premier would be a more vocal advocate for an Alberta company’s pipeline. We’ll have much to discuss tonight.