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article imageOp-Ed: XL Keystone Pipeline — Why is a presidential permit an issue?

By Karl Gotthardt     Feb 24, 2013 in Politics
Washington - The whole decision making process for the XL Keystone pipeline seems a moot point, in view of TransCanada's construction of the southern portion of the line. According to TransCanada pipelines, half of the southern portion is almost complete.
According to 660 All News Radio in Calgary, a segment of the XL Keystone pipeline is already half completed. TransCanda Pipelines says that nearly 4,000 workers are laying down and welding a 485 mile segment from Cushing, OK to the Texas gulf coast. TransCanada Pipelines says if the project avoids setbacks it could be moving oil by the end of the year. This makes a mockery of the whole pipeline approval project, since the early Keystone pipeline already carries Alberta oilsands oil via Illinois to the oil hub in Cushing, OK.
A presidential permit was not required for this portion of the line, since it does not cross the US/Canada border. TransCanada earlier applied to state authorities to start building the southern portion and President Obama said that he agreed with the project. The line required the usual environmental assessments, approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and land clearance with land owners.
The northern portion of the $7 billion pipeline will cross the international border and this is what all the fuss is about. Prior to the 2012 election President Obama rejected the pipeline due to environmental concerns over the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills. Meanwhile a new route was approved by the Nebraska legislature and Governor Heineman gave his stamp of approval.
You would think that all systems should be go now. Not so, despite the fact that an environmental assessment was completed for the rest of the pipeline, including the line north of the Nebaraska Sandhills and that portion to the south, the rerouting needed another application for a presidential permit for the complete line to Cushing, OK. In other words the whole project is bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.
Environmental politics
While the southern portion of the XL Keystone pipeline has not received nearly the media attention of the portion to the north, there have been protests in both Texas and Oklahoma. Environmentalists on both sides of the Canada/US border are bound and determined to stop the development of the Alberta oilsands. There have been protests at the White House to remind President Obama who voted for him.
President Obama made climate-change and reduction of carbon emissions a priority in both his inauguration speech and in his State of the Union address. Secretary of State John Kerry, a climate change advocate, during the visit of Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird, assured the minister that his recommendation would be based on facts and science and not ideology.
While some pundits believe that in the end the project will be approved by the president, some are not so sure. The president has a choice between alienating Canada's government or his environmental base. The sure thing is that the division among those in favor and those against the pipeline is almost completely along political lines.
Redford in Washington
Alberta's Premier Alison Redford traveled to Washington, DC this weekend to observe the National Governors Association meeting. With the projected influx of jobs in their states, some governors are lobbying for the pipeline. It is unlikely that Ms Redford can influence anything.
The message they want to deliver this weekend is that Alberta has already taken action to reduce carbon emissions from energy projects, she told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday. “It’s one of the reasons we spend so much time in Washington, to be able to be here to talk about what we’ve already done in Alberta.
Redford said she has had “compelling” discussions with both Republican and Democratic governors on Alberta’s investment in renewable energies and new technologies."
The question is who exactly is Redford trying to convince. The battle lines on the XL Keystone pipeline are drawn. Those in favor are mostly Republican governors and those against are Democrats. Obama and Kerry have made it clear where they stand.
With an almost $4 billion deficit Redford needs to quit spending money on unproductive trips. We have a former NDP premier as the Canadian ambassador in Washington and there is also an Alberta representative in Washington. It doesn't make sense to be lobbying the same people over and over and expect different results.
With the federal and provincial governments fighting over jurisdiction for emission testing and still no real tangible results, Alberta doesn't stand on solid ground with their arguments. Albertans would be best served if Premier Redford stayed home and looked into her 2013/14 budget to reduce the $4 billion deficit.
The way ahead for the Alberta Oilsands
During the past two to three years it has become abundantly clear that Alberta and Canada can no longer rely on never ending non renewable resource revenue. Both Canada and Alberta need a long range vision, which is not clouded by politics.
Canada and Alberta need a national energy strategy that include the oilsands, green sustainable energy, including biofuels, wind and solar power, with the associated technology. to this end, Canada can no longer rely on a single client market and must diversify. This includes training a workforce for the future.
Therefore we must diversify our markets and pursue the east-west pipelines for delivery to New Brunswick and start building refineries, strategically located to refine our own oil and determine our own destiny.
We should also pursue clean energy technologies and further develop them. While oil will still be around for a while, we should look at coming to the forefront of green technology. Manufacturing as we know it is gone and it's time to create a workforce for the future. The advice to Miss Redford is to quit lobbying to people whose minds are made up and concentrate on energy independence and a national energy strategy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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