Keystone Kops halt US-Canada pipeline, and target another
White House, environmentalists and U.S foundations seek to block all oil sands development
by Duggan Flanakin and Redmond Weissenberger
Oilfield workers in Alberta, refinery workers in Texas and countless factory workers just learned that the White House will not allow construction of an oil pipeline that would bring over half a million barrels of oil a day from Canada’s Alberta Province and North Dakota’s Bakken Field to refineries in Texas and Louisiana. The job-killing decision was a victory for radical environmentalists and well-heeled U.S. foundations that have long battled Canadian oil sands companies and the U.S. oil and gas industry.
President Obama says Congress gave him insufficient time to examine environmental issues. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP can reapply, he added, if it reroutes the pipeline around Nebraska’s Oglala Aquifer and Sand Hills area and addresses other concerns. In the meantime, the Administration insists, the project “would not serve the national interest.”
Project supporters called the President’s decision “preposterous,” and urged Congress to craft a way to gain approval without White House involvement.
“The rationales for rejecting the project are nothing but dissembling, red herrings and hot air,” CFACT policy advisor Paul Driessen commented. “They are as credible as a Keystone Kops movie.”
The application for this project and pipeline route was submitted in 2008, Driessen noted. The Administration has had ample time to review every aspect. “This is the same White House that demanded passage of a healthcare bill that no one in Congress had a chance to read, much less study and understand, before it was presented for final vote. To claim that two months was not enough time to study a proposal that had already been studied three years is absurd,” he said.
The Keystone XL project would ensure jobs, affordable energy and national security, which Mr. Obama insists he supports. His rejection demonstrates that his real goal is to reduce energy supplies, raise energy prices, and destroy jobs that are not part of the Administration’s government-subsidized and directed “green jobs” agenda, Driessen and others say. Moreover, dozens of pipelines already cross the Oglala region; another well-designed pipeline would hardly pose an unacceptable threat.
Even the Washington Post editorial board says “Obama’s Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept” – especially coming one day after the President said the United States still needs inexpensive hydrocarbon energy, pipelines and a strong energy infrastructure. Quoting from government reports, the Post noted that the pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.”
Few Americans or Canadians were surprised by the announcement. TransCanada spokesman Jim Prescott had previously told a Houston newspaper, “It has become a political piñata … that the activist community and environmental community have used to drive a larger … anti-oil agenda.”
Killing Keystone is just one part of a grand strategy that includes closing off Asian and U.S. markets from the oil; banning exploration and production across Canada and the United States; and even shutting down existing operations that radical greens call “blood oil,” in an insulting comparison to diamond mining in African regions torn by conflict and brutality.
Indeed, the same coalition fighting the Keystone project has spent hundreds of millions of dollars from U.S. foundations to shut down Canada’s entire vital and profitable oil sands oil operation – even though it increasingly uses less water and energy, emits less pollution and carbon dioxide, and relies more on in situ steam injection than surface mining. Radical environmentalists also oppose Canada’s Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast, to facilitate shipment by tanker to Asia.
Canada’s government recently began public hearings on the Northern Gateway proposal. Opponents won a major victory when Chief Hearing Officer Sheila Leggett, Vice Chair of Canada’s National Energy Board, decided to let foreign citizens, foreign lobbyists and even foreign governments take part in what will now likely be a protracted and rancorous public hearing circus.
“The world’s Canada-bashers laughed [at Leggett’s decision], then signed up to testify,” Ezra Levant observed in the Calgary Sun. “Almost 5,000 of them have signed up, including Hugo Chavez’s state-owned oil company CITGO, foreigners from Uruguay to Louisiana to Italy to Austria, Captain Jack Sparrow,” and somebody called “Cave Man.”
“But the biggest threat isn’t the clowns,” Levant added. “It’s the well-paid foreign professional lobbyists who used Leggett’s weakness to take over the process – pros like the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation,” which Levant says spent $200,000 to hire the West Coast Environmental Law Foundation to try to block development of the pipeline and tanker port. But that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Vivian Krause, writing in Canada’s Financial Post, says the thinking behind U.S. funding against Canadian oil was explained in a 2007 strategy paper, “Design to win: Philanthropy’s role in the fight against global warming,” funded largely by the Hewlett Foundation. Even earlier, Hewlett had paid Tides Canada to develop a strategic plan to fight oil and gas development in British Columbia.
Overall, Krause reports, U.S. foundations alone granted at least $300 million over the last decade to various environmental organizations and campaigns in Canada; half went to three campaigns. The Pew Foundation (heirs to Sun Oil!) gave $57 million to the Boreal Forest Initiative, which seeks to place fully one-third of Canada into protected areas and parks – off limits to logging, mining, hydroelectric, new roads, and oil and gas production, while accommodating traditional hunting, fishing and gathering.
Through the George & Betty Moore Foundation, Intel founder George Moore worked with Tides Canada to give $30 million to First Nations to create a Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area, which targets only that small part of the north coast of B.C. that includes the proposed oil tanker port site. The Great Bear Rainforest Initiative seeks to set aside 21 million hectares (52 million acres – the equivalent of Kansas) from Vancouver Island to Alaska, supposedly to protect the Kermode bear (aka Great Spirit Bear) but really to serve as the Great Trade Barrier against oil exports to Asia.
First Nation groups have received at least $50 million from U.S. foundations, Krause reports, ostensibly to lead the fight against oil pipelines. A newly emerging big player is the Sea Change Foundation, funded by Jim and Nathaniel Simons of Renaissance Technologies LLC, a $15 billion hedge fund.
Terence Corcoran of Canada’s National Post added that jet-setting, oil-consuming movie celebrities like Robert Redford, James Cameron, Darryl Hannah and Leonardo DeCaprio have also lent their personas to movements “aimed at shutting down large portions of the Canadian economy.” One wonders if they, too, are being paid with “blood money” from U.S. foundations created through wealth accumulated from fossil fuels, mining and other industries now in environmentalist cross-hairs.
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Cabinet have taken a far different tack with the Northern Gateway hearings than the White House did with Keystone. While President Obama hemmed and hawed on the central question of whether Keystone XL would be in America’s best interest, Canadian Natural Resources Minister made it clear that his government supports both Gateway and Keystone.
In an unprecedented open letter, Oliver asserted, “For our government, the choice is clear: we need to diversify our markets, to create jobs and economic growth for Canadians…. We must expand our trade with the fast growing Asian economies … to help ensure the financial security of Canadians and their families.”
Oliver went on to denounce “environmental and radical groups” whose goal is “to stop any major project, no matter the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams. These groups … seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. “
Oliver lambasted foreign special interest groups for trying to undermine Canada’s economy, and ridiculed “jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world” for daring to “lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources” and using lawsuits as a last resort to obstruct industrial progress.
The opposition has done its research, invested wisely and heavily, and expects to win. The Harper government has pledged to fight for a prosperous future against the eco-imperialists of Deep Ecology, who use industry-based fortunes to control and hamstring the lives and livelihoods of current and future generations. The stakes are high; our very futures depend on the outcome of these twin battles.
President Obama must face the very real likelihood that the radicals he is placating over Keystone XL will be unable to block oil shipment to China or elsewhere in Asia. The net result will be no American jobs and no environmental gains – not even questionable or imaginary gains.
The oil will be extracted, transported overseas and burned under less rigorous pollution rules and controls, to create better jobs and lives for people across the Pacific Ocean. That will leave Americans with none of the energy or employment benefits that Mr. Obama insists he is committed to creating – and the global environment with none of the land use, air and water quality or climate benefits that the White House proclaims will be its lasting legacy.
Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow’s Texas office. Redmond Weissenberger is director of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.