By Tzeporah Berman,
The U.S. State Department handed President Barack Obama a poisoned chalice when it delivered its review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline linking the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Alberta tar sands. Then, the industry and the Harper government made matters worse for themselves.
Leaders of advanced economies know that whatever they may do behind the scenes, they cannot afford to look like they are playing last-century oil baron politics in this age of climate change. But the State Department threw open the curtain by first getting caught hiring oil industry consultants to write “their” report and then giving it to industry and Canadian government ahead of time.
Before the State Department even released its report, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Conservative ministries were spinning the report as a green light. And moments after the release the Harper Conservatives released advertising claiming that the State Department had said Keystone would have “no significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.”
That is a crucial point since Obama has said his approval will hinge on ensuring that the project will not worsen climate change. But the claim was invented (before the report was read) apparently in the hope that the president and his staff will not read their own department’s findings.
In fact, the State Department report finds that Alberta oilsands cause more greenhouse gas emissions than any other oil and that the pipeline would increase American emissions. The report carefully breaks down the expected range of increase in U.S. climate pollution if the pipeline were approved.