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article imageOp-Ed: Keystone-Redford plans more trips to the US; time to diversify

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 3, 2013 in Politics
Edmonton - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says more meetings are in the works with U.S. officials as she continues to push for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Both Redford and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall want to sell Canada's environmental record.
Alison Redford says that Canada should be proud of its environmental record and says that Canada's environmental record needs to be sold to Americans. Since becoming Alberta's Premier in October 2011 Redford has traveled to the US four times and in the weeks to come intends to make more trips to Washington.
Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall is on the same page as Alison Redford and according to the Globe and Mail Wall says that Canada's message to the US has to be more than about jobs or the fiscal impact Keystone has on the US, but about the record we have in Canada.
The message from Canada needs to be about more than the jobs that Keystone represents to the United States,” Mr. Wall told reporters. “It needs to be more than the fiscal impact it can have on states where the Keystone will pass through. It really needs to be about the record we have in Canada. And, it’s a record we ought to be proud of. It’s imperfect … but it’s a solid one.
“And in many respects,” he added, “it’s a better record than you’d find south of the border in a particular state or with their federal government.
As reported in Digitial Journal, to avoid furor the US State Department released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) on the XL Keystone Pipeline on Friday afternoon at 4:35 pm. The 2,000 page document, however did not go unnoticed and had environmentalists in an uproar over one of many comments in the document and highlighted during the teleconference held by Assistant Secretary Jones.
We find in this draft that the approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including this proposed project, really remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of development of the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil in the U.S.
The State Department will be posting the DSEIS on its website, which will take about a week. This will start a 45 day commenting period for interested parties, the industry and the general public.
Our process from this point on is, we have posted the draft on our website, and when EPA officially posts this draft, which will take about a week, we will begin a 45-day comment period, a public comment period. During that comment period, we plan to have a public meeting in Nebraska. And when we have closed the comment period and reviewed and incorporated comments and responded to them, we will produce a final supplemental environmental impact statement. And when that final is released, we then plan to begin what we call the National Interest Determination, which we’ve discussed before.
So that’s sort of a rundown of what we’re doing and our next steps.
While no decision is expected prior to this summer, the approval or denial of the project is in the hands of two powerful players. John Kerry, a strong climate change advocate, will be making the recommendation, apparently based on facts and science and not ideology, to President Obama, who will make the final decision regarding the project.
Obama has backed himself in a corner. With his charged up renewed emphasis on climate change during his inauguration speech in January and reemphasized during the State of the Union address, the green lobby wants him to put his money where his mouth is. On the other hand unions want the jobs and Obama has received a lot of support from them, including campaign funding. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.
The green lobby will be after the president to put his money where his mouth is. Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford warned that “letting corporations get rich off of environmental devastation will make Obama’s climate change rhetoric look like the worst kind of greenwashing.”
With this as a background Alison Redford plans additional trips to the US to tout Alberta's environmental record. The question is who is she trying to convince. It would appear that the battle lines are drawn. It is not likely that Redford will get an audience with either John Kerry or the president. Redford said that during her last trip said that she met with 19 governors during the National Governors Association conference and that there is bipartisan support. 19 out of 50 equals to less than 40 per cent. Clearly the minds are made up.
Redford says that the pipeline is very important to Alberta and that it is a priority. If the president were not to approve the project, Alberta would seek other opportunities, including going through Alaska.
We are an exporting economy,” she said. “We’re going to export to China and India, we’re going to go north perhaps through Alaska. … But for us the United Sates has always been our longest serving, we have always had a really close connection. … But we will go where the market is.
On CBC's Power and Politics Redford said that US officials are making the link between approving the project and what Canada is doing about climate change on a federal level.
We need to make sure we are addressing issues around climate change in a way that gives decision makers comfort with the fact that they can be economic partners with us on this pipeline,
She said she will be delivering that message to her counterparts in Ottawa as well.
While Redford is trying to change minds on the pipeline, a long term vision is absent. Canada continues to rely heavily on the US for its export of Alberta crude. The oil is sold at a discount, selling for $30 to $50 below the world oil price. Meanwhile Alberta has a $4 billion deficit and although it would take a while, the focus should change to refining Alberta oil in Canada, which requires an investment in new refineries and a pipeline that can deliver the refined product to Canadians. Canada, despite the large oil deposits near Fort McMurray, continues to be a net importer of oil from the US and Middle East.
Canada can no longer rely on the United States for its export market. The time to diversify the market is long overdue. The pipeline approval process should have taught both the federal and provincial governments that the focus needs to change.
President Obama may or may not approve the pipeline and despite the State Department's conclusion that the oilsands development will not be impacted either way, the US has an ample supply of its own oil, especially in North Dakota. Obama has two options and the question is, whether it's easier to upset the unions or his green supporters. The bet, based on his new emphasis on the environment and climate change, has to be that he will side with the greens.
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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