Like a political reboot of the old Jekyll and Hyde yarn, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to be trying to convince Canadians he can be a carbon warrior and a pipeline cheerleader at the same time. He’s not the only politician talking out of both sides of his mouth on the climate file, of course; in fact, split-personality seems to be the house style when it comes to the collision between politics and the environment.
Take U.S. President Barack Obama, who rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project because of the carbon footprint associated with Canadian oilsands production. Since he shot down the Keystone expansion, California refineries have continued to process their own home-grown, high-carbon oil, and U.S. Midwest refineries are still being served up with 2.3 million barrels per day of Canadian crude with no questions asked.
The United States also exports ‘petroleum coke’, the coal-like material refined from oilsands bitumen and other heavy crude; American petroleum coke exports have more than doubled since 1999, to roughly 660,000 barrels per day. This high-carbon coke is burned as coal in countries like India, Turkey and Japan. The U.S. also exports over 300,000 barrels per day of heavy fuel oil — high-carbon, high-sulphur material burned by ships travelling the world’s oceans.
So while President Obama says that “America is going to hold (itself) to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world”, he’s not really holding anybody to any standards when it comes to exporting high-carbon fuel.
But it isn’t just the politicians who are snowing the public on their commitment to fight climate change: Environmental organizations like 350.org do a pretty good job of blurring the facts as well. They’ve made the public believe that blocking Keystone XL actually had an effect on oilsands development, even in this low-price environment.
The cross-border protest movement against Keystone attracted a lot of media attention and mobilized many people to the cause — but while environmentalists were making noise about Keystone XL, pipeline companies quietly set about solving the oil industry’s transportation problems.