Sunday, May 19, 2013
* Transcriptions provided by Climate One at the Commonwealth Club are provided as convenience and reference only. Please listen to the audio before quoting from the transcript to check for accuracy.
[00:00:29] Greg Dalton: Welcome to Climate One at the Commonwealth Club, I’m Greg Dalton. About 25% of America’s imported oil comes from Canada and our neighbors to the north will send even more if a controversial new pipeline goes ahead as planned. The $7 billion Keystone XL Pipeline will deliver about 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands, also known as tar sands, across Montana and several other states to refineries in Texas. The U.S. Department of State recently declared that the pipeline poses limited environmental hazards. Supporters cheered the decision and say their project will create jobs and supply affordable and reliable energy from a friendly source.
Opponents say the filthy tar sands will cause a spike in pollution that is destabilizing our climate and lock the United States into high-carbon transportation fuels for decades to come. President Obama is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline by the end of the year. For the next hour, we’ll discuss environmental and economic aspects of the Keystone XL Project with our live audience in San Francisco and two experts on each side of the debate.
Cassie Doyle is Consul General for Canada here in San Francisco and former Canadian Deputy Minister of Natural Resources. Jason Mark is editor of the Earth Island Institute who recently reported from the Alberta tar sands. Carl Pope is Chairman of the Sierra Club and Alex Pourbaix is President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at TransCanada which is proposing to build the Keystone Pipeline. Please welcome them to Climate One.
Thank you all for coming. Alex Pourbaix, let’s begin with you. Why should the United States approve and build this pipeline?
[00:02:12] Alex Pourbaix: You know I think it really comes down to a number of issues and if you think about it right now, the U.S. consumes about 50 million barrels of oil a day. They produce about 4 million barrels a day so the U.S., on a daily basis, is importing about 11 million barrels of oil per day. And I think it comes down to – and most the forecast that are out there, including the forecast from your federal government, would expect that that oil demand in the U.S. would likely remain stable for many years to come. So we’re at the point where it is very apparent that the U.S. is going to need to continue to import oil for a number of decades and, really, we’re now down to the question of where do you want that oil to come from.
Canada is already the largest importer of oil to the U.S. and we would expect the oil sands with growth of production from the oil sands, we have the ability to add significantly more imports to the U.S. So it’s a question of energy security. If you take a look at the other countries that import oil to the U.S., they are largely countries that in many cases, do not share the values of Americans; in certain cases, are actively against a lot of those values. And to suggest that those other countries are more responsible environmental citizens than Canada really begs comprehension to me. Canada has proven itself to be a very good steward of the environment. We have excellent, transparent environmental rules for the development of our resources. And I think when you get down to the point of where do you want to get your oil from, it is far more compelling to be getting your oil needs from Canada, rather than getting it from other countries such as Libya, Nigeria, or Venezuela.
[00:04:14] Greg Dalton: Carl Pope, why are you opposed to this Keystone XL Pipeline?
[00:04:18] Carl Pope: Well, what you've just heard is a story that says, “Gee, if we approve this, the oil we get – well, in fact, it's some of the filthiest oil in the planet in terms of the way it’s produced, but at least it’s from Canada which is a friendlier country than Libya, I will agree or at least was a week ago. And it will be more secure because it’s next door. The only problem is that will be true if we’re going to import more tar sands oil into the United States and keep it here, but we’re not. This is really an export pipeline. It’s not really an import pipeline. The United States is going to be used as a transit zone and a refining zone. We’re going to take the environmental risks. And by building this pipeline, the people who produce this oil, by their own admission, plan to raise gasoline prices and oil prices in the American Midwest where the tar sands oil currently goes, by sucking more of it into more expensive markets in Latin America and Europe.
The fact is, right now, the American Midwest has the cheapest gas in the country and it has the cheapest gas because it has access to just about as much tar sands oil as it needs with present pipelines. The American Midwest does not need a lot more tar sands oil. The demand is not there, nor is the demand there in Texas and on the Gulf Coast. Those are actually America’s great oil producing regions. This is a little bit like carrying coals to Newcastle. But they’re not going to stay in Newcastle. What’s going to happen with this oil is it will be shipped to refineries in Texas, it will be refined into diesel, some gasoline, some jet fuel, and a large part, perhaps all of that diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline will be exported to Europe and Latin America. The United States will bear the environmental risk, the United States will face higher oil prices. In fact, the State Department estimates that building this pipeline will increase and the official EIS, which Alex is otherwise going to defend – the official EIS says that America’s export bill will go up 1.5%, $6 billion a year, if we build this pipeline in any of its options.
So this is really not what is being presented as. This is not a way to give America more access to affordable, secure tar sands oil or be it dirty. That’s the story you hear. Yes, it’s dirty, but you get these other benefits. We’re not going to get these other benefits. The oil companies are going to make larger profits. That’s who’s going to benefit because the oil is not going to stay in the United States to bring our prices down. They are very clear about the fact that they think prices in the Midwest for oil are too low. They don’t like the fact that we’re not right now paying OPEC prices for oil in the Midwest. We are on the coasts because on the coasts, the oil that comes here is OPEC can manipulate its price. OPEC is not able to manipulate the price in the American Midwest and that’s what they’re trying to change.
[00:07:31] Greg Dalton: We’ll get Cassie and Jason in here a minute. But Alex Pourbaix, your response?
[00:07:35] Alex Pourbaix: Well I’d like to respond on a couple of points. Like the first point I’d like to respond to is this allegation that the vast majority of this oil from Keystone XL will be exported offshore. Let’s just go back to the facts. Every day, the U.S. consumes 19 million barrels of refined products a day and it produces 4 million barrels of oil. So there’s 15 million barrels of imported oil and refined products. As a result, it would be inconceivable for the large portion of those refined products coming from Keystone to be moved offshore. The U.S. pays world price for oil. Canadian oil is some of – probably right now, the cheapest oil that is available to U.S. producers and they are net massively short of refined products in the country. So from time to time, there may be some small amount of refined products that go offshore. But the overwhelming amount of oil that is refined in the Gulf Coast would clearly be intended for the U.S. To move it offshore, you would incur incremental transport charges, why would you take more – spend more money to move it offshore when you have higher value markets in the U.S? So that’s – that would be the first point that I want to make on that.
With respect to this argument about raising prices in the U.S. Midwest, let’s be very clear. The opponents of Keystone XL, you know, quite conveniently interchanged the oil price with refined product price. It is a fact that right now, because of the increasing production of oil from the oil sands and increasing production from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota, we are right now seeing a temporarily depressed price for WTI crude which is priced at Cushing which is Midwest crude. That does not correspond to decreased refined product prices. Right now, refined product prices in the Midwest are exactly the same price. In fact, they’re a little higher than refined product prices in the Gulf Coast and that makes a lot of sense.
The largest refining center in North America is in the Gulf Coast. It not only provides refined products for the Gulf Coast area, it also exports refined products to the U.S. Midwest and to the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. In order to attract refined products to the Midwest, Midwest consumers of refined products actually have to pay more money. They pay the Gulf Coast price plus the transportation to get it up there. The beneficiaries of a depressed WTI price are Midwest refiners. When we add 800,000 barrels of oil, the Keystone Pipeline will remove that bottleneck and allow that WTI barrel to get down to the Gulf Coast. It may increase and probably will increase the price of WTI oil, but what we expect to see is a significant decrease in the price of refined products. Prices of refined products are set in the Gulf Coast. They’re not set in the Midwest. What you’re seeing with depressed WTI is refiners are getting larger margins in the Midwest and they are not passing that margin on to consumers. They are paying Gulf Coast refined products plus transportation.
[00:11:18] Greg Dalton: Let’s get down to one of the other issues which is how this oil compares to other types of oil and its relative carbon intensity toxins. Jason Mark, you’ve been up there and done some reporting. How does Alberta oil compare to other crude oil in terms of its carbon content and other –
[00:11:36] Jason Mark: It’s got a bigger carbon footprint. If you just even take some of the most conservative figures which comes from Cambridge Energy Research Associates, they say that to get a barrel of oil from the Canadian tar sands to the retail pump is 30 to 70% more greenhouse gas-intensive than the average barrel of oil consumed in the United States. Now, if you actually go what’s called well-to-wheels, the whole life cycle, it’s still 5 to 15% more carbon-intensive. Now maybe 5 to 15% doesn’t sound like a huge number, but at this point in time, I don’t think we can afford any increase in greenhouse gas emissions or greenhouse gas intensity. So to say that – and especially some of the new processes that are coming on line, which is called in situ extraction where they inject, you know, steam into the ground, that takes a lot of energy to do that. Canada is using one-fifth of all of its natural gas just to extract tar sands oil. You have to use a lot of energy to create some energy. And so the greenhouse gas intensity is much higher than the average barrel of oil and I think that, to me, is one of the most compelling claims.
I mean I was really surprised, you know the U.S. State Department said that this pipeline will have no significant environmental impact. As a journalist, that felt to me like the classic example of the headline writer not actually reading the story. Because when you go into that report, you see that the State Department itself says that according to a U.S. Department of Energy survey – according to U.S. Department of Energy numbers, oil from the tar sands are 17% more greenhouse gas-intensive. That’s a significant environmental impact to spill all of this oil in the atmosphere and I don’t think we can afford it.
[00:13:15] Greg Dalton: Cassie Doyle, The Globe and Mail, the national newspaper in Canada, recently said that oil sands will single-handedly undo greenhouse gas gains made by weaning the country’s electrical supply off coal according to a report from Environment Canada. It cited that carbon pollution will triple from 2005 to 2020 and by 2020, oil sands will – carbon footprint will be more than the entire province of Quebec. Again, this is according to an Environment Canada study. So Canada’s moving towards clean energy in some ways, the price on carbon in Alberta and British Columbia moving away from coal and yet, your own Environment Ministry says that the oil sands will negate all of those benefits.
[00:13:59] Cassie Doyle: Yeah and then — I’m not sure about those projections exactly, but a couple of things I think are really important. One of them is that there has been significant improvements in the carbon intensity per barrel in the oil sands. So one thing that I think happen sometimes is that we assume that the oil sands production is static when it comes to environmental performance when since 1990, we’ve seen a 30% improvement in the carbon intensity per barrel. And we’re going to see continued improvements on that front given the amount of investment that’s going into technological studies to improve the energy inputs into producing a barrel of oil.
But I do think that Canada — for one thing that’s important to note is, Canada and the U.S. have the very same target on a national level for GHG emissions. That was the target inscribed in Copenhagen of 17% below 2005 in 2020. So we have, I think, a very shared environmental approach when it comes to GHG reductions. And we are very proud of the fact that just last week, we started the legal process to ensure the phase-out of all coal-fired electricity in Canada. And depending on the projections and the report that you’re referencing, there’s some different projections that are being made, but Canada has adopted a GHG reduction target that's exactly the same as the U.S. We are making significant progress when it comes to our electricity fleet and our Minister of Environment has announced that major emitters of GHG will be regulated.
You know, we have been looking to align with a national approach in the United States when it comes to GHG reductions and that’s still, I think, is the interest of the government of Canada. But our Minister of Environment has announced that there will be regulations on GHG emissions and that will include the major emitters in the oil sands.
[00:15:59] Greg Dalton: Well, a lot of people know that governments can announce goals and they often miss them. A lot of governments miss their Kyoto goals and to say that the U.S. has the same 17% goals as – Canada has the same 17% goals of the U.S. isn’t necessarily saying a whole lot because you could miss those goals and—
[00:16:14] Male Speaker: [00:16:14]
[00:16:16] Cassie Doyle: Well—
[00:16:16] Greg Dalton: - currently and—
[00:16:17] Carl Pope: And previously had tougher goals, so—
[00:16:18] Cassie Doyle: Tougher goals, yeah.
[00:16:19] Carl Pope: And they backslide.
[00:16:21] Cassie Doyle: But I do think that it's important that if you compared Canada to any other energy supplier to the U.S., you’re going to find that our environmental regulations are more aligned.
[00:16:34] Greg Dalton: Though the oil sand emissions have already surpassed all the autos in Canada and there is real concern about, you know, that this—you’re going clean in some ways. But these Alberta oil sands or tar sands is this huge carbon pool that could really cause Canada to miss its goals or to export its pollution to the United States. It just seems to be—I’m trying to get the contradiction between—
[00:16:56] Cassie Doyle: Yeah, and perhaps –
[00:16:58] Greg Dalton: - what Canada is doing.
[00:16:59] Cassie Doyle: Perhaps I can just put on the record something that there’s been a lot of misrepresentation on the emissions from the oil sands. They represent about 6.5% of Canada’s emissions right now, 49 megatons in 2010. They are not in any way larger than our transportation emissions. The largest source of emissions in Canada is in the transportation fleet and we have adopted the fuel standards that were initiated here in California that the Obama administration—
[00:17:28] Greg Dalton: The auto efficiency standards. Right.
[00:17:29] Cassie Doyle: --auto efficiency standards. We have the same auto efficiency standards now and are committed to continue to have that alignment with the U.S. But just to put it in perspective, our oil sands emissions, as I said, are 6.5% of the overall emissions in Canada and they represent on a global basis, 0.1% of carbon emissions globally. Because Canada, on its own, contributes about 2% of GHG emissions and our oil sands in comparison to, for instance, the coal-fired fleet in the United States, it’s just over 2% and because I think there’s a lot of misrepresentation out there just in terms of the scale of emissions.
[00:18:09] Greg Dalton: But Canada wants to scale oil sands production so that number’s going to grow and change if this pipeline happens and if this industry grows. There’s a lot of capital investment going into the oil sands. So you agree that that number is going to grow?
[00:18:22] Cassie Doyle: It’s going to grow, but there’s going to be a continued investment in technologies that will reduce the carbon intensity per barrel.
[00:18:30] Greg Dalton: We’re discussing the Keystone XL Pipeline at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club with Cassie Doyle, Consul General for Canada in San Francisco. We also have Jason Mark, an editor at the Earth Island Institute; Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club; and Alex Pourbaix, President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at TransCanada, I’m Greg Dalton. Alex, you’ve been wanting to jump in here, both on the number of emissions and also sort of the baseline that oil sands relative to other types of petroleum. Do you agree that they’re dirtier than conventional crude?
[00:19:02] Alex Pourbaix: Well, it’s always a question of degree, Greg, and I think you know, interestingly, we were just talking about the CERA report. Well—
[00:19:15] Greg Dalton: Cambridge Energy Research Associates?
[00:19:17] Alex Pourbaix: Cambridge Energy Research Associates is one of the most respected energy research firms in the world. And the great news is that all of you here, I just heard from Greg that Dan Yergin who is the chair of CERA is actually going to be speaking so everyone here will get the opportunity to ask him himself what he thinks of it. But in their most recent study, one of the things that—there’s a number of ways that our opponents use to exaggerate the greenhouse gas intensity of the oil sands is number one is this issue of wells-to-wheels versus wells-to-refinery gate. It is a fact that anywhere between 80 and 90% of the greenhouse gas related to a barrel of oil does not come from the production and refining of it. It comes through the combustion of the refined products in the automobiles or at the tailpipe. So right off the bat, we’re talking about a fraction. We’re arguing about a percentage of a fraction.
CERA, in their most recent report, identified one of the errors they found when people looked at relative greenhouse gas is that they were comparing the greenhouse gas intensity of the average barrel of oil sands crude with a barrel of WTI. Well, WTI is a light sweet oil, produces less greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is, is that WTI in no way, shape or form represents the average barrel of refined oil that is consumed by refineries in the U.S. The refineries in the U.S. are increasingly using heavy oil in their refinery runs. That makes sense. Heavy oil is a lot cheaper than light sweet oil, and light sweet oil supplies worldwide are decreasing because it was the highest quality, it was the easiest to find. We’re seeing a slate of oil production across the globe moving increasingly to heavy.
So, you know, when you think about what happens if Canadian oil – no more Canadian oil is allowed to get to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast? Those refineries spent tens of billions of dollars to configure themselves so that they could run these heavier crudes. These heavier crudes are cheaper. If Canadian oil does not get to them, they will source heavy crudes elsewhere in the globe and you will get the same emissions being produced worldwide.
The other comment I would make is there is a big difference between assuming that by stopping Keystone XL, you’re going to stop the development of the oil sands. You heard Cassie talk about it. The oil sands really represent the engine of economic growth for Canada for at least the next five decades. If the U.S. market were to be closed off for incremental barrels of Canadian oil, it is not a fair assumption to assume that the people in the oil sands will stop developing that crude. They’ll continue to develop and produce that crude. They’ll do it reliably and they will do it conscientiously, but it will go to other markets and, you know, the globe and the atmosphere does not respect borders.
[00:22:35] Greg Dalton: Carl Pope, let’s have you respond. There’s a couple of points there. One, that the refineries will get crude oil from somewhere, that this Alberta oil will find a market somewhere, and number three, demand is the problem. It’s all of our cars that create the demand for this stuff. We’re the problem.
[00:22:48] Carl Pope: Well, let’s look at some of the numbers because if you look at the impact of tar sands oil versus other sources, you were saying, well, it’s not a big part of Canada’s total energy – carbon emissions, but that’s not including the result of consuming it. You were saying it’s not that much an important percentage because you're including the well-to-wheel. So the reality is that the world cannot long term – there’s enough conventional crude. If we burned all the conventional crude that there is in the world, we would fry the planet. If we burned all the conventional crude plus a lot of unconventional crude, we’d doubly-fry the planet. We really can’t afford to become dependent on this much oil. You’re right, the issue is demand. But it is not necessarily the case that the only way to change course is just to go after demand. We’re going after demand, Canada is going after demand. I think this is a bad project from a bad industry from a fundamentally good country. I want to be clear. I don't want to trash Canada.
[00:23:53] Carl Pope: We’re not so great. But what we discovered was once you build these facilities, once you build this infrastructure for an oil-dependent economy, it’s much more expensive to move off of an oil-dependent economy. Tar sands oil basically doesn’t make economic sense unless the price of oil is north of $80 a barrel. The world cannot afford to continue to produce huge volumes and consume huge volumes of $80 a barrel of oil. That will make Alberta rich, it will make Saudi Arabia rich, it will make North Dakota rich, it will make Alaska rich, it will make Venezuela and Kuwait rich, but it will impoverish the rest of the world. We need to be putting the dollars that are currently going in to developing the tar sands and that Canada needs to be developing an economy that is not dependent for the next five decades on the growth of the tar sands industry because if the tar sands industry grows for the next five years, Canada’s permafrost will all melt.
[00:24:58] Male Speaker: That's right.
[00:24:59] Carl Pope: We cannot afford in the United States to have Canada give us another fix and this is another fix for our addiction to oil. And we cannot afford to become the transit pipeline for continuing to feed oil to Europe and Latin America. The world needs to get off oil.
[00:25:18] Greg Dalton: Cassie Doyle?
[00:25:20] Cassie Doyle: I just wanted to respond to an assumption that the only thing happening with Canadian energy is the oil sands because, as I mentioned earlier, we do have a mass of hydroelectricity resource in Canada and we also are investing a lot in renewable energies and energy efficiency. So sometimes in these discussions, Canada gets portrayed as being only a purveyor of oil. And, in fact, we do have a very diverse supply of energy and a lot of clean energies, as well as we’re investing in improving the environmental performance of our traditional fossil fuel energy.
[00:25:59] Carl Pope: And I would be delighted to take more of that clean energy and have you move off of – the only – the problem I have is not Canada. The problem I have is this pipeline from this oil source.
[00:26:10] Jason Mark: I mean I just simply don’t understand this argument that, well, if we don’t take it, someone else is going to take it so, therefore, we should take it? I mean, that’s not the question on the table. The question is really is the United States going to be complicit in burning megatons more of carbon dioxide that is going to start – that is going to fuel runaway climate change? I mean, if the Chinese want to jump off the atmospheric version of the Golden Gate Bridge, that doesn’t mean we have to jump off the bridge as well. I mean, I just don’t get it. If this is what – the choice here facing Americans, Alex, is fundamentally, do we want to be consuming more oil? And I am with you. I don’t want to get, you know, lost in the weeds on a conversation about the fractions of a percent.
The question really, as Carl said, is do we continue to make investments that lead us on the path of a carbon-intensive economy or when do we start to make the decisions? When do we make the hard decisions that say we are going to stop using oil or we’re going to decrease our dependence on oil? And this is one of those litmus tests. This is one of those places where we draw a line in the sand. We say we have to start someplace and the place to start is by saying no to the Keystone XL Pipeline because, otherwise, we’ll just keep postponing the future. Oh, we’ll eventually get around to decreasing our dependence on oil. This is a place where we say no, we’re going to make a U-turn and start pursuing a clean energy economy.
[00:27:28] Greg Dalton: Jason Mark is an editor of Earth Island Journal. Let’s hear from Alex Pourbaix from TransCanada.
[00:27:33] Alex Pourbaix: So I think, you know, right off the bat, it’s a question of perspective here and putting things into perspective. So you heard Cassie say earlier, she talked a little bit about the U.S. coal fleet. Once again, I just want to give you a bit of numbers here. There are individual coal plants in the U.S. that produce half the emissions from the entire oil sands. So if in fact the U.S. wants to take a stand, I mean, I would argue there is a far more significant source of greenhouse gas in the U.S. that could have profound implications on greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and the oil sands – you know, the U.S. is going to consume oil at some level, which will probably require imports for a very, very long time. The U.S. can choose to deprive themselves of this source of oil, but the oil is going to be – it is going to be developed, as I said before, and I think there are a lot of easier targets if people really want to make a meaningful impact on reducing greenhouse gas consumption in the U.S.
[00:28:42] Greg Dalton: And those things are happening. We’ve had Jim Rogers, chairman of Duke Energy here, CEO of America’s largest electricity, and he's moving from coal to natural gas. There's a general trend in Canada and elsewhere. They’re putting a price on carbon and moving toward cleaner fossil fuels and renewables. It’s just that the tar sands stand out as this growing exception going in a dirtier direction.
[00:29:05] Alex Pourbaix: Well, it’s funny. I mean, the numbers that I see from the Department of Energy expect – that the actual percentage that coal-fired generation represents of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions is expected to increase over the next decade as that coal fleet is more fully utilized than it is right now. So, in fact, I would argue that although people are looking at different technologies, I am not seeing a groundswell of movement to natural gas generation.
[00:29:31] Carl Pope: Well, let me-
[00:29:32] Alex Pourbaix: Carl spent $50 million.
[00:29:33] Carl Pope: Let me stop for a second because there are some numbers here. In 2005, the United States was about to build 180 new coal-fired power plants. Things like these were investments in a fossil future like what’s happening in the tar sands with Keystone XL. And the citizens’ movements in the United States and economics combined, because both were a factor, caused 155 of those not to be built. In the last three years since my organization began working on it, America’s electric utilities have announced the retirement of 10% of the existing coal fleet and there’s no meaningful number of new coal plants being built in this country. Our coal footprint is enormous, it is criminal, it is toxic, it is coming down.
But it is very interesting when we debate the coal issue with Peabody Coal, they make exactly the same argument that you make. They say, “If you don’t use our coal here in the United States, those people over in China or India are gonna burn it.” That’s the argument they use to rebut our effort to get American investment dollars and American focus on clean energy substitutes.
Keystone XL is making exactly the same argument, “If you don’t take it, it’ll go somewhere else. If we don’t give it to you, you’ll take it from somewhere else." The argument we’re making is, “We don’t need it, we can get off oil." There are actually lots of things that are cheaper as a way of transporting than oil at $80 a barrel. Or $80 a barrel is not a bargain and that’s what tar sands oil has to cost at volume.
We need to move this country, and I would hope that Canada would move itself, but I’m not a Canadian so that’s ultimately up to you. We need to say the fossil fuel era with the 20th century, it’s over and we’re going to invest in the future and that we cannot afford for tar sands oil to be the future.
[00:31:34] Alex Pourbaix: If I could just respond to that. I mean, I think one of the really great things about Keystone is that this is a pipeline. Overall, combined with all the phases, it’s a $13 billion project that is going to put tens of thousands of Americans to work. But the beauty of it is, is that it is being financed 100% with capital from the private sector, TransCanada and the shippers that are shipping oil on this pipeline. If, in fact, there is a world, 10 or 15, or 20 years from now, where Canadian oil is not needed, well, then, there is a really simple solution. That pipeline will run empty. And if it is needed, that pipeline will be available. And the people who are taking the risk are not the American public, they’re the people who are investing and shipping on this pipeline.
[00:32:25] Greg Dalton: Alex Pourbaix is President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at TransCanada. Our other guests today at Climate One are Carl Pope, Chairman of The Sierra Club; Jason Mark, Editor at Earth Island Institute; and Cassie Doyle, the Consul General for Canada here in San Francisco. I’m Greg Dalton. If you’re just joining us, there’s a full version of this program on iTunes in the iTunes store in Commonwealth Club, Climate One.
Cassie Doyle, in 2009, the Catholic Bishop Luc Bouchard, whose area of diocese includes the area in Athabasca where these oil sands are mined, wrote a very detailed letter about the oil sands and said, “The present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified.” What’s your response to that?
[00:33:11] Cassie Doyle: Well, I think at that time, the concern of the Bishop was, really, a very overheated economy, where there were, you know, the cost of housing was high, the cost of labor was certainly high. I think that – I can say that the other side to that story is that the communities around the oil sands have received significant economic benefits from its development in employment, in funding going into companies. For instance, aboriginal companies in the oil sands have received billions of dollars of contracts, have gone into those communities around the oil sands.
So, I mean, like any kind of boom, this is a major energy play, the largest in North America. You’re going to get concerns around kind of an overheating of the economy. But the economic benefits for both Canada and United States of the oil sands development can’t be underestimated. It is a major economic driver.
[00:34:07] Greg Dalton: Jason Mark, you’ve gone to those communities and reported. Give us briefly a little bit of what you saw when you went to these communities.
[00:34:12] Jason Mark: I think what the bishop was talking about, was also the fact that many First Nations feel that the tar sands development is systemically shredding the rights that they have been guaranteed under treaties with the Canadian government. And so, you know, there’s some commentators in Canada, like you said, this dichotomy between supposedly ethical oil from Canada and conflict oil from other countries. I mean the fact is there is no such thing as fair trade gasoline. Conflict and strife follow oil, you know, like white on rice, I don’t know, it’s just part of the package. And you see that conflict in the First Nations communities that are really torn apart. Well, yes, some people have these companies that are doing very well and it isn’t [00:34:50] the economy.
At that same time, many people there feel and see that their traditional cultures and the ecosystems on which they have always depended are really being destroyed. You’ve got one, at least, one First Nation, the Beaver Lake Cree, who filed a lawsuit against both the Canadian federal government and the government of Alberta, saying that their treaty rights have been violated by the tar sands development there. Now it’s going to slog its way through the Canadian courts for quite a while. But if the Canadian Supreme Court were to find that, in fact, this development has violated their First Nation rights, it’s going to be very hard to say that this is ethical oil or that this is somehow better than other places.
I agree with Carl that, yes, the people, the First Nations, the aboriginal peoples of Canada have more rights than, say, the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, or than say, women in Saudi Arabia. But I don’t know that that’s really much of a consolation. I don't think it’s much of a consolation if you’re a First Nations people, if you’re the Beaver Lake Cree, and you’re seeing your homeland being destroyed and you’re being told, “Well, you can either work on our mines, you can take a government handout, or you can starve.” I mean that’s just not very fair.
[00:36:00] Greg Dalton: Cassie Doyle?
[00:36:01] Cassie Doyle: Yeah, let me just say that every project in the oil sands is subject to a very robust environmental regime by both the government of Alberta and the government of Canada. The government of Canada, and that’s where I come from, we know and we respect the fiduciary responsibilities we have to consult with First Nations on any major project. And through that consultation, there has been a significant number of accommodations, as they are called, with economic benefits and those are negotiated with First Nations.
So I just want to make sure that there isn’t sort of a perception that somehow, the rights of aboriginal people are being ignored. They are being carefully, carefully consulted. And a lot of these contracts and employment benefits have been negotiated as part of these projects. They have received – they are per capita, doing better than most aboriginal groups in any other part of our country.
[00:37:01] Jason Mark: And still, I think within those aboriginal communities –
[00:37:03] Cassie Doyle: Yeah.
[00:37:04] Jason Mark: - there’s a lot of ambivalence, and there’s a lot of heartache over boy, you know, what you hear from everybody is do you bite the hand that feeds you? Everybody recognizes that they are completely dependent now on the tar sands industry for jobs and for economy. And at the same time, they feel really torn over the systematic destruction through the clear cutting, through the strip mining, through the in situ mining that’s happening in their traditional homelands.
[00:37:27] Greg Dalton: And speaking of odd jobs, Carl Pope, the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters which has – some of them have an alliance – blue-green alliance with The Sierra Club. They endorse this pipeline because of jobs.
[00:37:40] Carl Pope: Well, they did and they endorsed it as they usually do because when you have a major construction project, they’re pretty much always for it, so we don’t agree with them even though they’re our allies on many things on a lot of things. But I think one of the things that has not – we haven’t talked about is, transporting and refining oil is not good for the United States. Having oil transported across our land is not a good thing. Might be a necessary thing in some cases, oil pipelines do leak, we've quite a few lately.
[00:38:08] Greg Dalton: Do you agree with –
[00:38:09] Carl Pope: Refining oil –
[00:38:09] Greg Dalton: - better than tankers, safer than tankers? Safer than the alternative?
[00:38:14] Carl Pope: - well, an oil pipeline can be safer than a tanker, I don’t know whether this one will be. But an oil pipeline – and this one has some routing issues, I don’t know why it was necessary to route it right across the Ogallala Aquifer in the way that it was.
But the other thing is, this oil – and we all agree it’s all going to end up in Texas to be refined. And the way oil is refined in Texas is a devastating impact not for our aboriginal communities, but for fenceline communities, for American communities that live near those refineries. And Texas is legendary for its inadequate enforcement of refinery standards. In fact, during the very period that BP was having its catastrophic geyser in the Gulf, BP also had a breakdown in its oil refinery in Texas. And for six weeks, it poured millions of tons of toxic chemicals into the air and the state of Texas did absolutely nothing.
So it is not necessarily the case that just because this oil is going to be refined in the United States, it’s going to be refined in a responsible, safe fashion. The fact is, we know what the refinery standards are like in Texas, we know that Governor Perry doesn’t much believe in regulating the oil industry, and we know that he is engaged in a very bitter fight with the federal government about whether we’re going to enforce federal clean air standards in Texas.
So there's an enormous environmental consequence here in the United States from becoming an effect of the refined age for the export of these tar sands. And Alex raised the questions that occasionally it might be that a little teeny bit would get export. Here are the figures. The Texas Gulf Coast, the Petroleum District includes the Texas Gulf Coast, which is called PADD 3, every year exports 1.8 million barrels of refined product to other countries a day.
This is not just an occasional small leakage. This region already is a major oil exporter and bringing more tar sands oil into it is going to make it an even more major exporter, which is great for Valero, it’s great for Shell. Shell, in fact, just took one of their pipelines from Houma, Louisiana to Texas, and they’re proposing to run it the other ways because they don’t need the oil in their refineries. They’ve got so much already they need to get down to Texas to Louisiana.
So what we’re seeing is the United States undertaking, not anything as serious as what’s happening in Alberta. I want to be clear. Any project I can find on my cellphone is too big, any hole on the ground that I can find on my cellphone is too big, and I can find the tar sands mines in Canada. They’re like moonscapes.
[00:40:58] Greg Dalton: We’re going to put the microphone out here and invite you, again, on this side of the room, if you could please go through those doors, and we’ll form a line here, with the first person sitting in that chair. Some of my colleagues will put the microphone out and we invite your audience questions.
Before we go there, Carl Pope, California has a low carbon fuel standard, and rather than having all these squabbles about this kind of fuel is dirtier than that kind of fuel, wouldn’t it be better to have a performance standard where the U.S. quantifies the amount of carbon in transportation fuels, and set a national standard, and then it’s not sort of favoring one type of fuel over another, but it’s a quantitative, level playing field for different fuel types?
[00:41:39] Carl Pope: I would strongly favor such a standard and that would then take your argument about these pipelines then to questions of the right route. So I would strongly favor that. I would also favor – we could solve this debate about whether or not we’re going to export this stuff by just putting an export ban. And I don’t expect that either Cassie or Alex will support that, but if we just said by U.S. law, this oil can’t be exported, then I would stop worrying that, in fact, it’s going to actually increase oil prices in the United States instead of decrease them.
[00:42:09] Greg Dalton: Well, Alex Pourbaix, I mean, TransCanada does –
[00:42:11] Cassie Doyle: Can I just check that?
[00:42:12] Greg Dalton: Sure.
[00:42:12] Cassie Doyle: So you would be supportive of the pipeline, if there –
[00:42:15] Carl Pope: No, I would be – no, no, I’m not. I would not be because there are other issues with the pipeline.
[00:42:19] Carl Pope: In fact, if we – the argument – I would not be arguing about the economic impacts, then it would just be an environmental debate. Right now, I think it’s an economic threat to the Midwest and I think it’s an environmental threat to Canada and the globe and Texas. The economic argument would go away if we had an export ban.
[00:42:35] Cassie Doyle: Right.
[00:42:36] Greg Dalton: And Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s in the business of moving energy, you don’t harvest that energy. If there were a low-carbon fuel standard, what would that mean for TransCanada? If you could move low-carbon fuels, would you have a position on that?
[00:42:49] Alex Pourbaix: Well, you know, I think low-carbon fuel standards are something that could be considered. Of course, TransCanada’s concern with that would be, much as was mentioned, that it be a level playing field and that it not favor one region or another. I’d tell you right now that, you know, the U.S. – and we’ve been involved for over three years in this permitting process for Keystone, and there has been an extraordinary amount of work and effort put into assessing, quantifying and reporting on the environmental impact of this project.
But every day, millions of barrels of oil show up on the shores of the U.S. and supertankers, and no one cares what the carbon content. If it comes by pipeline, then there’s a big concern about it. But the vast majority of oil being imported into the U.S. no one is looking at the carbon and as long as it shows up at the dock, it’s acceptable.
[00:43:44] Greg Dalton: Jason Mark, quizzically, and then we’re going to go to our first audience question –
[00:43:46] Jason Mark: I mean the question really gets back to the millions of barrels that show up at U.S. shores every day, and I would really direct folks to check out a February 2009 study commissioned by TransCanada, prepared by an energy firm called Purvin & Gertz.
And if you look on page 7, figure 3 of that and I posted that this morning on our website at earthislandjournal.org, if you look at that, this pipeline will not decrease imports from outside North America. They will remain and they project out to 2025. Again, what this pipeline will do is fill in some of the gap from declining heavy crude reserves in the U.S. and Mexico, and perhaps maybe a little bit from Venezuela. But we will be getting just as much oil from Saudi Arabia in the Middle East with this pipeline as without it. And so there’s idea of energy security or fuels from other countries, I just don’t think it holds up.
[00:44:34] Greg Dalton: Jason Mark is an Editor at the Earth Island Institute. While our guests also today here are Cassie Doyle, Consul General from Canada here in San Francisco; Carl Pope, Chairman of The Sierra Club, and Alex Pourbaix, President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at TransCanada. I’m Greg Dalton. First audience question, please.
[00:44:50] Female Speaker: To Alex’s point that tar sands should be the economic engine for Canada for the next five decades, curious if you think that Canadians outside Alberta welcome that prospect. And in particular, if as they have rejected the Enbridge Gateway pipeline, should U.S. citizens be excited about a similar pipeline?
[00:45:11] Alex Pourbaix: I could answer that but that might be a better question for Cassie to answer, I think.
[00:45:16] Cassie Doyle: Yeah. One thing I think is important is to say about the economic benefits of the oil sands is that they extend well beyond Alberta so there’s actually at different points in the cycle planeloads of Canadians that have flown in from Atlantic Canada to work in the oil sands, but the supply chain benefits extend across the country. And when it comes to the Northern Gateway pipeline which is the proposed pipeline out to the West Coast, there hasn’t been a decision taken on that. There are groups that are certainly opposed to that, there’s also communities that are in favor of it. As often is the case when you get economic activity with an environmental impact, there is a divided public opinion.
[00:46:00] Greg Dalton: Let’s have our next audience question, please.
[00:46:03] Andree Duggan: Hello, my name is Andree Duggan with Interfaith Power & Light. And Alex, you had said that the people who are taking the risk are not the Americans. I’m wondering if you feel – we’re very concerned about this pipeline going over the country’s largest aquifer which provides 30% of American drinking water, and which irrigates the country’s bread basket.
[00:46:26] Alex Pourbaix: Yeah.
[00:46:27] Andree Duggan: Could you please speak to the risks, and I'd actually like to hear from Carl or…?
[00:46:34] Alex Pourbaix: Sure. So while I think right off the bat, there is no principle that Trans-Canada is more focused on than safety, all of our assets and safety of the people who could be affected by them. We’ve been in this business, building and operating pipelines for 60 years and if we did not operate them safely, we would lose our social license to operate. So we are very, very focused on safety.
What I would say is the Ogallala Aquifer is a massive aquifer. It covers parts of eight states. In addition to Nebraska, it covers very significant parts of Oklahoma and Texas. Right now, there are tens of thousands of miles of hazardous liquids pipelines that are presently located on top of that aquifer. They’ve operated for decades, they’ve operated safely. On top of that, there have been hundreds of millions, if not billions, of barrels of crude oil that have been produced through vertical pipelines, wells, through that aquifer system over the last hundred years, and that has been done safely.
The pipeline we're building, as was stated directly by the Department of State in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, if constructed in accordance with the 57 special conditions that TransCanada agreed to, the State Department said themselves that this pipeline would have a measure of safety over any other crude oil pipeline being operated in the U.S. So we are completely comfortable that we can construct that pipeline and operate that pipeline safely in areas where there is an aquifer. You know, if you look at Nebraska, Nebraska already has 20,000 miles of pipeline across that state, many, many miles of which already go through the pipeline. They produce 6,000 barrels of oil a day through the aquifer. We are comfortable with our state-of-the-art pipeline that we’re going to be very safe in that area.
[00:48:37] Carl Pope: Well, let me – I was asked to response. I just [00:48:39] to say I am sure that BP was comfortable they could produce Macondo safely. I’m sure that Tokyo Electric was confident that their power plants would survive the earthquake and the tsunami. The fact is there are some situations in which, yes, you may have a very long track record of something catastrophic not happening. But when something catastrophic happens, you can’t undo it. And the question is, which is being raised particularly in the state of Nebraska and particularly in the context of the routing of this pipeline through a particularly sandy area of the state which is viewed by people there as being particularly at risk, why shouldn’t we adopt yet another layer of safety and reconfigure the routing of this pipeline? Because whatever reassurances and confidence TransCanada may have, they have had pipeline spills. Every pipeline operator has pipeline spills, most of which don’t end up catastrophic. But one of these days, one of them will. The bigger the pipeline and the more vital the water source, the higher the risk of a catastrophic spill.
[00:49:53] Greg Dalton: Let's go to –
[00:49:55] Alex Pourbaix: I was just going to say this very issue of the routing of the pipeline was exhaustively considered by the Department of State in the Draft EIS, the Supplemental EIS and the Final EIS, and the conclusion that they –
[00:50:09] Greg Dalton: That’s the Environmental Impact Statements.
[00:50:10] Alex Pourbaix: Sorry, the three Environmental Impact Statements and their final conclusion on that, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement was they considered a number of other pipeline right-of-way routes, and they came to the conclusion that none of those routes offered an environmental benefit. We have an obligation when we route a pipeline to minimize the environmental impact. Every time you start lengthening the pipeline by moving around one area or another, you increase the miles of that pipeline and that very significantly increases the environmental impact. And the State Department, after exhaustively looking at this very issue, and hearing both sides or all of the sides, came to the conclusion that this was not a significant issue.
[00:50:57] Greg Dalton: Though the conservative Republican, a senator from Nebraska, Mike Johanns, still has concerns about the routing of this. Moving on, Jason, quickly, we want to get to this next question. Yes, next question, please?
[00:51:08] Rose Braz: Hi. My name is Rose Braz and I’m with the Center for Biological Diversity. And I think any discussion of the Keystone XL pipeline needs to really start with and recognize that as of today, more than 600 people have been arrested in front of the White House and these are people – climate scientists, farmers, climate activists, communities of faith, people from all across the country, all ages and that because they’re doing exactly what Jason was talking about as putting that line in the sand, saying no more expansion of this oil infrastructure, and really calling on President Obama who has this within his power. You know, this is not a congressional discussion. This is not something that needs to happen in international negotiations.
We are saying this is the line in the sand, this is the moment – long overdue moment when we need to say no more to this, our carbon addiction, and this is a moment that’s going to happen because the people really are standing and being arrested as we speak right now. So thank you.
[00:52:08] Greg Dalton: Who wants to [00:52:08]? Cassie Doyle?
[00:52:14] Cassie Doyle: Yeah. Can I just say that I think that whether or not the Keystone pipeline is built will not have any impact on the amount of carbon that the United States, as a country, uses. So I think there has been an unfair targeting because, as we mentioned, there still are tankers coming in, you know, bringing millions and millions of barrels of oil into the United States on a tanker which is a much less safe way to transport oil. So I just think that the targeting of this particular project –
[00:52:45] Greg Dalton: But if the United States imports oil sands which has a higher carbon intensity than the alternative fuel, it will drive up the –
[00:52:53] Alex Pourbaix: Sorry – but wait a second.
[00:52:55] Cassie Doyle: Yeah.
[00:52:55] Alex Pourbaix: That’s assuming that the U.S., if it doesn’t import Canadian oil, it’s going to import light sweet oil from elsewhere. The fact of the matter is if Keystone doesn’t go ahead, those refineries, unless prevented from doing so, are going to be sourcing heavy crude which has identical greenhouse gas emissions characteristics as oil sands oil from Alberta.
[00:53:16] Jason Mark: And that’s assuming also – I mean this the real assumption here again is that U.S. oil demand is going to remain constant or go up. And that actually – from 2000 to 2009, U.S. oil, again, according to the Cambridge Energy Research Association, which is one of the most respected and conservative energy firms, says that between 2000 and 2009, U.S. oil consumption decreased 10%. Two reasons: One was the recession was the most obvious one, and the second one was increasing fuel economy of our cars and trucks which is actually is going to get better and better according to new rules announced by the Obama administration and agreed to by all the folks who are having – build Ford and GM, et cetera.
We’re actually looking at either a plateau or, if you make the right critical decisions, a decrease in oil demand. The reason why the energy oil companies in Alberta are so eager for this pipeline is because they've got this massive supply of stuff. This is really I think supplies and economics. They need to get this stuff to market. Or in the words of I think it was the Energy Minister in Alberta, they are going to be sitting on landlocked bitumen tar. You know, they’re going to be sitting on this massive resource that they're going to have a hard time getting to market. That’s why this pipeline is important. And, again, I don’t buy the channel argument. This is really a discussion about what are the choices we’re going to make. And at some point, we need to make the choice that we’re not going to be making investments in all of this new infrastructure that locks us into business as usual.
[00:54:30] Greg Dalton: Jason Mark is an Editor at Earth Island Institute. We’re discussing Canadian oil imports here at Climate One at the Commonwealth Club. Let’s have another audience question, please.
[00:54:46] James George: I’m James George with EnviroBeat. My concern is that the tar sands increases the total amount of fossil fuels, whether it’s better or worse, and I’d like to know from the panelists how long do we have before we reach tipping points, and does this expansion of the fossil fuels put us in a very dangerous position. Thanks.
[00:55:08] Greg Dalton: Carl Pope, you want to take that on [00:55:09]?
[00:55:09] Carl Pope: Well, we have already reached the earliest of the tipping points. The weather you experience for the rest of your life would have been influenced by the increase in greenhouse pollutants in the atmosphere. There are more severe tipping points coming. We don’t know precisely what the level of damage is at a specific atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and methane. But we know that we certainly cannot have confidence that we are not getting close to what most people would consider catastrophic tipping points. And it is clear that the longer we continue to believe that oh, we’re running out of sweet crude, but there’s all this heavy stuff dunked in the ground and we’ll just use that, that’s not sending us the right message.
One of the important things about stopping the coal-fired power plants that were going to be built in the United States was it sent America’s public utilities a message: Get serious about renewables. If we stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, it will send America’s industries a message: Get serious about getting off oil.
[00:56:25] Greg Dalton: Next audience question, please.
[00:56:27] Lili Stiefel: Okay. My name is Lili Stiefel from the Stiefel Family Foundation and we support early stage renewable energy start-ups through grants and investments. I actually personally would love to see our oil coming from Canada rather than Saudi Arabia with its human rights records. That’s a personal opinion. I’m just puzzled as to why if it’s not getting exported, the oil is getting refined all the way down in Texas when it’s coming from Alberta. It’s just more of a logistical/efficiency question and that, yeah, I’d love to see it stay within this market. Why can’t it be refined further north, closer to its point of origin?
[00:56:55] Alex Pourbaix: Thanks for that. Basically, it’s an infrastructure issue. The U.S. Gulf Coast refining region has the largest refining capacity on Earth. I think it’s around 8.6 or 8.8 million barrels a day of refining capacity. Those refineries have relied in large measure on Mexico and Venezuela for the crude that they produce. Mexico’s crude production is declining precipitously and Chavez in Venezuela has made it quite clear that he intends to sell his oil to countries other than the U.S. So you'll have the refiners in the U.S. who are looking for sources of crude and, you know, you have this continental source of crude oil. You know, it’s the third largest reserves of oil on the planet, 175 billion barrels of a country that shares a lot of – a strong ally of the U.S., stable government, stable geo-politically so it’s just very natural to connect those. And building refineries are extraordinary expensive propositions and so it makes much more sense to utilize capacity in existing refineries than it does to build brand new refineries.
[00:58:18] Carl Pope: And let me just point out –
[00:58:20] Greg Dalton: Carl Pope.
[00:58:20] Carl Pope: -that, in fact, by getting this oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast, they can get this oil to international markets. They’re very clear in their own internal analyses that this is about getting a higher price for the oil and they can get a higher price for the oil by getting it to work. I mean there was a quote last week from somebody saying crude’s got to get to water. And the reason crude has to get to water is so it can get world prices, OPEC prices, and that is a large part of what this is all about, and I would not expect to hear either the government of Canada or the government of Alberta or the pipeline advocates say, “Fine. We’ll make a binding commitment that none of this oil will be exported.” I do not look for that to happen, although it would be interesting if it did.
[00:59:10] Greg Dalton: And one of the alternatives is to British Columbia were in fact it would be exported, and wouldn’t that be a preferential route for TransCanada? It’s shorter. No, maybe it isn’t shorter – to go to B.C. rather than to Texas?
[00:59:24] Alex Pourbaix: Then likely if you did it, you know, the oil wants to go where there’s existing refinery capacity, right? As I said, the largest refining center on the planet is on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and it is the cheapest route to market for that oil. And I want to be clear on this. The Keystone oil pipeline is not just planning on moving Canadian oil. This is an 800,000 barrel-a-day pipeline. We are expecting to be transporting 250,000 barrels a day of oil from North Dakota and Montana, and oil from Cushing that is already included in our pipeline. So this pipeline is not just moving Canadian oil. This oil is moving land-locked and pipeline-constrained U.S. oil to market.
And you know, once again – you know, this issue that this oil is going offshore, that the resulting refined products are offshore. As I said, this is a refining market that has almost nine million barrels a day of capacity and you have a country in the U.S. that consumes 19 million barrels a day of refined products, produces four million barrels of oil. I think people here can do the math.
[01:00:41] Carl Pope: But it’s not one market. You don’t necessarily – you may well import oil to the East Coast and export oil from the Gulf, we're doing it right now. The imports that come into the West Coast and the East Coast don’t get displaced by oil that’s refined on the Gulf Coast. That oil that’s refined on the Gulf Coast goes wherever the market price is highest and the transportation is lowest.
[01:01:04] Jason Mark: It’s really important to understand per your question that this will not displace any barrels of Saudi Arabian oil. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the TransCanada Investor Reports. This is about making up for the expected shortfalls in American and Mexican, and perhaps Venezuelan heavy crude. Those refineries down there are specially equipped as Alex was saying, or specially equipped to process heavy oil. They’ve got cokers and they can actually take all this stuff.
The Saudi oil would be called sweet light crude. Those refineries are worried about having shortfalls in the heavy crude that they had been processing for years. This is about making up for shortfalls in U.S. and Mexican decline in reserves, and I would say we shouldn’t make up their shortfalls. We should find ways to have a, you know, electrified mass transit system that runs off a green grid and be doing that instead of finding, you know, alternatives. The oil industry is not going to get us off of oil.
[01:01:59] Greg Dalton: Let’s go to Cassie Doyle then we have to wrap this up.
[01:02:00] Cassie Doyle: Can I just say that when you ask isn’t it better for Canada to export its oil to China, I think that negates the value of the trading relationship between Canada and the United States. It was a $500 billion trading relationship last year. It produces enormous economic benefits on both sides of the border. But more importantly, there’s no two countries in the world that have the same level of aspirations when it comes to the environment. We share the same values so there is a natural geographic imperative around why we would want to trade with the U.S. But over the, you know, history of this relationship, I think that there’s more to be reaped when it comes to addressing environmental challenges between Canada and the United States than Canada and any other country.
[01:02:48] Greg Dalton: We’re at the end of our time here. I just want to ask what next? By the end of this year, President Obama would say yes or no to this pipeline. Carl Pope, would there be litigation if this is approved?
[01:02:58] Carl Pope: There will be a litigation, there will be the legislation, there will be federal legislation, I think there may well be state legislation. I think there are a long series of hurdles before ground is broken on this pipeline.
[01:03:13] Greg Dalton: Alex Pourbaix, what lies ahead? You can say it looks like things are going toward approval. The State Department is certainly very positive, the environmental impact is maybe your biggest hurdle so far, you think you have a better case on this sort of national interest grounds on security and economics. What lies ahead?
[01:03:27] Alex Pourbaix: Well, you know, the people in the State Department, when they announced the FEIS last week, they made it clear that the decision has not been made and I think that very much is the case. We’re now going into this what is called the 90-day national interest determination where, up to this point, the work has been largely focused on the environmental impacts of the project which culminated in this Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The national interest determination now takes into account not just the environment. It takes into account the economic benefits for the U.S., energy security benefits, tax benefits, so on and so forth, then we certainly think we have a very strong case. This is a project, you know, as I said, it is truly shovel-ready. We’re going to put 20,000 Americans to work, we’re going to start doing that within days of receiving this permit and we’re going to create $20 billion of stimulus for the American economy. And that’s going to occur in regions that are among the most depressed in the U.S. and those jobs are coming without a penny of government subsidy and they’re waiting on this approval.
[01:04:40] Greg Dalton: We have to end it there. Our thanks to our participants today, that was Alex Pourbaix, President of Energy and Oil Pipelines at Trans-Canada; Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club; Jason Mark, Editor of the Earth Island Institute – Earth Island Journal…