The reason the delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline was so damaging to American economic and national-security interests was that at some point Canada would throw their hands up and, rather than pipe oil from the Alberta tar sands down to the Gulf Coast refineries, opt to pipe it to Vancouver and put it on tankers for China.
And after six years of delay, that is precisely what has happened.
Canada’s government on Tuesday approved a controversial pipeline proposal that would bring oil to the Pacific Coast for shipment to Asia, a major step in the country’s efforts to diversify its oil exports if it can overcome fierce opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups.
Approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project was expected as Canada needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The project’s importance has only grown since the U.S. delayed a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The northern Alberta region has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.
Enbridge’s pipeline would transport 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China. About 220 large oil tankers a year would visit the Pacific coast town of Kitimat and opponents fear pipeline leaks and a potential tanker spill on the pristine Pacific coast.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada’s national interest makes the pipelines essential.
He was “profoundly disappointed” that U.S. President Barack Obama has delayed a decision on the Texas Keystone XL option, and spoke of the need to diversify Canada’s oil industry. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.
Meanwhile, Mary Landrieu is still “working” on getting Keystone XL done.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday voted mostly along party lines to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada, passing a bill backed by chair Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is running for re-election.
The bill passed on a 12-10 vote, with just Landrieu and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as the only Democrats voting in favor. All 10 Republicans voted for the bill.
The measure faces an uncertain future in Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that Republicans rejected their chance to vote on a Keystone approval bill last month. Landrieu on Wednesday pledged to seek a floor vote, despite opposition by a majority of Senate Democrats to congressional approval.
That will never pass the Senate. But it doesn’t even matter anymore. The Democrats waited so long that it doesn’t even matter. Canada’s oil will go to China, and the opportunity for cheap fuel for the American economy will be lost.
UPDATE: The first reaction we’ve seen is from Rep. Bill Cassidy’s office…
“This President’s refusal to build the Keystone XL pipeline is forcing our closest ally to create jobs in China rather than here in the U.S. The Senate should be focused on creating jobs—not enabling the President’s hostility to oil and gas jobs. The President must stop disregarding thousands of workers, the people he is supposed to represent, who want these jobs. American workers are ready to build—the President and Senator Reid should let them.”