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article imageCanada’s energy minister: Keystone XL critics threaten ‘security’

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 24, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - Hollywood celebrities and prominent international voices against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline threaten Canada's "security" and hinder the government's goal of being the dominant energy supplier for North America, states a leading Canadian official.
Joe Oliver, Canada’s energy minister, is taking on critics of the proposed $7 billion pipeline planned to run from Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast. “Criticism of the oil sands - and now the proposed Keystone XL pipeline - is a major concern for us, with implications for our energy industry, our economy and our energy security,” Oliver told a Toronto business audience on Friday, according to Reuters.
Among the increased vocal critics are Hollywood celebrities Daryl Hannah and Mark Ruffalo, “The Shock Doctrine” author Naomi Kline, leading environmentalist Bill McKibben, and international political leaders including the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu.
Oliver believes the pipeline will get the approval it needs for transferring heavy tar sands oil through the US heartland, including a track over the Ogallala Aquifer which provided drinking water for some 2 million Americans. The US government issued a final assessment of the TransCanada project in August, stating the pipeline would have “no significant impacts” on the environment along the proposed route, leading to what many observes say is a green light for the pipeline.
“I remain optimistic about the ultimate decision that the government of the United States will make in the national interest, as they see it,” Oliver continued on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters. “But we don't presume to interfere with their permit processing.”
During his speech on Friday, Oliver claims the Canadian government and oil industry have undertaken initiatives for improving performance in the Alberta tar sands, such as land reclamation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy minister also said tar sands mines have dislocated just 0.1 percent of Canada’s stunning boreal forest. “You won’t hear this from celebrity protesters,” Oliver continued.
In March, the Pew Environmental Group released a report stating mining, oil and gas operations in the boreal are having a huge impact on the region’s freshwater supply. The report states 40 percent of boreal habitat being displaced (740,000 acres) for tar sands strip mining are wetlands.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is a huge proponent of the pipeline, which if completed, will send more than half a million barrels per day of tar sands oil to the US. Currently, Canada supplies the US with around 2 million barrels per day of crude oil, 97 percent of its total oil exports, making it America’s top foreign supplier of oil.
Oliver noted America’s excessive demand for energy is a perfect complement to Canada’s excess energy supply. “Canada has excess capacity, and the U.S. has excess demand. So we need a pipeline that will transport as much as 700,000 barrels a day of Western crude from Alberta to the refineries in Texas, where it is needed,” he added.
In late August and early September, hundreds of protesters were arrested in front of the White House during peaceful demonstrations against the Keystone XL.
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