Green Leader Elizabeth May sees the Obama Administration refusal of the Keystone Pipeline as an opportunity to create Canadian jobs. “We should now pause and re-think shipping our unprocessed crude to either the US or China. We can refine that oil here and use it domestically or export the finished product, creating jobs in the process and ensuring environmental controls,” said May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Yesterday, US President Obama denied the construction permit for the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline, which was heavily opposed due to potential risks of contamination along its route. “We now have an opportunity to rethink our ad hoc energy policy. Lacking any explicit policy, the implicit policy appears to be to expand the tar sands as fast as possible while shipping out unprocessed bitumen crude for value added-elsewhere,” said May.
“While the Harper government tries to portray the issue of pipelines as the environment versus the economy, the reality is that these pipelines do not make economic sense. There is more potential for jobs if we keep and refine the existing bitumen in Canada. It is critical to freeze any new growth of the oil sands allowing value-added processing. The reason oil companies don’t build refineries near the tar sands now has been described by former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed as due to ‘the traffic jam.’ Due to the hyper-inflationary situation created by unconstrained growth in the Athabasca region, labour and capital are in short supply and very expensive for other installations.” said May. “We need to begin the shift away from fossil fuels. Slowing the tar sands, shutting down coal-generated electricity, and diversifying our energy resources by expanding geo-thermal, solar, wind, tidal and small scale hydro, as well as investing in intensive energy efficiency improvements will create more jobs across Canada than the pipeline proposals, while giving us greater energy security and reduced greenhouse gases.”
The Green Party is advocating increased environmental responsibility of oil sands developers and placing a moratorium on further oil sands development (i.e. increases in annual production). Slowing the over-heated economy will allow refineries to be built in Alberta. The major energy union operating in the Athabasca region, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, has estimated that the Keystone Pipeline represents the export of more than 40,000 Canadian jobs. “Canadian jobs in upgrading and refining will literally go down the pipe to the U.S. with the 900,000 barrels of unrefined bitumen,” said Dave Coles, CEP President. “Meanwhile, Canadian refineries are closing.”
The proposed Keystone Pipeline would have run to the US Gulf Coast to refineries there. “We have a chance here to focus on building a secure energy economy. Fifty-five per cent of the oil used in Canada comes from Venezuela, Nigeria and other OPEC nations. From parts of Ontario east, Canadians have no access to the oil our Prime Minister is so keen to pump south to create jobs in Texas. What’s wrong with this picture?” asked Elizabeth May.