Saturday, July 17, 2010

Canadian Pipeline Sparks Protests

Catching up on a few recent stories brings me around to this one from last week about protests over a proposed oil pipeline project that would bring crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands region all the way across the United States to ports in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. Of course the Gulf of Mexico and oil have been in the news a lot lately thanks to BP’s ongoing spill. Advocates for Canadian oil have used that disaster to their favor – using Canadian oil, they argue, would keep the Gulf free from the possibility of future BP-style accidents.

Not so fast, reply the critics, including US Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who is leading a bloc of 50 members of the House in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. They, along with environmental activists in Canada and the United States, point to reports of the toll oil production from the oil sands have taken on the environment in Alberta, which show that oil sands are far from a “green” source of energy (unlike other methods where oil is drilled and pumped from a reservoir, oil sands oil is locked into the soil – sometimes called “tar sands” – and is mined before being cooked out of the sand in a complex process to produce a kind of crude oil). Waxman is asking the Obama administration to hold off on approving the Keystone XL project until a full assessment on its environmental impact – both in the US and Canada – can be done. It’s worth noting that the administration last year though approved a similar oil pipeline project dubbed the “Alberta Clipper,” the administration’s reasoning is that whatever environmental costs caused by oil sands production were offset by the ability for the United States to have access to a stable source of oil from a reliable ally.

Terry Cunha a spokesman for TransCanada – the company behind the Keystone XL project – put it bluntly: “Quite honestly, the reality is the U.S. has a large need for crude oil,” adding that it’s better to get that oil from “a reliable neighbor.” Waxman thinks that’s part of the problem - that Keystone XL just furthers America’s dependence on oil, and that the pipeline’s approval would be a step away from the Obama administration’s pledge to cut greenhouse gases and develop environmentally-friendly alternative sources of energy.

Meanwhile still other critics of Keystone XL have emerged, with some industry analysts to the North voicing concerns that Canada is becoming too dependent on America as a market for their oil and pushing for pipelines to Canada’s Pacific coast that would allow them to export oil to the rapidly growing Asian market as well.
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