'The Tar Sands Disaster': Canadians Against Keystone XL, in The New York Times


"If President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor," writes Thomas Homer-Dixon, an international affairs instructor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario. 

This is the opening salvo in an opinion piece in today's New York Times that points out the problems inherent in more oil-pipeline production and highlights the portion of Canada's citizens who do not support the pipeline. 

"Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline," he writes, citing a February 2012 poll by Nanos Research in which 42 percent of Canadians indicated they do not want Keystone XL and other pipelines under review to be built. "Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy."

Homer-Dixon goes on to describe why that is so, calling bitumen "junk energy" because of its yield versus what it takes to extract the viscous compound; the wanton destruction of boreal forest that extraction entails, and the fact that "the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production."

He is not the only one to discuss Canadian opposition to further oil sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline through the United States. Canada's Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, traveled to Washington D.C. to voice Canadians' opposition as well.

President Barack Obama is mulling over the decision as the U.S. State Department evaluates comments from the public over its draft environmental report. The public comment period ends on April 15. 

Read "The Tar Sands Disaster."

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Don Mustill's picture
Don Mustill
Submitted by Don Mustill on
The Athabasca Oil Sands cover a territory of 45,000 square kilometers. After more than 40 years of development - the Energy industry has disturbed less than 200 square kilometers. Canada has an outstranding record of clean energy - very few coal burning afacilities left, Nuclear and Hydro energy in abundance and over the years, cleaner Natural Gas has replaced oil. Obama COULD make a responsible decision - in exchange for accepting more oil from Canada - he should compensate by making a commitment to reduce The US dependency on coal - the dirtiest of fuels that powers half of US industry.

Louisette Lanteigne's picture
Louisette Lanteigne
Submitted by Louisette Lanteigne on
I agree with this article. Well done Mr. Homer-Dixon! Here in Waterloo Ontario I have participated in dozens of rallies against the Keystone pipeline and Enbridge Line 9. Folks come out for many reasons. Many are worried about climate change, others worried that Canada is liquidating a resource we'll need without reasonably forming a long term National Energy Strategy with the provinces. Unions are worried we're loosing jobs sending refining processes over seas and Aboriginal communities are concerned for health and well being of people living on reserves by the Tar Sands and next door to oil refineries. So many sectors rely on oil but in the age of climate change and global fiscal insecurity, renewables provides us with more stable market prices using localized energy solutions. It's a better investment for climate and economic resilience. Personally speaking, I believe people have the ability to move beyond a 100 year old technology for energy. Renewables are do-able and we should absolutely do our part and keep up with the global trend to go fossil free. It is the way of the future.

JohnfromSeattle's picture
Submitted by JohnfromSeattle on
It's interesting that the article suggests that many Canadians are against the Keystone pipeline thought the opinion is solely from a single educator that is most-likely against oil anyway. The oddity is that the Keystone Pipeline would reduce the need for exploring the Tar Sands approach. Then, there is a suggestion that it "adds more CO2" - where is it coming from? Wood, that has a high CO2 concentration is encouraged to burn - justified by saying that it's a neutral, meaning that it's going to give off all of it's CO2 across time, so why not burn it all at once? They say if we do, it's still neutral. Oil has CO2 (as all organic compounds likely do) and burning oil won't produce any more CO2 than what the oil has already in it - just like the wood. The same can be said of Coal - whose majority component is Carbon (the earth supposedly is 90% Carbon). We are even about 18% carbon, which is why we - and every living creature exhales CO2. Yes - we do. All vegetation produces it. The oceans and bodies of water release it. Volcanoes release it. And the greatest benefactor of all is the plant-live that consumes that CO2, locks it up into it's structure, and in turn provides oxygen. It's even being demonstrated that higher concentrations of CO2 may be beneficial to plant-life, and as plant-life improves, so does the output of oxygen, which benefits us. CO2 is not an enemy. If it is, then over 6-billion of us CO2 exhausters need to reduce the amount of air we breath, because it's apparently contributing to killing the earth (that goes for animals too!)

joefiasco's picture
Submitted by joefiasco on
mountain -top removal and tar sands extraction, cuts and bruises on your Mother's face.

David Lainchbury's picture
David Lainchbury
Submitted by David Lainchbury on
pipeline life expectancy of 50 years, longer than the earth's if we continue down this road