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article imageHarper: Oil shipped by rail riskier than relatively safe pipeline

By Karl Gotthardt     May 17, 2013 in Politics
New York - President Obama is nearing a decision on the XL Keystone pipeline. Opposition has been growing and environmentalists expect the president to put his money where his mouth is. Canada's PM Stephen Harper says that all the facts support the pipeline.
Addressing an influential group of academics at the Council of Foreign Relations and separately a group of business leaders, Canada's Prime Minister (PM) Stephen Harper said that XL Keystone pipeline absolutely needs to go ahead and that regardless of the presidents decision the oil will flow. He added that rail shipment is riskier than moving the oil through relatively safe pipelines.
Both the federal and Alberta governments have been lobbying American academics, businessmen and lawmakers, in an attempt to present a positive picture on the Alberta oilsands and the XL Keystone pipeline's economic benefits. This has been the first time PM Harper has taken a personal role in promoting the pipeline in the US.
Making his case for the controversial pipeline, Harper said no further debate is necessary and that an increasing flow of oil from Canada is inevitable.
This absolutely needs to go ahead. All the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval. The only “real immediate environmental issue here, is do we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail.
Harper made the case that the TransCanada pipeline project could provide up to 40,000 US jobs and that he didn't think we can turn up our noses at that.
There is stiff opposition by environmentalist, which claim that development of the oilsands would accelerate climate change. Harper rejected that argument stating that there are still emissions, but no more than other crude oils in the world. He said the Alberta crude will be of tremendous benefit to the US and would contribute to long term energy security.
The Montreal Gazette reports that Harper said that technology will be the key to bringing climate change under control, with deep international collaboration and intense investment in technology. Presumably the PM was talking about technology that would curb carbon emission of fossil fuels, rather than investment in green energy, such as wind and solar.
It is not a matter of just getting on a street corner and yelling, and that will somehow lead to a solution, These are real challenges where environmental needs intersect and often appear to be at cross-purposes with economic and social development. And unless we realize that and take these things seriously, we're going to keep talking around the real issue. I think if we admit there are real problems with real difficult solutions and real difficult choices that have to be made — that everybody has to contribute to — then I think we’ll make progress.
During his talk Harper maintained
that oilsands emissions amount to one tenth of one percent of global emissions and that in the overall picture it represents almost nothing. He vowed that Canada would still aim at reducing emissions.
Despite Canada's lobbying blitz and now the personal involvement of Stephen Harper, environmental groups are not convinced, including a small group of protesters outside the venue.
No glossy brochures or green-washed billboards can change the fact that the pollution in the tar sands continues to soar," said Hannah MacKinnon, of Environmental Defence Canada.
It is time for a reality check. The oil industry needs to invest in reducing carbon emissions instead of more empty PR spin.
During his presentation Harper also addressed global growth and the challenges to North America, he defended public medicare and warned the Obama administration against a rash decision on Syria and highlighted the need for increasing productivity in both Canada and the US.
The audience was largely appreciative of Harper's presentation and his question and answer session.
I think he's got a very coherent and logical presentation on the issues," said Atlanta-based lawyer Gordon Giffin, who was the U.S. ambassador to Canada under Bill Clinton.
Giffin said Harper's explanation of what Canada and the provinces are doing to use technology to reduce emissions intensity was particularly poignant.
I don't think people here have a good sense of that, and I think Canada gets unfairly criticized in some circles as if Canada doesn't have environmental policies in place that actually in many cases exceed that of the United States.
Based on Prime Minister Harper's presentation and comments, a rejection of the XL Keystone pipeline could put the two governments on a collision course. It appears that the Canadian government is determined to get Alberta oil to refineries in Texas, if not by pipeline by rail. President Obama is expected to make the decision on the presidential permit this summer.
More about Canadian Politics, XL Keystone pipeline, pm stephen harper, Climate change, Carbon emissions
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