Pipeline Politics
Canada to US: We Still Want Keystone

Canada’s new Liberal government has something in common with the Conservative administration it replaced: it wants the United States to save the Keystone XL pipeline from regulatory limbo. Reuters reports:

While Canada’s Liberals back Keystone XL, they have made it clear they will not adopt the same tack as Canada’s outgoing Conservatives, who irritated the U.S. administration with constant pressure over pipeline.

“Our position is that it is up to the Americans to see what they can do but we support this project and we hope that it will work well,” Dion told reporters.

Asked about the strain Keystone had imposed on ties with the United States, by far Canada’s most important partner, he replied: “We don’t want it to be an irritant … we understand the Americans have to look at this very closely.”

While the new Liberal administration’s tack may lack the assertive tone of its Conservative predecessors, it doesn’t meaningfully differ in substance. Put simply, Keystone XL is Canada’s best and smartest option for getting the crude from its Albertan oil sands to market—America’s Gulf coast refineries are configured to deal with the heavy grade being produced in those projects.

But while Keystone is the most efficient pipeline option for Canada, it’s important to note that it won’t make or break Canada’s oil sands. If the Obama administration were to reject the pipeline, Canada could explore other options, including a pipeline east to Canada’s Atlantic coast (though that Energy East project, as it’s called, got some bad news this week as the new government announced it was killing plans to build an export terminal in Quebec), or west to its Pacific coast (a controversial plan, as the pipeline would transit green-minded British Columbia). Keystone isn’t the only option, it’s just the best one.

And that’s crucial for understanding why report after report has said the project will have a negligible effect on our planet’s greenhouse gas concentrations. True, oil sands projects are particularly energy-intensive, and they certainly emit greenhouse gases. But that oil is coming out of the ground whether the U.S. builds Keystone or not. Greens manufactured a controversy around the pipeline by making it a marquee issue, but—and this is going to sound strange for followers of this long saga—Keystone isn’t a green issue. It’s an infrastructure issue, and it’s one of our largest trading partners clearly values.

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