The Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, isn’t just an infrastructure project. It’s also a symbol for the fight over the future of energy.
Producing oil from Alberta’s tar sands emits more pollution than traditional oil drilling, so many environmentalists want that crude left in the ground.
Mike Hudema, with Greenpeace Canada sympathizes with people who need jobs. He has family working in Alberta’s oil fields. Still, Hudema considers it a victory when big oil companies delay projects.
Norway’s Statoil postponed one project for at least three years. France’s Total S.A. shelved a planned project as well.
“Total cancelled its multi-billion-dollar tar sands project,” Hudema says, “And stated part of the reason is of lack of pipeline capacity.”
The Keystone XL pipeline is one project that would boost capacity. And companies do say the ability to transport crude out of Canada is one reason they delay projects. But there are other reasons as well, says Greg Stringham, with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“It hasn’t been one single pipeline that has been the cause of that re-evaluation,” he says. “There is also labour, competitiveness and corporate decisions.”
New projects are in the works, Stringham says.
Stringham adds, companies aren’t waiting for the Keystone XL pipeline. There are other ways to move oil: trains, barges and alternate pipelines. He says as long as the U.S. and the world wants oil, Alberta will find a way to supply it.
For opponents who want to keep that oil in the ground, like Hudema at Greenpeace, that means more battles ahead.