MLA Report: Keystone

Posted Under: Angela Pitt

It is disappointing to hear that US presidential hopeful Joe Biden is taking critical time away from his campaign to criticize Alberta’s natural resources, and threaten to scrap the Keystone XL Pipeline project. In a time where Canada and the United States are in a financial crisis due to an unprecedented global pandemic, and economic contraction, you would think that a person vying for the US presidency would want to partner with his greatest ally instead of villainizing them for political gain. 

There are some misconceptions that I would like to clear up for Mr. Biden. Recently, he referred to Alberta’s oil sands as “tar sands”. A term that is very outdated, and coined in the industry in the 1800’s, and now used by environmental zealots to inaccurately describe Alberta’s natural resources. If Biden wants to be taken seriously, he should consider using accurate terms to describe the industry he wants to shut down. 

Further, he indicated that the US would gradually transition to “clean economy”. I would like to know how he defines this, as there is much debate on what really constitutes a clean economy. There are no standard definitions or data that can clearly tell people what this economy entails. What we do know is that, the global demand for oil is not going away. If we want ethical and responsible production, then Alberta should be able to step up to plate without hinderance. 

There is a major opportunity for Canada to play a significant role in addressing climate change, while meeting the world’s growing demand for affordable and reliable energy by substituting coal with Canadian natural gas. Using natural gas to generate electricity produces half as many GHGs as coal, and virtually eliminates the harmful air pollution related to burning coal, thus improving environmental impact. 

Alberta is a key player in the energy industry, and the presidential hopeful should respect that. The truth is that Alberta continues to be one of the highest investors into environmental protections compared to other provinces. Canada leads the world in air quality, and environmental and community health. Often other countries seek out Canadian energy because of our country’s strong environmental regulations, ethical business practices and leading technical expertise. Is that what Joe means by a clean economy?

The most dismaying of the former Vice-President’s comments, in reference to Keystone XL, were that “[I]t does not economically, nor, in my view, environmentally, make any sense.” That is simply not true. This global pandemic and recession have serious implications for the livelihoods of those working in the energy sector and the broader provincial economy. The Keystone XL pipeline project represents a literal lifeline of those struggling to make ends meet in our province and on the other side of the border. Our government would not have invested into the project if it wasn’t tied to our province’s vital long-term economic interests.

Keystone XL will put 12,000 Canadians to work and will generate billions of dollars of employment income for Canadian and U.S. workers at a time when they need it most. Surely, Biden would be able to explain his reasoning to unionized construction workers who would be out of the job if he follows through with his plan to squash one of the most researched and planned pipelines in the history of pipelines. Keystone is a win for those who will work on the pipeline, and for the local businesses where they spend their hard-earned pay cheques. Post-COVID, the highest priority for governments should be jobs and the economy, and not “wishful thinking” ideological schemes. 

In a time where politics in the US are so divisive, it is hard to understand why Biden, who is contending for one of the most coveted jobs in America, would threaten a project with widespread bipartisan support that has clear economic and quality of life benefits. And, will help ease reliance on heavy crude from countries that do not respect human rights and have less stringent environmental protections like Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Sounds like Biden might be taking political direction from Alberta’s NDP. 

While I am disappointed in the comments from the presidential hopeful, I will not speculate about the outcome of the upcoming US election. However, I will encourage candidates and politicians down south to educate themselves on the energy sector, and what the future of oil and gas looks like for the world because demand is not going anywhere.

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