This weekend, the Keystone XL decision came back with the recommendation to have a new environmental assessment, which essentially means that TransCanada needs to go through the 2-3 process all over again. The comment that my cousin once told my motley crew of friends after failing to do something classy yet again seems to ring true: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”
For the United States, the “nice things” of stable supply of oil from their closest ally (in distance, culture and regulatory climate) won’t materialize, while for Canada, the dream of a pipeline from northern Alberta to the southern US and all the revenue that would have come with it will not materialize for a while yet.
The troika of an upcoming election, NIMBYism and forceful environmentalism ensured the pipeline wouldn’t be approved for the end of this year. While it won’t change American energy habits or save the environment, it can change the way that Canada trades with the world.
Before I start sounding like I cut down rain forests in my spare time for fun, I just wanted to say that as an individual, I weigh my choices through the environmental lens all the time through actions like carpooling/transit, less red meat and lower electricity usage.
But I don’t think that we as a society can continue to consume energy like its going out of style and then demonize the people who produce and transport said energy. We can’t protest just for the sake of protesting and then wonder why we didn’t make change. Just like in the international marketplace, you can’t be for free markets on the way up and then protectionist on the way down.
Even though it seems that most of the Calgary oil & gas companies were counting on Keystone to be the path to send more of our energy exports down south, this decision might actually be a blessing in disguise. Though this horse has been beaten to death, the future of the global economy lies in the developing world and their rising middle class. Canada needs to look to other markets (eastward, westward, and more southward) and projects like Gateway will help us to slowly move all our eggs from the Star Spangled basket.