The Canadian government has nearly doubled its spending to promote the Keystone XL pipeline to $16.5 million, up from $9 million a year ago.
This dramatic spending increase is a result of an increased lobbying effort the government is planning, which includes high-profile ad buys and dispatching a series of officials to reiterate talking points that the pipeline will increase U.S. energy security and provide us with thousands of home-grown jobs.
Their expanded lobbying efforts include Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper traveling to New York City to speak with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and participate in roundtables with American business leaders. During his Q&A session with the CFR, Mr. Harper advocated for approval of the pipeline, insisting it would add “almost nothing globally” to carbon emissions.
Harper’s claim just isn’t true — extracting crude from the oil sands is an incredibly energy intensive process that emits 3 to 4 times more greenhouse gases than producing conventional crude oil, making it one of the world’s dirtiest forms of fuels. Approving Keystone would more than double the production of carbon-intensive tar sands by 2024, leading to an increase in greenhouse gases equivalent to adding 8 million cars on the road every year. Without the pipeline, tar sands production is expected to fall flat by 2020.
Harper also said the US should not “turn up” its nose at the potential of 40,000 construction jobs nor the prospect of being able to reduce its dependence on oil shipped in from overseas.
Again, Harper is just avoiding the facts — the State Department released a draft environmental impact statement earlier this year that found the pipeline would directly only create “3,900″ temporary construction jobs. After construction is complete, the operation of the pipeline would support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, with “negligible socioeconomic impacts.” The State Department’s report, which was written by a private consulting firm with links to the pipeline’s owner, also made clear that at least some of Keystone’s oil will be refined and exported in response to “lower domestic gasoline demand and continued higher demand and prices in overseas markets.” The pipeline will add nothing to U.S. energy security and is simply a way for the oil industry to sell refined fuel at higher prices available overseas.
In addition to winning America’s approval of the pipeline, Canadian officials are fighting against a European Union plan that would label tar sands as more polluting than crude oil. According to Reuters, the EU’s executive commission developed a Fuel Quality Directive as part of a plan to cut greenhouse gases from transport fuel that would single out Alberta’s oil sands as more polluting than conventional crude oil, a move that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said is unfair and could damage Canada’s bid to find new export markets.
Dr. James Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, accused the Canadian government of acting as the industry’s tar sands salesman and “holding a club” over the UK and European nations to accept its “dirty” oil. “Oil from tar sands makes sense only for a small number of people who are making a lot of money from that product,” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “It doesn’t make sense for the rest of the people on the planet. We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable.”
While Canada may be ramping up their bid to receive approval of their pipeline, the bottom line is that Keystone is a gateway to a huge pool of carbon-intensive fuel, most of which must be left in the ground if humanity is to avoid a devastating climate impacts that may be beyond any plausible plans of “adaptation.”
Tiffany Germain is a Senior Climate/Energy Researcher in the Think Progress War Room.