Archive for Friday, January 24, 2014

Opinion: Keystone delay annoys Canadians

January 24, 2014


— Fixated as we Americans are on Canada’s three most attention-getting exports — polar vortexes, Alberta clippers and the antics of Toronto’s addled mayor — we’ve somewhat overlooked a major feature of Canada’s current relations with the United States: extreme annoyance.

Last week, speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s foreign minister calmly but pointedly complained that the U.S. owes Canada a response on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo,” he sort of complained, in what for a placid, imperturbable Canadian passes for an explosion of volcanic rage.

Canadians may be preternaturally measured and polite, but they simply can’t believe how they’ve been treated by President Obama — left hanging humiliatingly on an issue whose merits were settled years ago.

Canada, the Saudi Arabia of oil sands, is committed to developing this priceless resource. Its natural export partner is the United States. But crossing the border requires State Department approval, which means the president decides yes or no.

After three years of review, the State Department found no significant environmental risk to Keystone. Nonetheless, the original route was changed to assuage concerns regarding the Ogallala Aquifer. Obama withheld approval through the 2012 election. To this day he has issued no decision.

The Canadians are beside themselves. After five years of manufactured delay, they need a decision one way or the other because if denied a pipeline south, they could build a pipeline west to the Pacific. China would buy their oil in a New York minute.

Yet John Kerry fumblingly says he is awaiting yet another environmental report. He offered no decision date.

If Obama wants to cave to his environmental left, go ahead. But why keep Canada in limbo? It’s a show of supreme and undeserved disrespect for yet another ally. It seems not enough to have given the back of the hand to Britain, Israel, Poland and the Czech Republic, and to have so enraged the Saudis that they actually rejected a Security Council seat — disgusted as they were with this administration’s remarkable combination of fecklessness and highhandedness. Must we crown this run of diplomatic malpractice with gratuitous injury to Canada, our most reliable, most congenial friend in the world?

And for what? This is not a close call. The Keystone case is almost absurdly open and shut.

Even if you swallow everything the environmentalists tell you about oil sands, the idea that blocking Keystone will prevent their development by Canada is ridiculous. Canada sees its oil sands as a natural bounty and key strategic asset. Canada will not leave it in the ground. 

Where’s the environmental gain in blocking Keystone? The oil will be produced and the oil will be burned. If it goes to China, the Pacific pipeline will carry the same environmental risks as a U.S. pipeline.

And Alberta oil can still go to the U.S., if not by pipeline then by rail, which requires no State Department approval. That would result in far more greenhouse gas emissions — exactly the opposite of what the environmentalists are seeking.

Moreover, rail can be exceedingly dangerous. Last year a tanker train derailed and exploded en route through Quebec. The fireball destroyed half of downtown Lac-Megantic, killing 47, many incinerated beyond recognition.

Add to this the slam-dunk strategic case for Keystone: Canadian oil reduces our dependence on the volatile Middle East, shifting petroleum power from OPEC and the killing zones of the Middle East to North America. What more reliable source of oil could we possibly have than Canada?

Keystone has left Canada very upset, though characteristically relatively quiet. Canadians may have succeeded in sublimating every ounce of normal human hostility and unpleasantness by way of hockey fights, but that doesn’t mean we should take advantage of their good manners.

The only rationale for denying the pipeline is political — to appease Obama’s more extreme environmentalists. For a president who claims not to be ideological, the irony is striking: Here is an easily available piece of infrastructure — privately built, costing government not a penny, creating thousands of jobs and, yes, shovel ready — and yet the president, who’s been incessantly pushing new “infrastructure” as a fundamental economic necessity, can’t say yes.

Well then, Mr. President, say something. You owe Canada at least that. Up or down. Five years is long enough.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Julius Nolan 2 months, 4 weeks ago

So who gives a d##n what the Canadians think about our internal processes? Guess only the 1%'s who think they have bought and paid for our government..


Mike Ford 2 months, 4 weeks ago

I'll start my comment by stating that this subject is not a "yawn" subject as previously stated. Too often uninformed people do this and dumb down serious issues. Playing dumb should no longer be tolerated as a tactic on serious issue, I remember reading a National Geographic about five years ago that showed the Manitoba land cleared for tar sands oil looking as desolate as the area below the Mt. St. Helens blast site that I saw in Washington State in 1984. This oil burns and releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide that causes global warming. If oil drops in value then practices like tar sands extraction and fracking for natural gas will no longer be economically viable. Then what? The Canadians have Stephan Harper, a Conservative, trying to abrogate First Nations treaties to do whatever the exploiters wanted which has created the Idle No More Movement in Canada and the US in this crazy chase to destroy the land with dirty oil extraction. Does the pursuit of greed trump the preservation of land?


Ron Holzwarth 2 months, 4 weeks ago

"Its (Canada's) natural export partner is the United States."

Where in the shades of Hades did the author of this article get that idea? Canada's export customer is going to be the highest bidder for their refined petroleum products, and that will most likely be China. It's strictly business, and nothing more. If you have trouble with that concept, look up the word "capitalism".

It is quite handy for Canada that the major crude oil refineries in the United States are all on the Gulf of Mexico, right by one of the biggest oil exporting ports in the United States for refined petroleum products. Keystone plans to take full advantage of that situation, and no laws will be broken.

The meaning of "capitalism" is quite clear. If you have trouble understanding the definition, go talk to your 6th grade teacher for clarification. Or maybe, you could read a bit more about the project.


Scott Burkhart 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Ken, Mr. Krauthammer's beef is with the president rendering a "no decision" to date. It is another diplomatic blunder by a diplomatically challenged administration. One mistake after another. Obama received on the job training from morons that were more inept than him.

Your climate change figures are flawed as well. Garbage in, garbage out. Not enough time or energy this evening to engage in this one.


Ken Lassman 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Mr. Krauthammer conveniently ignores a very important point that, when taken into consideration, undermines his whole column. There is massive opposition to a pipeline heading west over the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific as well. The First Nations are unified in their opposition in building such a pipeline and the Canadian feds must get their right of way in order to build it. Think south Lawrence trafficway X 10 and you'll get an idea of how powerful this opposition is in Canada. Given this context, Canada may be cooling its heels for a while on the potential for exporting tar sands, which in terms of climate change, may be the best possible option overall, considering that the level of warming up north is much more than any other part of the planet, with much more dire local consequences. Sometimes the US can actually help protect Canada from itself.


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