I’ve been holding off on writing about the Keystone XL underground pipeline for some time because – simply put – I think it’s a bad idea, period.  Not much more to say than that.  But bringing the War of 1812 into the discussion – even in jest – has apparently struck a nerve.

Two oil spills – that we know of – have occurred in as many weeks here in the United States.  One, an oil refinery malfunction in Chicago that dumped into Lake Michigan, and the other an interstate underground pipeline spilled an estimated 10,000 gallons of oil near a nature preserve north of Cincinnati, Ohio.

So, clearly, the priority when talking about building a huge international underground pipeline must be a debate about who really won the War of 1812.  No really, because we need to show how great the U.S.-Canada relationship has been since then.  After all, that’s what the pipeline is all about.  (By the way, nice revisionist history America.  Sure, you won…a battle two weeks after the war ended).

Just the absurdity of the conversation makes you wonder how seriously both countries are attending to this issue.  Yes, it’s been an insufferably long process and understandably both sides are a little punchy, but come on.

A few months ago I joined in on a conversation about Keystone XL with some American friends and was asked how Canadians were reacting to President Obama’s delay of the final decision.  I’m sure some are upset on both sides of the argument, but I’m equally sure that some are just as happy for the president to wait until the next Canadian federal election when a more likely pro-Canadian-ideals government could be elected.  It would certainly be easier for the president to say no.

But isn’t this delay essentially causing an international incident?  Significantly less than an environmental disaster would.  Remember when the lights went out in August 2003, it was all Canada’s fault…until it was actually America’s fault.  Imagine the blame game – never mind the tensions – with an underground oil spill.

I’ve also had some Canadian friends say that the pipeline would be safer than shipping oil over the rails…really?  So barrels and barrels of oil leaking undetected underground for a week is safer.  Why?  Because it’s not immediately going to impact us humans?  And the possibility of the leak area turning into a barren wasteland isn’t going to affect us?  Seriously?

Cash over common sense…is this, too, becoming a prominent Canadian affliction?  I don’t recall the modern Canadian choosing to be so blind.  Thank you, Stephen Harper.

And another thing, many proponents say this pipeline – which would ship Canadian oil – will help ensure American energy independence.  Unless “independence” was redefined without my knowledge, there’s something completely amiss.

Sure, as Canadians, helping our neighbours is just something that we do.  But we shouldn’t be handing over our resources and potential jobs just to be neighbourly…especially not so the neighbours can turn around and sell our oil back to us at a mark-up.

But let’s remember this issue has nothing to do with the environment or the economy.  It’s all about the good relationship Canada and the U.S. have had since the (apparently ambiguously decided) War of 1812.  This good relationship will make everyone’s concerns all work out in the end.

I don’t know about you, but just because we’ve had a good relationship together, doesn’t mean we get to screw the environment together.

– Erin Drushel

1 Comment

  1. treebeard April 11, 2014at12:31 am

    In the real world as I see it, Homo the Sap is going to keep digging out and burning carbon compounds. How intelligent this approach may be is another question, but the real issue is how are we going to convince a billion-odd Chinese of this, and if we can’t what are we going to do about it.

    There is very little oil in Alberta’s tar sands (within a global perspective) and whether we dig out what we can (the process is inefficient and expensive) or leave it lie in truth won’t matter much.

    I see the whole pipeline question in the U.S. as simply payback politics. You can bet President Obama was very aware that Harper went out of his way to favour Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries. I doubt he’s inclined to forgive and forget. He is also being thwarted at every legislative turn by the howling pack of wild-eyed right-wingers who have spent the last couple of terms obstructing his every initiative. They are very much in favour of the pipeline, quite possibly for reasons that could use a fair bit closer examination. The President has little incentive to indulge their wishes.

    The danger howl is a diversionary canard by the environmental lobby. They are frustrated by their lack of ability to argue the governments – in North America and abroad- into approaching climate change in any rational manner. So they figure they’ll try to cut off the supply, as if that’s going to happen significantly in this century. But it’s a great publicity stunt, just the ticket for indulging the favourite left-wing sport of “raising awareness”. But that is what it is, a stunt.

    The multi-national corporations which own “our” oil sands will go on exploiting them as they do with all their other international holdings. They will extract the raw materials as cheaply and quickly they can regardless of what more environmentally friendly methodologies may be available. They will whisk away the product in as raw a form as possible, where the value added by processing can be exploited at the cheapest cost. If one door is closed to them, they’ll find another. May be our oil but they bought the deed.

    I see no hope that humankind will react on any principle other than sheer greed and selfishness, and will be happy to see the planet burn as long as they can afford their own air-conditioned bunkers.

    But in the mean time there is little point in pretending the games being played are anything other than political theatre driven by powers steered by their own agendas which we will never be shown and are unlikely to meaningfully comprehend.