Lawrence Solomon: Favour free markets, not Keystone XL

(September 17, 2013) Cutting carbon dioxide emissions to appease Obama would hobble the Canadian economy.

This article was first published by the National Post.

Until recently, Canadians had no good reason to oppose TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline. This pipeline is both economic and environmental, it’s safer than most alternatives and it enhances North American energy security. But for raw politics — President Obama rewarding the environmental lobby that helped elect him — the Keystone pipeline would have been approved long ago.

Now we have learned that Prime Minister Harper has given Canadians a reason to oppose Keystone. As reported by CBC, CTV, Bloomberg and other media outlets, Harper agreed to meet Obama’s demand that Canada lower its greenhouse gas emissions, in some accounts by having Canada’s oil and gas sectors cut back on their emissions. Put another way, to obtain Obama’s approval to build the Keystone pipeline, Harper is indicating that he’s prepared to hobble other parts of the Canadian economy, and to surrender some sovereignty to the whims of Obama.

Perhaps Harper’s reportedly defeatist letter asking for “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” is merely a ploy, designed to highlight the hypocrisy in U.S. demands that we reduce our emissions while the U.S. oil and gas sectors have been going gangbusters — the U.S. will soon become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. Perhaps Harper has no intention to impose meaningful shackles on our oil and gas sector, thinking he can snooker Obama as thoroughly as others have. Or perhaps Harper simply has concluded that Keystone’s economic value dwarfs the economic losses elsewhere, justifying global warming concessions by Canada.

Whatever his calculation, the never-ending melodrama that is Keystone, whereby ministers of the crown and our prime minister himself go cap-in-hand to the U.S. to plead for what would ordinarily be a routine approval — a “no-brainer,” in Harper’s own words —has become unseemly. Let TransCanada do its own lobbying. Let the oil companies that would ship via Keystone make their own way — there are no shortages of alternatives to Keystone. Most of all, let our leaders act as statesmen, not as salesmen.Advertisement

Canada is much more than Keystone and needs much more than Keystone to fully capitalize on our energy wealth. Because the world faces a fossil fuel glut in the future — the torrents of new shale oil and gas that increasingly flood world markets could themselves be swamped by next-generation methane hydrate fuels — Canada’s energy resources could depreciate if left to stagnate in the ground. Instead of playing other sectors of the Canadian economy as chips in some high-stakes game of pipeline poker, Harper should affirm Canadian sovereignty — and confirm U.S. fecklessness — by fast-tracking energy projects of all description.

The environment as well as the economy would thank Harper. The earth is the greenest it’s been in decades, satellite photos reveal, thanks largely to carbon dioxide emissions, aka nature’s fertilizer. Pronouncements by editorial writers to the contrary, most top scientists have long disputed global warming alarmism. And as leaked copies of the IPCC’s new report reveals, the science-bureaucrats that run the IPCC have themselves scaled back their scary scenarios.

The electorate might well also thank Harper, just as it thanked Australia’s most famous climate skeptic, Tony Abbott, the country’s new prime minister who just came to power in a landslide victory that was viewed as a referendum on carbon taxes. Harper fears that the Canadian public would reject an unabashedly pro-energy platform on climate change grounds but he has no reason to do so – based on my Access to Information requests, the government has done no polling to determine Canadians’ attitudes to climate change. If it did, it would find that concern is a mile wide and a micron thick – as shallow as it is in the U.S. and Europe, where most neither see global warming as dangerous nor blame humans. Tony Abbott – the statesman – brashly put global warming on the ballot and his resource-rich country rewarded him with a massive win. Stephen Harper – the statesman – should do no less, and expect no less.

Don’t promote Keystone, Mr. Harper, promote a free economy, of which Keystone would be a small part. If we can’t have both, let’s have the latter.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group.

This article was first published by the National Post.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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