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Changing the Narrative on Alberta’s Oil Sands

Canada's government wants the Keystone pipeline, but won't confront the activists.

by
Tom Harris

Bio

March 12, 2013 - 9:13 am

Imagine that a Canadian government researcher discovered a safe and inexpensive cancer vaccine. Naturally, the government of Canada would try to get it approved for use in the United States. The health and financial benefits to Americans and Canadians would be immense, which they would tout in their promotion of the discovery.

Inevitably, some would oppose the anti-cancer drug on the nonsensical grounds that all vaccines are dangerous. They would organize protests and letter-writing campaigns in an attempt to derail acceptance of the drug. They would recruit media to trumpet the dangers of the vaccine, ignoring its benefits.

If the anti-vaccine groups garnered significant support, the government of Canada would then have to decide: would they adjust their marketing efforts to properly refute the claims of loud but misinformed activists, or would they ignore the main issue driving the anti-vaccine campaign in the hopes of getting the drug approved anyways?

No responsible government would choose the second option.

They would direct their scientists to solidly refute the alarmists, arranging TV and radio interviews, writing articles, and convening open hearings with experts so that the public and media would hear how weak the evidence was on the anti-vaccine side.

The last thing the government would do is encourage the idea that vaccinations were dangerous.

Yet the government of Canada is following exactly the opposite of this commonsense approach when it comes to their promotion of the crucially important Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in the United States. Rather than adjust their strategy to properly address the main reason for opposition to the pipeline — the feared impact of oil sands expansion on climate change — the government mostly ignores the issue, choosing instead to promote the project in exactly the same way they did before President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2012.

There are a number of factors that suggest another failure is likely. Although the U.S. State Department draft report on Keystone XL released last week came to generally supportive conclusions — as did their report in 2011 –  Secretary of State John  Kerry is a well-known climate activist, and it is he who must approve the project before the file goes to Obama. In contrast to 2011 when then-Secretary Hilary Clinton came out in support of the pipeline even before her department had approved the project, Kerry has remained non-committal.

That Kerry used his first major address as secretary to make an urgent call for strong action on climate change should seriously concern XL boosters.

Making matters worse for those seeking pipeline approval is the fact that Obama no longer has to worry about getting re-elected. So, the question becomes: which does the president think is more important, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or providing for America’s energy security?

Judging from his State of the Union and inaugural addresses, his priority appears to be climate change. This observation is reinforced by Obama’s long-standing war on coal-fired electricity generation. If his overriding concern were energy security, he would not be trying to kill coal, America’s leading source of electric power. The U.S. has enough coal still in the ground to power the country for centuries, and new technologies make it cleaner than ever before. Coupled with its long-term price stability, something not seen with natural gas or oil, coal is an ideal baseload power source for America.

But coal produces more carbon dioxide (CO2), the GHG of most concern in the climate debate, than do its competitors. Despite optimistic assertions to the contrary by politicians, the technology to capture CO2 from power plants and store it underground is still in its infancy, with nationwide application not possible before the 2020s. So, the U.S. administration is working hard to end coal’s use in the U.S., no matter the consequence for energy security.

Anti-Keystone activists are similarly trying to kill the oil sands because the project produces more CO2 than does conventional crude oil production. So, naturally, they are working to prevent all methods of delivery of crude out of the oil sands. Pipeline supporters seem to believe that by merely showing that the project is economically beneficial, enhances energy security, is coming from a country that respects human rights and the environment, and is relatively safe, that this will win the day.

They are being naïve.

The government of Canada must adjust its marketing of the oil sands, Keystone XL included, to properly address climate change — the real reason Obama will probably again reject the project. It is not enough to remind the public that the oil sands constitute only 0.1% of world GHG emissions, as Canada’s natural resources minister Joe Oliver said in Chicago last week. If humanity’s emissions are causing dangerous climate change, then we in the developed world should set an example by cutting back on, not growing, emissions.

Like the mistaken belief that vaccines are unacceptably dangerous, the government must make it clear to the public that the fundamental premise of the climate movement is also wrong. The science is too immature to know the future of climate. And climate control will remain science fiction for the foreseeable future, so continuing to pour vast sums of money into the impossible goal of “stopping climate change” is irresponsible.

At this point, all the Canadian government need do is play honest broker, convening open, unbiased public hearings into the climatic impact of the oil sands. Qualified scientists from all sides of the debate would be invited to testify so that the public, the press, and political leaders would learn about the vast uncertainties in the field. Public support for expensive GHG reduction programs would consequently wither, and the anti-Keystone XL campaign would fail without the government even committing themselves to a position on the science.

But the time for such hearings is short: the final decision on Keystone XL will be made this summer. Hope that the outcome will be better than in 2012 without sensibly addressing the main issue driving the anti-pipeline campaign is wishful thinking neither Canada nor the U.S. can afford.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
You don't DO anything about something that is NOT caused by man and is, in fact, caused by the sun.

You flat earthers WILL go after 1st world countries but you stay mute on third world countries that can acutally chew their air. Until you go after those people we WILL shut you down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Canada's currency and economy have been strong these last 12 years because of natural resource pricing has improved so much. Canada also has some of most favorable mining and energy extraction regulations in the entire world. Read the Fraser Institute studies on this.

If Canada ever shelves its oil sands its economy will be sorely hurt. Canada does not need our pipeline. Canada is currently considering moving it by pipeline to both coasts. To the West Coast for export and East Coast for refining. Another idea is to move it by rail in either direction or to build a new rail line to Alaska and ship the oil out of Valdez. If the pipeline is turned down Canada must move fast to protect its own interests.

In the US, the pipeline will also move Bakken oil. Today more oil is moved by rail out of the Bakken than by pipeline. Railroads can move all of it given increases in tank car manufacturing and rail line extensions. New contracts fro Bakken oil have been signed for refineries in NJ and PA. I see 100 car unit trains now going through my town in Montana on the way to Seattle, WA refineries.

So if the pipeline is not built there are workarounds.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This story, as well as many others, is based on the premise that we are dealing with a dull witted, but good intentioned president. The truth is that all causes taken up by the left are simply a method of further encumbering the productive class beneath the weight of higher taxes and onerous regulations. It is the implementation of Clower-Piven designed to overwhelm the the country's resources to the point of collapse. Conservatives need to address this directly as defending each new issue simply provides cover for their true goals: The destruction of the US by suffocation under the weight of it's voluntarily peasant class.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem is, the United States government, the government of Canada and the governments in Europe have all spent so much time and resources telling us that man-made global warming is happening and is a sure thing, that they can't turn around now and say "This isn't bad for the environment." They'll look like fools if they do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Having voluntarily brought the rhetorical "Precautionary Principle" into the sanctums of Canada's regulatory frameworks, which can only help consistently weigh policy decisions in favour of power-seeking activists by removing requirements for empirical data and adherence to the Scientific Method from any affirmative action "justification" scale, the Government of Canada would naturally align itself accordingly.

There's no need for enemies, with friends like the Precautionary Principle (espousing the same concepts as were formerly called "the Lalonde Doctrine" in Canada and "Vorsorgeprinzip" in Germany during the '30's)?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that the Canadian government is absolutely right not to confront the activists. You only debate with someone who is amenable to the use of reason and empirical science. As sinz54 has shown in this thread, activists are immune to both - and most certainly, cannot be persuaded to change their opinions by trying to engage them in rational debate.

It is absolutely untrue as sinz54 tries to claim that the majority of scientific evidence supports AGW. Certainly, scientific evidence acknowledges climate change, for such has been the reality in our universe since the planet first existed, with long phases of warmth and cold - all caused naturally and primarily by the sun.

As for the oil sands and their extraction and shipment, they are no more causal of 'global warming' than the extraction and shipment of other fossil fuels - and if anyone thinks that the Canadian government will allow its economy to sink to the level of that of the US because it fails to enable current economic development - then they are 'stuck on stupid'.

Furthermore,
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Back in 1988, my astronomy professor told us that sunspot cycles have been responsible for cyclical global warming for the past several billion years. He noted that we would have another 10 years or so of global warming and then another global cooling period would begin. He warned us that some people were claiming it was manmade but that that was a bunch of bunk.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"the government must make it clear to the public that the fundamental premise of the climate movement is also wrong. The science is too immature to know the future of climate. "

That argument is in direct opposition to the national science academies of over twenty nations including our own, plus (in this country alone) NOAA, NASA Goddard, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, plus the Royal Society in Britain.

All these scientific bodies accept that anthropogenic global warming is a real phenomenon.

Claiming that all these scientists worldwide are wrong and only you are right, is a guaranteed losing argument.

Of course, there are still a VERY few scientists who don't accept AGW. Just like there are still a VERY few scientists who don't accept evolutionary biology. But it's clear that too many conservatives have chosen to reject all those thousands of other scientists and go with these few, ONLY because these few are telling them what they want to hear.

As far as the scientific community is concerned, *whether* global warming is occurring is no longer in doubt. The real issue is what to do about it. That is what we should be addressing.

And rejecting mainstream science is not the way to win over new voters.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
sinz54 asserts - "That argument is in direct opposition to the national science academies of over twenty nations including our own, plus (in this country alone) NOAA, NASA Goddard, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, plus the Royal Society in Britain."

That is misleading. How many of these groups polled their members and showed that a majority of them actually agree with the science academy statements?

ZERO

So, the statements from these groups are justr the statements of carefully selected members of the politically correct executive of these groups, not the rank and file scientists.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Any members of those organizations who disagree with the position taken, are free to dissent publicly. They haven't. There is no large-scale dissent on the part of climatologists from the theory of AGW. Not in the journals, not online, not anywhere.

Go read the peer-reviewed literature in journals of climatology. The view is 99.5% unanimous that AGW is real.

The skeptics don't even bother to publish in peer-reviewed journals. They write BLOGS.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually, no, you are quite wrong. There is large scale dissent against AGW. I refer not merely to the public statements of 'over 1,000 scientists' but to actual books and articles. I'm certainly not going to list them. A recent article in Earth Systems Dynamics rejects AGW as statistically insignificant and references are there; many scientists accept climate change but reject AGW. The latest survey is that only 36% of geoscientists and engineers accept AGW (journal Organization Studies). Same with recent surveys of meteorologists (same journal).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you look at the original questionaire data, less than 1% of scientists surveyed responded at all. It was from those that did that climate alarmists claimed their consensus. It was something like 97% of the 1% that submitted a response. Liken it to the 99% lie about guns in Mexico.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You don't DO anything about something that is NOT caused by man and is, in fact, caused by the sun.

You flat earthers WILL go after 1st world countries but you stay mute on third world countries that can acutally chew their air. Until you go after those people we WILL shut you down.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are a number of Canadians who are not interested in selling oil to the U.S. They want to sell Alberta's oil to China. (There is a billionaire who is working on getting a facility built along the coast, so then the oil can be shipped to China.) That, in my view, would be unfortunate. But Obama hates America, loves the Saudis -- so if Canadian oil ends up in China -- I am sure that, too, will delight Obama -- anything that advances the interests of America's enemies is good news for the Liar in Chief.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm one of them. And I think there are other Canadians who have already half disengaged from "America is our greatest trading partner" and are looking for who's next to take over that position. Maybe Canada is tired of being the wistful little wallflower, hoping against hope that the Big Man on Campus will finally turn around and pick her for a dance.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dont ask for our help when the Chinese annex British Columbia, I say.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Who'd be fool enough to ask for YOUR help for anything? This isn't 1940 anymore, but you're still keeping up the brag and bluster as if you'd conquered the world. America can't stop the annexation of its own southern territory by Mexico. And your embassies are being kicked around like empty tin cans. We know an empty threat - and an empty promise - when we hear one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Are you asserting that IF you trade with another nation, THEN, that nation will 'annex' your land? Could you provide evidence of this? Canada trades with the US; I haven't noticed that the US has annexed any land.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Im asserting that if a peoples settle and colonize what was once your territory and they decide that the booming Superpower of China, their culture and homeland aint so bad after all, then you are up the creek without a paddle.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How could 'a people' 'settle and colonize what was ONCE Canadian territory'? First, Canadian territory remains Canadian. So what are you talking about with your 'once' term?

Second, if you are referring to Chinese coming to work in Canada as 'settling' and 'colonizing' Canadian territory, that's impossible. Canada has very clear and firm immigration policies. And third, immigrants to Canada have to abide by Canadian laws and education and culture. So, your dire threats are empty.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dont forget the artic oil rush. Hostilities and aggression can arise rather quickly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hostilities? These are disputes over sovereign claims to territory in an ocean - and take place all over the world with regard to water based resources.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right and this can be the impetus for a movement within the BC Chinese immigrant population and by China to annex territory.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I suggest you look at the changing demographics of British Columbia, which is destiny. And then study the racist Han Chinese culture. And then study the Chinese global rise. Any nation with a sizeable (and concentrated) Chinese immigrant population better watch out.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You make a lot of invalid assertions. First, 'demographic composition' is not destiny. Your error is to assume that IF your background is, let's say, Chinese and you immigrate to and even are born in Canada, THEN, your loyalty is to and always to: China. Wrong.

Immigration is a basic reality of humans since their emergence and their loyalties are to their current home. They are Canadians.

Second, your comment about the Han is empty. All societies privilege themselves first and the Chinese have been isolated from external diversity for many years. That's breaking down. Your racist hostility to Chinese is equally empty.

As for China's economic rise, why shouldn't it move out of a peasant agricultural economy and into a modern industrial economy? Do you think this shouldn't take place?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dude, look at the MENA Muslim immigrants in Europe. Then get back to me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
First, don't call me 'Dude'. Second, the problem with the MENA Muslim immigrants is the irrational policy of multiculturalism. This policy actually encourages immigrants to retain their old beliefs and behavior, and bring their cultural baggage and ancestral hatreds with them, and, furthermore, to settle in isolate and non-integrating ghettoes. That's disastrous for any nation; it balkanizes the population.

Then, rather than insisting on integration and insisting that the law of the land is dominant, multiculturalism allows and encourages these newcomers to retain their old ways and even, to bring their old laws with them!

This has nothing to do with ethnicity; it has to do with the govt policy of cultural relativism or multiculturalism. That's a disaster anywhere.

Instead, immigrants must assimilate and integrate; acknowledge the laws and values of the new land, educate their children in them and speak the new language. The Canadian immigration policy, newly rewritten, rejects the old isolationist multicultural balkanization and insists on Canadian values and integration. See also the excellent Australian Values Statement which every immigrant must sign, which insists on acceptance of Australian laws, values and language.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Im pretty sure that Canada prides itself on being the originator of Multiculturalism.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Leftwing Enviro Activists are well funded by the Arab Oil Sheiks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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