The Canadian Prime Minister has already indicated he is “confident” President Obama will give the controversial pipeline the go-ahead.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making a last-minute sales pitch to Washington this week to encourage President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a move that would allow TransCanada to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is a matter that I think is vital to both the economic growth and energy security, not just of all of Canada, but the United States as well,” Harper said in Calgary.
While President Barack Obama has twice delayed the Keystone decision, a recent State Department report that concluded the pipeline would not impact climate change seemed to insinuate that the proposal was poised to be approved. Despite environmentalists pointing out the report used flawed logic, it seemed to satisfy the president’s former promise to combat global warming.
During Harper’s visit to Washington D.C., he’ll also be meeting with U.S. businessmen.
In November 2012, Harper said he was optimistic that the U.S. would give the go-ahead for Keystone XL, claiming the majority of businesses and labor unions looked favorably on the $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline.
Harper’s redundant sales slogan
The message Harper is carrying with him is nothing new, as the Canadian government, along with TransCanada, have consistently sold the pipeline to U.S. officials and the public on the promise that it will boost the economy, create jobs and lead to energy independence.
“The Canadian economy continues to perform relatively well in time of global economic uncertainty,” Harper said in a statement. “I look forward to engaging with council members on pressing issues including the global economy, trade liberalization, energy and security, as well as issues of importance to Canada and the U.S. — such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the Detroit River International Crossing.”
Harper isn’t shy about admitting Canada’s role in lobbying U.S. policymakers. According to Bloomberg News, Harper said in April that the Canadian government is lobbying “at every level” to assure the pipeline is approved. He has also spoken with Obama a number of times, specifically regarding Keystone XL.
Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford traveled to Washington last month and met with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, also made the journey, where he met with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, a former petroleum engineer.
Threatening open water alternatives
As the U.S. hangs in limbo on the Keystone decision, the government of Alberta has threatened to entertain alternative methods of transportation to reach global markets.
For the oil industry, time is money. The Keystone stall has limited the sale of an estimated $30 billion worth of oil from reaching outside markets.
“Really, it speaks to the important that access to the market has,” Nathan Lemphers, an analyst with the Pembina Institute, told the Alaska Dispatch.
Enbridge Oil has also entered the equation, proposing to increase oil flow from their current 61-year-old pipeline connecting Alberta’s oil fields to a Great Lakes port in Superior, Wis.
Hasn’t Keystone already begun?
For U.S. activists living in the path of the 1,700 pipeline, spanning from Montana to Texas, Harper’s visit isn’t shocking. Signs of pipeline preparation and construction are already being seen.
One county in Montana’s northeast is already preparing for TransCanada contractors. At an April 13 Fallon County Board meeting, local officials discussed a TransCanada Keystone XL “contractor camp,” insinuating preparations are being made to begin construction.
In Nebraska, Nance County Sheriff Dave Moore is calling for enhanced security to deal with opposition to the pipeline, once construction begins. Environmental advocates, farmers and ranchers worry the pipeline would leave them susceptible to oil spills of the magnitude seen in Mayflower, Ark., where more than 500,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into a residential community.
Moore indicated he would rely on the state patrol troopers and is looking to the federal government to provide necessary support.
In Oklahoma, activists are attempting to halt the pipeline by attaching themselves to machinery already at work in the project. On April 22, 61-year-old Alec Johnson was arrested after doing just that.
“I am personally amazed at how resistance to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and education as to what tar sands exploitation looks like continues to grow every day,” Johnson said. “Because it would be irresponsible, we’re not stopping until the industry stops poisoning our future with lies, unnecessary risks and death for their profit. As long as the tar sands industry promises it will kill, we will blockade.”
In the Gulf of Mexico, a refinery intended to process Alberta’s tar sands oil was recently unveiled. The Motiva Oil Refinery, located in Texas, was renovated through a partnership between Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi oil company, Saudi Aramco.
A 2011 report published in Bizmology indicated the expansion was designed to handle tar sands from Canada. The only way to the expansion will be transportation through Keystone XL.
The partnering companies spent a combined $10 billion on the refinery makeover, insinuating the business plan was executed on the solid understanding that all would work out.