The XL pipeline and the whole topic of Alberta’s oils sands have raged on in Canada and the U.S. for years now. In some respects it’s a familiar tug-of-war between hostile factions.
The simplistic set up goes like this: supporters say integrating this now-available energy resource from a neighboring – and neighborly – ally is “a no-brainer“. Opponents say it’s dirty energy that involves more than the usual pollution and associated negative impacts. According to some, exploiting that much carbon fuel could actually be “game over for the climate.”
Slogans sum up positions quite readily. But this is a complex tangle of wants and fears, as with the nearly-identical polarization over fracking in the U.S.
On the want side, it’s basic human nature and national self-interest to utilize resources. The push in Canada to get that energy to market – any market – is quite powerful. Should the U.S. ultimately nix the XL pipeline TransCanada has alternative plans, including a proposal to build a pipeline to eastern Canada, according to this Aug 1st article by Ian Austen for the New York Times:
…Russ Girling, the president and chief executive of TransCanada, said the new project was not a sign that his company was retreating from Keystone XL. “What we know in North America is production is continuing to grow,” Mr. Girling said at a news conference. “The marketplace needs both of these pipelines and probably more.”
The Ottawa area now has a dog in that fight too, as the proposed route would traverse the city’s southern edge and cross the Rideau River, according to this from the Ottawa Citizen.
As least some of the necessary political support exists. Alberta Premier Alison Redford backs the proposal calling it “a nation-building project that will diversify our economy and create new jobs here in Alberta and across the country.” And New Brunswick Premier David Alward called the project a “game changer” for his province. Least anyone need reminding, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is from Alberta and has long championed that province’s economic interests. (Quebec’s political leadership has been non-committal thus far.)
But not so fast, according to Austen’s NYT article:
“They’re in for a fight,” John Bennett, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said shortly after the announcement. Mr. Bennett said he was particularly concerned about the possibility of oil spills in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and about harm to whales in the area from tanker traffic. In a statement, Environmental Defence said the plan was “yet another misguided scheme that puts Canadians in harm’s way for the benefit of the oil industry’s bottom line.”
For those who are interested, here’s a useful map graphic from CBC of current and proposed pipelines to move Alberta oil.
Weighing in on the fear side, is this photo-journalism feature from the New York Times, where Ian Willms took a lot of time to explore the oil sands and how that industry has impacted people in that area.
Readers likely have their own opinions on the issue. This post is intended to provide updates on that topic.