Canada Is Tired of Our Keystone XL Debate

Canada's foreign affairs minister thinks its time for President Obama to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

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Canada's foreign affairs minister thinks its time for President Obama to make a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. On Wednesday, the first day of his Washington visit, John Baird appeared with two pro-Keystone Democrats who "both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision," as The Canadian Press news service put it. "Decision time is upon us," Baird said. One of the senators present, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, called Keystone the "Kim Kardashian of Energy" — the U.S. is giving it more attention than it deserves.

In America, the completion of the TransCanada Corp. pipeline, which would transport synthetic crude oil from Alberta down to Texan oil fields, is a battle between economics and environmentalism. As we've noted, proponents say it would create short term jobs and lower our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, while detractors say it increase the use of a high carbon energy source and could cause an oil spill. Canada, meanwhile, can't understand why it's taking us so long to decide, and is threatening to just transport the oil by rail, according to the Canadian Press. That's a little cheeky, given all the recent rail disasters in the U.S. As Bloomberg explains, the financial benefits far outweigh the risks up north:

While environmentalists consider Keystone an assault on the climate, Canada is counting onTransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s $5.4 billion project to connect its vast reserves of crude oil to the world’s largest refining center along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline would help oil-sands developers reach their goal of doubling production by 2025, and raise the prices they are paid for the fossil fuel

It's turned one-time environmentalist ally Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., into an XL-er. "It always makes more sense in our view to get energy from middle North American than the Middle East,” he said during the event with Baird.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Obama of punting, according to the right-leaning Financial Post. "'He's punted,' Harper said, adding that he predicts the Obama administration "will in due course see its way to take the appropriate decision." Harper believes "the project will create tens of thousands of jobs, enhance U.S. energy security and have a 'negligible' impact on the environment," according to The Post.

On Wednesday the same outlet spoke with an oil executives who felt it was time to "inject some reality" into the debate:

Canadians should be outraged that film and music celebrities have been “trash-talking” the oil sands and painting them as a “villain” of  a Hollywood movie, senior oil industry executives from Cenovus Energy Inc. and TransCanada Corp. said Wednesday.

The Toronto Sun, a conservative daily tabloid, is a little harsher. In an op-ed tiled "Barack Obama: Keystone Hypocrite," the author argues that Obama is a hypocrite for rejecting Keystone but exporting coal:

For reasons of diplomacy, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird can’t speak plainly as he lobbies in the U.S. this week for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

But we can say Obama is a hypocrite, who scolds Canada for its globally insignificant greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s oil sands, while his own administration is exporting coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel — at record levels globally.

That argument — what's one more potential environmental risk? — isn't particularly strong, but it speaks to Canada's central thesis: the environmentalists are over reacting, and Obama should stop listening to them (and listen to TransCanada).

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.