QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.”
~ the New York Times editorial board, writing about the Keystone XL pipeline
In this issue:
- New York Times says no to Keystone XL
- Debunking Canadian propaganda about the virtues of bitumen
- Tar sands truth in Europe
- Mothers and Methodists hold funeral at TransCanada office
The Keystone XL pipeline proposal was dealt yet another blow this week when the world’s most influential newspaper decried the project as dangerous and not in keeping with U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to doing whatever he can to limit the impacts of climate change.
“A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem,” wrote the New York Timeseditorial board on Sunday. “Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself. And that will require Canadians to play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent. At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.”
The Times editorial was accompanied by a column from well-known columnist and author Thomas Friedman. In “No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy.”, Friedman wrote that he hopes President Obama turns down TransCanada’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the Midwest so the “dirtiest crude” from Alberta’s tar sands can be exported to overseas markets.
Friedman added that if the president does approve the pipeline, “I hope that Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change.”
The New York Times position comes as more analysis of the State Department’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) finds that it debunks many of the arguments used by the pipeline’s supporters to justify the need for the Keystone XL pipeline. Champions of Keystone XL argue that it is essential to delivering jobs, oil and energy security, but the SEIS concluded that “not building the pipeline would have almost no impact on jobs; on US oil supply; on heavy oil supply for Gulf Coast refineries; or even on the amount of oil sands extracted in Alberta.”
The draft SEIS found that Keystone XL would only create 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. and have “negligible socioeconomic impact.” What about energy security? According to the draft SEIS, “the increase in U.S. production of crude oil and the reduced U.S. demand for transportation fuels will likely reduce the demand for total U.S. crude oil imports.” Which means that if Keystone XL is denied, it “would not substantially influence the … overall volume of crude oil transported to the United States or refined in the United States.” Besides, if Keystone XL is built, the oil it ferries to the Gulf Coast will be exported overseas, not kept in America to increase so-called “energy security.”
The biggest criticism of the draft SEIS, however, is that the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would have no measurable climate change impacts, because tar sands expansion would continue anyways, as producers found other ways to transport their dirty crude to market. This framing, says Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School, is “not in keeping with the letter or the spirit” of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
According to Inside Climate News, the Environmental Protection Agency, which plays an important role in rating the performance of other agencies in performing environmental assessments under NEPA, has repeatedly urged the State Department to focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how to offset them if Keystone were to get the green light.
“The fundamental question for State should have been, will this pipeline lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions?” said Danielle Droitsch, an environmental lawyer and director of the Canada project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading pipeline opponent. “We don’t have to go through this circular, roundabout argument. It’s just a really, really nice way to escape doing that analysis.”
“It stands the whole concept of examining the consequences of your actions on its head, it really does,” Parenteau told Inside Climate News. “There is going to be litigation if this is approved.”
Read more on the climate impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline at Inside Climate News.
In the latest attempt to greenwash the tar sands, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has been roaming the United States trying to convince American politicians and thought leaders that Alberta’s dirty crude is a clean, responsible, sustainable – even “green” – source of energy, and that Canada’s environmental record and climate change policy are as good as it gets.
“The oil sands are a greener alternative than some other sources from around the world,” Oliver said in news conferenceafter delivering a speech touting the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “I’m here to give you the unvarnished goods – and to let you make up your own mind about the merits of Canadian oil for America. Canada is the environmentally responsible choice for the U.S. to meet its energy needs in oil for years to come.”
If Oliver’s comments about Canada’s environmental record have left you confused, it’s worth reading some responses to his nonsense. In anop-ed in the Globe and Mail, Tzeporah Berman invoked George Orwell in an attempt to set the record straight. “At a time when climate scientists are urgently telling us to significantly scale back the burning of fossil fuels, having a minister promote exactly the opposite really does feel like being told that two plus two equals five.”
Berman, author of This Crazy Time and co-founder of ForestEthics, pointed out that every independent study, including one from the U.S. Department of Energy, has found that the oil sands are one of the world’s dirtiest forms of oil, producing three times more greenhouse gas emissions per barrel produced, and 22 per cent more than conventional oil when their full life cycle of emissions, including burning them in a vehicle, is included.
She also noted that Oliver failed to mention that even his government’s own reports from Environment Canada have said that Canada will not meet its climate-pollution targets because of oil sands expansion. In fact, climate pollution from the oil sands has doubled in the last decade and is predicted to double again in the next decade if all the new development is allowed to go ahead. The truth is, wrote Berman, “we still have no federal rules to reduce climate pollution from the oil sands.”
Berman wasn’t the only one taking Mr. Oliver to task. Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands and The Energy of Slaves, also pointed out the “extraordinary and popular delusions” being purveyed by Oliver and other Canadian politicians. Invoking the likes of Alexander Pope and Charles Mackay, Nikiforuk decried Canada’s “slavish [tar sands] promoters for omit[ing] the troubling facts as hawkers do. They said nothing, for example, about bitumen’s poor quality, unending carbon liabilities, soaring costs and appalling energy returns. They also lied about Canada’s pathetic environmental record.”
Not to be outdone, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair made a whirlwind tour to Washington, D.C., telling anyone who cares to listen (and many who don’t) that the Canadian government is “playing people for fools” by claiming that its environmental record is world class and that it cares about climate change.
“In the U.S. people know how to read,” he told the National Post. “They know that Canada is the only country that has withdrawn from Kyoto. They know that the Conservatives can’t possibly meet their Copenhagen targets (on greenhouse gas emissions) precisely because of the oilsands. They have to stop playing people for fools.”
That pretty much puts to rest the validity of Oliver’s claims. Let’s hope that Americans can, indeed, see through the federal government’s delusional self-promotion.
Tar sands truth in Europe
Europe may be far across the sea, but it’s not so far that Canada’s relentless tar sands promoters are safe from those who oppose the dirty stuff. Gordon Campbell, Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, was greeted with protests at Oxford University recently, where he delivered a seminar entitled “New World, New Mind”.
Organized by Tar-Free Oxford, local community members held a banner that read “Keep Tar Sands out of Europe” as Campbell arrived to deliver a seminar at the college. “Canada is promoting tar sands oil as a clean and ethical energy source, when we know that the exact opposite is the case,” said Suzanne Dhaliwal, from the UK Tar Sands Network. “Entire ecosystems are being destroyed and communities are being devastated in order to extract this highly polluting source of oil.”
Organizers are concerned about Canada’s relentless lobbying against a key piece of EU climate policy, the Fuel Quality Directive, which aims to reduce imports of highly polluting fuels such as tar sands and synthetic oil from coal into Europe.
In Berlin, Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus disrupted an event at the Canadian embassy linked to a large tourism expo to draw attention to Canada’s poor tars sands development record. Tourism officials from Alberta and other parts of Canada were in Berlin promoting the natural beauty of Alberta and B.C.
Erasmus delivered a letter to tourism officials explaining his people’s concerns about the tar sands. “We are not against economic development in Canada or Alberta, but tar sands extraction is polluting our rivers, destroying our natural resources and thus the economic basis of our survival – and yours. This is a model of economic development, tied to boom and bust cycles, which will not bring lasting prosperity to our country. What we need is a sustainable economic model for a diversified economy that does not depend on exporting fossil fuels.
“The Canadian government is heavily lobbying European countries to derail European climate change efforts, such as the Fuel Quality Directive aimed at reducing emissions from imported transport fuels. This is wrong; Canada is interfering in the European legislative process and needs to accept the proposed criteria. Environment and climate are our joint responsibility and we need to protect them. For us, for our children and for the tourists we want to come to our home.”
A large graphic was projected on the building that houses the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (see photo at the top of this post). “You can look away,” it read. “Tourists won’t. Stand up against the tar sands.”
STOPPING DIRTY PIPELINE EXPANSION
Mothers and Methodists hold funeral at TransCanada office
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
Debunking Canadian propaganda about the virtues of bitumen
New York Times says no to Keystone XL