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Thursday, 13 March 2014 07:11

Canadian Government Shouldn't Spend Taxpayer Dollars Shilling for the Keystone XL Pipeline

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aharperobamaNorth American "Petro-Machismo" Leaders Barack Obama and Stephen Harper (Photo: Wikipedia)

Anyone in the US who is still under the illusion that the Canadian national government is enlightened and progressive has not been following the right-wing policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party.

Harper makes George W. Bush look like a moderate. 

Nothing represents how far Canada has gone from being a government for the people -- and a good citizen of the world -- than Harper's relentless drive to develop Alberta tar sands oil production, build new high-volume pipelines in Canada and the US (including, of course, the northern section of the Keystone XL) and steadfastly support the large Canadian extraction industry, known for its exploitation of labor and toxic pollution domestically and particularly in Latin and South America.

Yet, it is still a bit shocking that the government of Canada is sponsoring (and paying for with Canadian taxpayer money, one can assume) a deceitful public relations campaign to push for the Keystone XL northern route and tar sands production as environmentally friendly.  You can find the website version of this propaganda as click-throughs in publications such as The Hill, filled with jingoistic articles such as the first one: "America and Canada: Standing together for energy independence." A writer in a progressive publication recently called this kind of fossil fuel bragging "petro-machismo."

One page on the Canadian government PR site is called, "Canada: A World Environmental Leader in the Oil and Gas Sector." Boasts on this page are so disingenuous, they make the Ottawa government sound like it is saving the Earth instead of contributing to its premature destructive unraveling:

    • Canada is one of the few major suppliers of crude oil to the Gulf Coast taking concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
    • Its world-class  environmental  monitoring system is founded on science and transparency.
    • The province of Alberta is the first North American jurisdiction with mandatory GHG reduction targets for large industrial GHG emitters, including the oil sands.
    • Innovation and research drives improvement in the oil sands – GHG emissions have dropped 26 per cent per barrel between 1990 and 2011.

As a major world energy producer, Canada is constantly looking for ways to ensure that its oil and gas reserves are developed responsibly, within a framework of strong environmental protection....

Canada’s oil sands are already subject to provincial regulations that are driving investment in new environmental research and bringing emissions down through technological innovation. Alberta has regulations that require large oil sands operators to either reduce emissions or contribute money toward innovative research to improve the environmental performance of the industry.

Canada, in partnership with Alberta, is also putting in place a world-class oil sands monitoring system, which ensures that the environmental impacts from oil sands extraction are both known and reported. Its independent, expert environmental regulation is founded on science and transparency and partnership with industry, First Nations and other levels of government.

It's not very reassuring to know that tar sands producers can choose between lowering carbon emissions or contributing to research -- or that the Canadian government will allegedly report the carbon impact, but not necessarily do anything about it as the Earth's atmosphere continues to deteriorate.

On its page (included in the government's website) allegedly focusing on "Keystone XL Pipeline: The Facts," the Harper administration relies heavily on the recent US State Department report greenlighting the northern segment of Keystone XL. The State Department analysis, however, has been hit with allegations that some consultants on the pipeline's impact had a conflict of interest.  Indeed, today The Huffington Post discloses the latest allegations in an article, "Another Firm That Evaluated Keystone for State Department Had Ties to TransCanada":

The contractor that evaluated greenhouse gas emissions for the State Department's Keystone XL report is the latest company to come under fire for its ties to TransCanada, the prospective builder of the controversial pipeline.

conflict-of-interest statement from the consulting firm ICF International, submitted to the State Department in 2012, reveals that the company had done other work for TransCanada.

ICF International analyzed greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil, the kind that would flow through the pipeline, for the State Department's supplemental draft environmental impact statement, released in March 2013. Its website states that the firm was hired to compare life-cycle emissions associated with oil derived from Canada's tar sands to those associated with oil from conventional crude.

The final environmental impact statement (FEIS), released in January 2014, also includes ICF International on its list of preparers, with ICF staffers working on the greenhouse gas and market analysis portions of the report.

Meanwhile, an article in Eco-News today, "TransCanada Whistleblower’s Evidence Ignored, Keystone XL South Rushed Into Operation," leaves one hardly reassured by the Canadian government's claims on its "push the Keystone XL northern pipeline" website.  According to former TransCanada employee Evan Vokes, the company is ignoring safety hazards in the now open southern segment of Keystone XL:

Time and again, TransCanada’s internal and third-party audit systems have failed to catch the repeated substandard practice of engineering in the construction and maintenance of its pipelines. Unless regulators in Canada and the United States step up to the plate to ensure compliance in the field, future ruptures and risks to Americans are inevitable.

It bears repeating that both articles that raise concerns about the government of Canada's public relations website are just from today.  Other journalism debunking the environmental safeguard assertions of the Ottawa government abound.

Canada's pro-tar sands and fossil fuels industry website makes a dishonest veiled threat:

America faces a choice: It can import oil from Canada – a secure and environmentally responsible neighbor that is committed to North American energy independence – or it can choose less stable offshore sources with much weaker environmental standards.

The statement is mendacious on several accounts, but here are two.  1) Canada supplies the US with oil that while still contributing to climate change is not as destructive as the tar sands production. So there is oil that is contributing to an atmospheric catastrophe -- and there is tar sands oil that is environmental destruction on steroids. 2) It is widely agreed that for the foreseeable future, most of the tar sands oil flowing through a completely new Keystone XL pipeline will be refined in Texas and shipped overseas, not used in the US.

Abandon any illusions of Canada currently being that reasonable nation to the north with humanistic policies.  Right now, it is under control of the same kind of fossil fuel industry mafia as in the US -- the Earth be damned.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.