Craig's Take: Major decision looms for the XL pipeline
Published Sunday, November 6, 2011 12:50PM EST
It is at least arguable that no Canada-U.S. event in recent memory has caused so much personal pain for an American administration than the construction of the XL pipeline is causing for U.S. President Barack Obama.
The massive $7-billion project would carry crude from the Alberta oil sands, snaking for 1,700 miles across seven U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico.
A decision on whether to go ahead despite stormy protests will soon be sitting on the desk of the president himself and he is clearly angst-ridden about it.
The proposed line is doing a lot more than carry heavy oil. It is also carrying Obama's reputation as an environmentalist which played a key role in forming the coalition that got him where he is.
The pipeline is pitting him against some of his most ardent supporters on whom he will depend on in the election campaign which is only a year away and at a time when many believe he has a good chance of loosing the presidency.
The pipeline has become a symbol in the struggle between environmentalists and the oil industry, and has also put the national interests up against the political interests of the White House.
Oil is the lifeblood of American industry and America is running out. It either takes Canadian crude of any kind, or they will have to find it from far less desirable places on which it cannot always depend for supply as it can on good old reliable Canada.
If Obama is to get re-elected, he needs jobs and the pipeline would create 20,000 of them – exactly at a time when Obama will need them most, at the height of his re-election campaign.
Nobody needs to tell Obama that no American president since Roosevelt has ever been re-elected with unemployment over 7.3 per cent
For their part, the Canadians and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have made it clear that it is in the American interest for energy security and the economy of both countries for the pipeline to go ahead.
It would be a slap in the face for Harper if Obama refuses to give the pipeline the necessary permits.
Even worse for the United States, some foreign policy analysts believe that if the pipeline is rejected, Canada would turn toward Asia and especially the Chinese as a major customer for its energy exports.
To many Americans, that is undesirable if America's needs for oil continue to be so overwhelming.
On Question Period this week we'll be talking to the president of TransCanada Corp., the company behind the pipeline, as it fends off charges that Alberta's oil sands are one of the world's heaviest producers of greenhouse gases and that the pipeline itself might contaminate fresh water supplies on its way through American states, especially Nebraska.
We'll also talk to one of the organizers for what is boasted to be a massive protest at the White House this Sunday.
- Craig Oliver