• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 12:07am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 2:23am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 2:23am

Toronto's focus is on Keystone XL oil pipeline, not Mayor Rob Ford

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Having spent last week in Toronto, I can safely report that Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor of the city now seeking re-election, is not what most people worry about, not even if you are from Toronto.

Instead the national conversation is again focused on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline extending from Alberta to the US Midwest.

It strikes me that how Canada deals with its rich reserves of oil sands - also known as tar sands - is a textbook example of why some countries succeed in spreading wealth from natural resources, while others suffer from the so-called resource curse.

The Obama administration has, once again, delayed a decision on whether to approve the last phase of the Keystone pipeline system. Earlier construction means the system as a whole is already running crude and bitumen from Canada all the way to Texas, and shortly to the Gulf coast as well. So you have to wonder why the greenies are making such a fuss over XL. They say approval will cause runaway global warming from uncontrolled carbon emissions and turn democratic Canada into another corrupt petro-dollar state.

You should worry more about emissions from coal-powered electricity plants in the US or even heavy crude oil and ethanol production in California than Alberta's oil sands. But protesting against coal is not "sexy", whereas going against Canadian oil sand has become such a cause célèbre that even ex-US president Jimmy Carter and US hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer have jumped on the bandwagon.

What political scientist Francis Fukuyama says about the success and failure of democracies applies here: "institutions matter". Countries like Canada with strong and functioning socio-economic institutions and government are far more capable of making effective and equitable use of natural resources.

On the other hand, failed states and developing economies with weak or non-existent institutions and government are ill-equipped to handle the riches, often resulting in corruption, social tensions and even civil war.

Canada has nothing to be ashamed of about oil sands, and the XL pipeline, if approved, will be the most scrutinised, technically advanced and safest ever built.

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sjfore
Tar sands oil recovery is environmentally devastating. The Canadian pits have poisoned the lands of mostly native American people with zero political clout, some of whom have been bribed with short term jobs. Meanwhile, the vampires of the fossil fuel industry get richer, and humanity's deadly addiction to oil trundles on.
Mr. Lo's neocon sympathies are on neon-lit display.
Dao-Phooy
Citing the neo-con Francis Fukyama lays bare the worthlessness of this article!
johnyuan
A week on the ground is not quite sufficient. Politic is always local. National issue or international issue can't beat local issue in Toronto.
321manu
"Earlier construction means the system as a whole is already running crude and bitumen from Canada all the way to Texas, and shortly to the Gulf coast as well. So you have to wonder why the greenies are making such a fuss over XL. They say approval will cause runaway global warming from uncontrolled carbon emissions"
---the proposed new XL line takes a new route that occupies a new footprint that the previous pipelines did not. That's part of the reason for the "fuss". Specifically, there are areas in northern Nebraska that are apparently environmentally sensitive, and would be impacted by the new line, whereas the current line doesn't go through there.
Also, the "XL" means that the new line is substantially bigger than the old one, which means a lot more bitumen is being transported, which means a lot more oil sands are being mined to produce it. Hence the apparent concerns regarding increased carbon emissions.
I don't think telling a very partial truth as you have done here is the most admirable way in the world to try to make your point.
 
 
 
 
 

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