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XL foes lack perspective

We would think with the newest delay in the Keystone XL pipeline — the project intended to get Alberta’s oilsands product to the southern United States for refining and sale — that the detractors would become silent.

Not so.

Citing recent court developments south of the border, U.S. President Barack Obama has announced there would not be a decision on approval of the U.S. portion of the pipeline until next year.

After years of parades of celebrity anti-oilsands advocates occurring in the heartland of Alberta, the protests have now shifted to where they rightfully belong — south of the border.

We have acknowledged the existence of our own problems related to the energy industry — although our provincial government would have us believe things are not as bad as others say.

In Washington over the past week, horses walked through the streets. Teepees and settler wagons adorned the National Mall. And the self-described “CIA” — the “Cowboys and Indians Alliance” — marched in traditional clothing and promised to fight together against a common foe, the Keystone XL pipeline.

Lost in the howls for action to stop the project are the American connections to the black gold that is to flow through the pipeline.

This is a large, sad case of Americans complaining about Americans.

Big American energy companies hold some of the leases from where the ‘dirty’ oilsands oil is to be extracted, with Conoco Philips and Shell among them. And Alberta mineral lease records also show that a Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres of oilsands lands. The subsidiary is the biggest non-Canadian and industry-leading lease holder in the oilsands area.

The protesters are ignoring these facts as they continue to complain about the “dirty oil” from Alberta.

Days of protest will undoubtedly leave a stain on Obama’s front door.

Images of celebrities chaining themselves to the gates of the White House are hardly new.

But perhaps American protesters should notice what is happening in their own backyard.

If any Hollywood stars have threatened to shut down an oilfield in the heart of greater Los Angeles, it hasn’t yet hit the media.

A 1,000-acre oilfield has operated just west of downtown Los Angeles since the 1920s.

But go ahead, rail against the dirty oil from Alberta. Never mind that fracking has occurred in Los Angeles for decades — and near the San Andreas fault.

Certainly there’s a James Cameron movie epic waiting to happen there.

Over the Inglewood field’s history 1,600 wells have been drilled. Today, the oilfield covers about 1,000 acres, making it one of the largest contiguous urban oil fields in the United States.

Those oil wells operate within sight of hundreds of swanky homes.

But they must not be close enough to the Hollywood hills to spoil the movie stars’ views.

And what about other oil and gas pipelines that already cross the Canada-U.S. border?

A 2013 Congressional Research Service report referred to 100 pipelines, which included operating or proposed oil, natural gas, and electric transmission lines, and it counted pipelines crossing both the U.S.-Mexico border and the U.S.-Canada border.

If only operating pipelines that cross the Canadian border are counted, then there are 29 natural gas pipelines and 17 oil pipelines, for a total of 46.

That’s still dozens of pipelines already carrying energy products across the border. We cannot recall any furor over those older pipelines.

When we talk about the Keystone XL pipeline, understandably there are opponents. Some landowners do not want their property disturbed.

The Keystone pipeline has not been halted, only delayed, and perhaps because Obama hasn’t got anything to lose for the moment.

But even of the protesters and landowners fighting the battle in the courts win, the oil would most probably roll through America anyway — by rail — as some railways have already said they will allow.

One day Obama will have to make a win-lose decision about the pipeline. A victory for oil companies and defeat for protesters.

Until then, opponents and supporters of the pipeline will only continue to hurt each other.

David Nagy is an Advocate editor.



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