By Stewart Benson
Imagine a world where the United States and Canada are no longer allies. Previous brotherly excursions (the Second World War, invasion of Afghanistan) now rest in the past, the borders have restricted access, retaliatory tariff policies are enforced, and the Canadians won’t even buy our F-35 fighter jets. While it is probable that most of this will not come true, the Canadians are not guaranteeing anything as President Obama makes his decision regarding the Keystone Oil Pipeline. Thousands on each side of the issue have stated their case on the pipeline, and it is now left to the President to decide on allowing Canadian crude oil to travel through the U.S. or veto the project. Potentially tens of thousands of jobs, the development of the Canadian tar sands oil industry, having Canada as an economic partner and the destruction of the environment are at stake. President Obama will either cater to the industry advocates, the environmental advocates or somehow discover a plan to balance both of those interests.
In Canada’s recent general election, a thoroughly conservative government came to power, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the leading voice in getting the Keystone pipeline getting approved. PM Harper hails from the province of Alberta, which happens to be his heavily conservative base and the home of the Canadian tar sands oil fields. Harper has made it clear that United States cooperation in creating the pipeline is essential, and refusing to do so would be recognized as “unneighborly” and would bring along retaliation. What this “retaliation” would involve remains unclear, but most likely involves retaliatory trade policies including refusal to purchase American fighter jets. This would not be the first time Harper and Obama have differed on the subject of oil production; Harper’s government has thoroughly rejected Obama’s concerns on climate change and withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. If the U.S. rejects the pipeline, then Canada will be forced to search for other options, perhaps even with China. Development of the Canadian oil industry has serious potential benefits for the overall Canadian economy, and they have been pushing hard for the project to receive approval.
However, President Obama must also look to his political base, which greatly disapproves of the Keystone pipeline. Several major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, are greatly involved in the Obama administration and helped gather support for both of his campaigns. Ignoring his support base would be very surprising, and not a smart political move. Obama has also recently stated his administration’s plan on climate change during the Inauguration and the State of the Union Address, which favored development of renewable energy and less dependence on foreign oil. President Obama has made good on some of those promises already: the U.S. currently imports around 2.4 million barrels of oil daily from up North, and that’s more than twice what we import from Saudi Arabia. Will the draw of economic growth and jobs sway Obama to cater to the Canada oil industry, or will he stick true to his political base and focus on the longevity of the planet?
It is proven that Canadian tar sand oil is some of the crudest and corrosive type of oil in the world, and environmentalists agree that its destructiveness on the grasslands and South of the United States could be incalculable. Canada is overproducing their oil currently, and adding an estimated 700,000 barrels of oil through the U.S. reaches past our point of consumption. Environmental scientists say that if the Keystone Pipeline is approved, production of greenhouse gas emissions will reach a “tipping point” level; in other words, the beginning of the end. This project is more important than simply adding jobs and stimulating the economy, it will test us to see if we truly can organize ourselves together, forget about business interests, and secure the long-term health of our planet. Freeing ourselves from the interests of the few in order for the betterment of the whole is how we defeat the growing effects of climate change, and vetoing the Keystone pipeline is the first step in that process.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.