The Canadian government approved a pipeline yesterday that would connect the country’s oil sands with refineries and ports on its Pacific coast. The capacity of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would be roughly 75 percent of Keystone’s, and by giving Albertan crude a path to market, it could potentially boost Canadian oil sands production by some 3 million barrels of crude per day. But, as the FT reports, plenty of hurdles remain before Enbridge can break ground:
Canada’s natural resources ministry said it would follow the recommendation of a government review panel, which concluded last December that the project was in the public interest, providing it met 209 conditions covering issues from the quality of the welding on the pipe to safety procedures for tankers using the new export terminal on the coast.
There are other challenges for the pipeline, as well. It crosses through British Columbia, a province heavily in favor of green policies, and environmentalists there have already pledged to mount protests and legal challenges in opposition to the crude conduit. Moreover, the planned route crosses forty separate pieces of land belonging to First Nations (Canada’s term for Native Canadian peoples), and Canada will need unanimous consent to push ahead with the project. Many Native Canadian leaders have already objected to the pipeline, pointing out that they’ll be assuming the risk of spillage or coastal tanker accidents without reaping the rewards—an opinion shared by many British Columbian politicians. As Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford sees it, Enbridge “clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.”Keystone remains the most sensible option, both for Canada and the United States. America already has the refining capacity along its Gulf coast to welcome the particularly heavy, sulfurous crude Canada is producing en masse. The only thing keeping the Obama administration from rubber-stamping the project has been staunch green opposition, but the State Department found the project will have a negligible effect on climate change. For the U.S. energy revolution to really become a North American phenomenon, we need to build Keystone, and meet the needs of our most important trading partner and close ally instead of heeding misguided environmentalists.