Monday, November 9, 2015

Is Keystone finally dead?

It depends on how you look at.  As far as getting the necessary EPA approvals to go through key stretches of environmentally sensitive land, the deal is dead, at least for the time being.  However, about 40 per cent of the pipeline has already been built and is pumping "dirty oil" through the US.  One way or another, this project will probably be finished, even if it has to bypass key sections that would have reduced the length of its flow.

Obama seems to have waited until he got a sympathetic government in Ottawa.  Stephen Harper, the former conservative MP, was the one who pushed this project the past 10 years.  It was all about getting Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would have greater access to international markets.  It was never about jobs or providing oil to the US.  That flow never stopped.  In fact, it greatly helped Harper fund this project.  However, with oil prices currently very low, Canada is finding it now has a glut, so there is little need for this additional crude oil.

The President has other worries though, as the new Canadian government isn't excited at all about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Stephen Harper had also endorsed.  Canada is a key player in this agreement.

Keystone XL has not been a hot issue on the Republican campaign trail, but will probably now be mentioned as one more awful reminder of how bad the Obama administration is.  The pipeline never was going to offer the jobs the Republicans claimed, nor benefit the US economy in any appreciable way.  It was nothing more than a convenient route for Canada to get its tar sands oil to US refineries and to international markets.

However, reason very rarely wins out on the campaign trail.  Keystone served Republican interests by showing how friendly they are to oil and other big businesses, and that this is the only way to get out of an economic crisis like the one they generated.  I guess their adage is to fight fire with fire, until everything burns down.  It really has been hard to figure out how they can get away with this pretzel logic, as Steely Dan once sang, but they do.  There is a very gullible audience out there that thinks that the only good business is big business and the only way this nation survives is with plenty of oil pumping through it.

We've all heard how the Koch Brothers stood to benefit the most from this pipeline, given their vast land holdings along the proposed route, as well as their vested interest in TransCanada oil.  They may not make $100 billion off Keystone XL but they will do quite well with or without White House approval.  Not surprisingly, they had been fueling quite a number of campaigns to promote Keystone, which I imagine they will continue to do.

For President Obama it is a political victory of sorts, in that it finally gets this monkey off his back.  It also allows him to be seen as a friend of the environment, drawing support from Bill McKibben and others for standing up to Big Oil and citing the effect on climate as his reason for this long deferred decision.  One only wishes he would have shown the same backbone to Shell Oil.

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