Le Blogue Broadbent

Joe Oliver gets it wrong on Keystone XL 6 times in 4 minutes

In an interview lasting less than four minutes, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver managed to utter six falsehoods or exaggerations about TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline and Canada's record on fighting climate change.

Here's how Oliver's talking points, delivered Sunday during an interview on Global News' The West Block with Tom Clark, fall flat on the facts.

#1: "The Facts"

The facts overwhelmingly favour this project going forward.

Like his boss Stephen Harper, Oliver says that building a pipeline from Canada's tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast should be a no-brainer for the U.S. government to approve. "Building a 800,000 barrel-per-day pipeline of the world’s dirtiest oil will mean more tar sands dug up and burned, and more carbon pollution" is the opposite of a no-brainer.

#2: The Jobs

It will create tens of thousands of jobs in both countries.

TransCanada's own application for Keystone XL to the State Department said that, at its peak, the company would require about "3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel" to build the pipeline. The company also commissioned a report that estimated the pipeline would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and 118,000 spin-off jobs.

But independent analysts have called the 2011 study "dead wrong," "meaningless," and "flawed and poorly documented." The State Department has estimated that Keystone would create "5,000 to 6,000 direct construction jobs," concluding the pipeline "would not have a significant impact on long-term employment."

Meanwhile, a report by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute crunched TransCanada's own data supplied to the State Department, and concluded the pipeline "will create no more than 2,500 - 4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years" and pegged "the new permanent U.S. pipeline jobs in the U.S. number as few as 50."

#3: National Security

It will address national security issues for the United States.

The Washington Post editorial board writes that the pipeline "would not endow the United States with 'energy security' in the sense that most Americans understand the phrase." That's because much of the Canadian crude that would be transported by Keystone would be destined for export after being refined on the Gulf Coast. 

"Six companies have already contracted for three-quarters of the oil. Five are foreign, and the business model of the one American company — Valero — is geared toward export," the New York Times editorial board explains.

#4: Oil and Gas Regulations

[Drafting emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector is] the responsibility of Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of Environment, and we're working with industry to get that done and we will. But I have to tell you, the United States doesn't have comparable rules and to my knowledge, doesn't have intentions of introducing them.

At least Oliver admits Canada's environment minister is working in lock-step with industry to draft the government's long-delayed regulations. But Harper, in a year-end interview with Global News, made it clear that Ottawa is pushing off regulations for at least a few years because it now needs to be done "in concert with" the United States.

#5: Our Emissions

Let's remember, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are lower than the United States... We don't have anything to apologise for... That doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility as citizens of the world to do our part to bring those numbers down, and we're working on that.

In a new report to the United States, the Conservative government estimates that Canada's carbon emissions will increase 38% by 2030, to 815 million tonnes up from 590 million tonnes in 1990, mainly due to the expansion of the tar sands. "Worse, Canada is likely under-reporting its emissions," the Guardian explains. "An investigation in 2013 found that Canada's reported emissions from its natural gas sector, the world's third largest, could be missing as much as 212 million tonnes in 2011 alone."

Meanwhile, Canada's tar sands industry has already received the green light to nearly triple production, from 1.8 million barrels of oil per day to 5.2 millions barrels per day by 2030. When announced and disclosed projects are included, the Pembina Institute explains that tar sands production "could more than quintuple from current levels to over 9.3 million barrels per day." 

#6: The U.S. Line on Keystone

Personally, I haven't heard from the U.S. administration suggesting that we have certain things to do that they want us to do that would change the dial on this matter, but I'm not speaking to everyone, of course. Someone may have got that message, but I didn't hear it.

Did Oliver miss Barack Obama's big speech on climate change last year? Obama made it "clear that approval for Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline project will only come if its backers can prove it won't worsen global warming," the Globe and Mail wrote.

"The U.S. President said the Keystone pipeline’s impact on the climate will be 'absolutely critical to deciding whether this project goes forward' – a different metric from the Canadian government’s insistence that the project should proceed because it creates jobs and contributes to American energy security."

Watch Oliver's fact-challenged interview:


Photo: YouTube