Justin Trudeau on the fence.

One of the fun aspects of politics is watching the dance of a politician trying desperately to stay on both sides of an issue. It would have been especially interesting yesterday to watch Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau try to balance himself on the Keystone XL pipeline in front of an environmental lobby group in Washington. You have to give him marks. He almost pulled it off.

When you consider that Trudeau was talking to a meeting of the Center for American Progress which opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, his was a brave stand. He told the audience that he supports the pipeline because he believes it is an important energy infrastructure piece for both countries. What was wrong with that was that he demonstrated a lack of understanding of the objectives of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Whether Trudeau understands the role of the pipeline or not needs to be clarified with him. If he is just supporting it to win a few votes in Alberta, it is a waste of time. The problem is that Keystone XL has no bearing on the energy infrastructure of America. The intent of the pipeline is to put Alberta tar sands bitumen on board tankers off the coast of Texas and ship it to countries that do not care as much about pollution.

Trudeau is right that pipelines can be made even safer and need not threaten the environment. Alberta bitumen is a drastic threat to the environment though when you convert it to synthetic oil. The refining process puts a very serious amount of carbon directly into the air and creates vast piles of what is known as carbon coke—which, while it can be burned as a fuel, adds even more carbon to the air. If Trudeau is not aware, someone needs to catch him up on the physics involved in tar sands bitumen.

But Trudeau can learn. Prime Minister Stephen Harper just demonstrates his hypocrisy by reassuring people that the pollution problem will be solved. Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats leaves himself even further up a tree on the issue. Mulcair has told the Americans that he is against Keystone XL but is in favour of East-West pipelines in Canada. Since these pipelines also have the same purpose of shipping the bitumen to countries that do not care as much about pollution, Mulcair’s position is more hypocritical than Harper’s.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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