Energy Ink

Rhetoric gets turned up around Keystone XL

But a limp U.S. economy will win the day for TransCanada’s project

Guest Post

September 28, 2011

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It’s been another wild month for TransCanada Corp.’s $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline as a decision by the U.S. State Department on the controversial megaproject draws near. Hundreds of protesters descended on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill this week to voice their opposition to the conduit, which would send Alberta oil sands crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

South of the border, things aren’t going a whole lot better. A TransCanada representative is being accused of flouting U.S. lobbying rules while trying to convince the Obama administration to approve Keystone XL. And the University of Nebraska abruptly ended a sponsorship with the Calgary-based pipeline company after fans attending a college football game in the state capital of Lincoln booed a video that featured TransCanada’s logo. (Note to TransCanada: upset the fans of the state’s beloved Cornhuskers football team at your peril.)

But TransCanada, perhaps sensing it’s been losing the public relations battle on this one of late, hasn’t taken these assaults lying down. On Monday it issued a press release announcing it is launching a series of ads featuring University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Jim Goeke. In the ads, Goeke will tell Nebraskans they need not fear that a spill on Keystone XL will contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, which the pipeline will pass over on its route to the Gulf Coast. The aquifer provides the state with the majority of its drinking water.

Meanwhile, at a State Department public hearing on the pipeline in Port Arthur, Texas – a town that apparently has never met a refinery or a pipeline it didn’t like – the project was hailed as a job creator by most of the 500 people in attendance.

But does any of this noise really matter? You may have noticed the American economy isn’t doing so hot these days and President Barack Obama is under increasing pressure to do something, anything, to create jobs. There might be a certain amount of puffery in TransCanada’s claims that the Keystone XL project will create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs and inject $20 billion into the U.S. economy, but it’s a big enough undertaking that it will certainly put many Americans to work, temporarily anyway.

So do jobs concerns trump environmental concerns for Obama with an election year looming? I think they do. All this bluster on both sides about the Keystone XL won’t stop the State Department from approving this thing.

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2 Responses to “Rhetoric gets turned up around Keystone XL”

  1. Meagan says:

    Well according to one person who attended the State Dep’t hearing in Port Arthur, those 500 pro-pipeline, pro-jobs people were actually bused in from elsewhere by TransCanada…from:

    This report comes from Kathy DeSilva from Port Arthur, TX: “I attended and spoke at the Port Arthur State Dept. meeting last night. I left with the feeling of being scammed. We arrived 45 minutes early to sign up, & found hundreds of oil field workers already in line (having been bused in) wearing navy blue or orange matching t-shirts, bold lettering: BUILD KEYSTONE XL NOW! GOOD JOBS! U.S. SECURITY! Once we were allowed to sign up to speak (at a table staffed by Cardno Entrix, according to their name tags) we entered the room to find the first 8-10 rows, (left side:suits, right side: oil field workers), filled by these individuals and their slogans. This after being told we could not bring any signs into the meeting? The 2 microphones were set up in the middle, just behind the last rows of bright shirts. When one stood up to speak, these were the only people in the field of vision. The first 40 or so speakers were for the pipeline (having been bused in & stood in line to sign up first). They were told their time limit was 3 minutes, but it was not strictly enforced. Once people started speaking in opposition, we were told it was getting so late, the time was now 2 minutes (strictly enforced). On the sign up table, there was a stack of papers entitled, “Fact Sheet, Keystone XL Pipeline”. No where in this publication is tar sands oil referred to, just “crude oil”. The paper ends with these words: ABOVE ALL ELSE, THE DEPARTMENT IS COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF A TRANSPARENT, IMPARTIAL, AND RIGOROUS PROCESS. After driving 4 hours to attend and speak at this meeting, I feel like it was a scam and in no way transparent, impartial and rigorous.”

    • Darren Campbell says:

      Hi Meagan:

      Thanks for the comment. Interesting stuff there. Port Arthur has a very petroleum-based economy, so I wasn’t surprised to read that many people at the meeting were in favour of Keystone. But stacking the hearing with pro-pipeline supporters – if that’s what happened – is very low.

      But the Keystone XL has become the battleground for both the industry and its critics regarding the future of the oil sands. There’s a lot at stake here and there’s lots of political machinations going on.