Keystone XL: If It Fails, Who To Blame?

Posted March 18th, 2013 by Derek McBurney in Economy, Politics
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Keystone XL:

If It Fails, Who To Blame?

Let me take you forward in time: the Keystone XL pipeline decision from the US has finally come. And it's not good. Headlines across the country report on the news. They describe the news as "devastating", our relationship with the United States as "broken". Sun News uses a font size so large on the front page of their papers they struggle to fit in 5 letters. Twitter is ablaze with nothing but ugly words for the US, Obama, "envirofacists" and Tom Mulcair. The American anthem is booed at NHL games across the country - or at least in Alberta. Canadians across the country will be more united than their usual divided selves in blaming everyone and everything for their failure to sell their oil - something that should quite simply sell it self. The only ones managing to avoid the blame will be The Harper Government™. They will use the news as this sort of "fossil-fuel 9/11" to shore up more support for their agenda to do whatever it takes to sell oil elsewhere.

Back to the present. Regardless if that scenario comes to fruition, the one thing I do know is that the Harper government shouldn't be able to avoid the blame for the Keystone XL situation, they should be at the centre of it.

The Keystone XL pipeline should probably be built. It makes a lot of sense for Canada and the US. We don't seem to have any interest in doing much of our own oil refining, so this is a way to avoid that problem and make a quick buck off our bitumen. The US needs oil, preferably from a reliable neighbour and they can secure more energy for a rebounding economy. The Athabasca oil sands have become, unfairly so, somewhat of a world scape-goat for carbon emissions. They are definitely a beast, and something that should have been grown smartly, not rapidly-above-all-else like they are now, but the idealist in me still thinks we can turn things around for the better over time. As a Canadian observer, it is frustrating to watch the United States protest our oil sands. Its emissions are a drop in the bucket compared to their own coal projects, which unfortunately most of their citizens have put a blind eye to. "Blame Canada" I suppose, it's just easier.

But us Canadians, really should blame ourselves. The United States is very aware of our environmental record as of late, even if most Canadians are not. They've seen that we've ripped up our environmental laws left, right and centre. They've seen that we've prevented our scientists from speaking up about their work. They've seen we've gutted our environmental research projects. They've seen that we've stonewalled climate change debate on the international stage. These are deliberate choices the Harper government has made and its supporters endorse. Criticism of these choices is openly mocked. Remember those 'Fossil of the Day' awards Canada racked up at climate conferences? The awards themselves may not even be that deserving or accurate, but it doesn't matter - the world has seen our reaction to the awards, and how we've laughed at them, or even relished receiving them. And you know what? That reaction drives opposition towards us. The same opposition protesting the US government to shut us out. We've marginalized ourselves because we've marginalized every one we disagree with. We've shown very well that we don't care what any of our opponents have to say about us. It's the same attitude we see from nations like North Korea, and Iran (albeit on a smaller scale) and look how much value they're getting out of it.

The Keystone XL decision should never have been such a close call, and it certainly wouldn't have been if not for the unnecessarily cavalier attitudes of the Harper government. If Keystone is approved, and nothing I mentioned above comes to pass, I hope we still realize we must work with our opponents, not brazingly defy them. We need to be an ally for the environment, not just to help fight the greatest challenge of our time, but also to ensure we continue to be a nation that the rest of the world wants to do business with. And for heaven's sake we need to diversify our economy! I don't think I need to explain to anyone why our national economy should not live and die by individual pipelines carrying non-renewable resources. It is imperative we create a future more resiliant than our present, and that means listening to our critics.

“As a Canadian observer, it is frustrating to watch the United States protest our oil sands.”

“We've marginalized ourselves because we've marginalized every one we disagree with.”

“We need to be an ally for the environment, not just to help fight the greatest challenge of our time, but also to ensure we continue to be a nation that the rest of the world wants to do business with.”

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