Canada's sand oil Polluting and Environmentally Non-friendly

By shariff mohammed | 04.02.2014

Is Canada's sand oil - one of the world's largest proven crude reserves - more polluting and environmentally non-friendly? Would providing it with an assured market result in increased levels of greenhouse gas emission? Emissions from oil sands projects have already pushed Canada's greenhouse gas emissions above the target it agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The debate on the 1,179 miles long Keystone XL pipeline, connecting heavy crude oil from bitumen deposits in Canada to the southeastern refining network of the United States, is revolving around the issue of greenhouse gas emission. Environmentalist are up against the project, whereas, the energy industry is all for it - terming it as a major component of the possible North American energy independence. President Obama, having deferred a decision on the pipeline earlier in the election year, needs to make a decision now.

The time is fast approaching. And the overall sentiments in the U.S. establishment seems to be getting into favor. A win-win solution is being looked at. Possibility of controlling Canadian emissions in lieu of permission to build the pipeline is being discussed. For people in Ottawa and Washington know that pipeline or no pipeline,  the same amount of oil would be extracted in Alberta anyway.

Conceding that using a barrel of Albertan oil emits 17% more greenhouse gas than the average barrel refined in the United States, a State Department review released on January 31, also underlined that the development of the Alberta oil sands is driven by many more factors than a single pipeline, rejecting the argument that stopping the pipeline would - in any way- thwart its development. “The dominant drivers of oil sands development are more global than any single infrastructure project.”

The U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has termed pipelines safer, cheaper and cleaner as against the shipment of crude oil by rail. "What we probably need is more of a pipeline infrastructure and to diminish the need for rail transport over time," he said in an interview published on the Capital New York website. "Frankly, I think pipeline transport probably has overall a better record in terms of cost, in terms of emissions and in terms of safety."

Former U.S. interior secretary Ken Salazar was also reported as saying on February 5 that in his view the administration should approve the (Keystone pipeline) transporting oil to refineries on the US Gulf coast. And adding his voice to this growing clamor, the former head of the US Geological Survey (USGS), and the current editor-in-chief of Science magazine too has endorsed building the pipeline.

There are political connotations - to the entire conundrum. The pipeline runs through areas that have been losing population for an extended period of time.  And with the exception of Montana. all are staunch Republican strongholds. But it’s also noteworthy that the direct and indirect construction jobs from the project are going to end up in these very states, attracting new job seekers to the region too, reversing the trend. No wonder, the project is not only supported by Republicans - regarded as close to the industry - but also by Democrats in the oil and gas-producing states. They also have to face electorate!

With surge in U.S. domestic crude output looming large, approval of the pipeline before the well of interest dries up remains strategically important to Canada.

The pipeline not only adds to the North American energy security, it is also of strategic importance to Canada. It would help launch Ottawa on the global energy map in a big way. If the country doesn't have the infrastructure to transport its energy riches, and ultimately export, it will miss opportunity to sell oil at market value.

Despite the current push, if Keystone gets stalled - Ottawa will look at other markets. Prime Minister Harper has been hinting it for some time now. His visits to China were seen in that perspective.

A new energy star is in making. Keystone or no Keystone, Ottawa is determined to pursue its energy ambitions. The conservative Harper government is all for it!

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