U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to revive TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline has thrown a wild card into the Trudeau government’s calculations on whether to approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Trump’s platform included a promise to revive the 830,000-barrel-per-day Keystone XL, a project Trudeau said he supported before President Barack Obama blocked it,” energy analyst Ross Belot writes in iPolitics. “If there were good reasons to wonder whether the Kinder Morgan line was needed before Trump’s election, there’s an even better one now: If you’ve got Keystone, you don’t need Kinder Morgan.”
The government had announced a December 19 deadline for a Cabinet decision on Kinder Morgan. But anti-pipeline groups are gearing up for an announcement as early as next week, promising that Canada will see “another Standing Rock” if the intensely controversial project is approved.
Either line would deliver diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands/oil sands to saltwater ports from which it could be shipped to the world, if markets can be found. Moreover, Belot adds, “what was Keystone’s Achilles heel—the fact that it traverses American territory—now becomes its great political advantage: The Keystone route avoids Canadian population centres and wouldn’t increase tanker traffic in West Coast waters.
Belot expects Trudeau to approve Kinder Morgan nonetheless, arguing that the prime minister “really wants to approve a pipeline right now.” That is not to say the company will proceed with plans—fiercely opposed in British Columbia’s populous lower mainland—to triple the amount of diluted bitumen flowing through its existing pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver. As Belot points out, the traffic may not be there to justify the expense—especially if Keystone also proceeds.
“Recent reports on the Cushing to Gulf Coast portion of Keystone XL that actually has been built say the line has been only 60% full,” he writes, “and capacity is being offered up by committed shippers at 80% discounts.”
That prospect has not troubled Natural Resources Minister and GreenPAC endorsee Jim Carr, who insisted in a statement following a cabinet meeting in Ottawa that the Keystone project doesn’t meet Alberta’s strategic need to free itself from its current captivity to U.S. markets. “Well, (Keystone XL) doesn’t get oil to export markets in Asia,” Carr told reporters according to the National Observer, “and it’s a goal of the Government of Canada to expand its export markets. I think that if you listen to what the Prime Minister has said about the importance of other export markets and not to rely solely on one major market, that that’s a sensible approach to take and nothing has changed.”
That statement was striking for overlooking part of the original rationale for Keystone: that it would deliver diluted bitumen to Houston, one of North America’s largest petroleum ports.
Analysts have also asserted that Canada cannot meet its climate goals if it allows the Kinder Morgan expansion to be built.
Meanwhile the Observer’s Barry Saxifrage cites the industry’s own data that contradict the need for more than one pipeline. Pointing to a chart produced by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, he says the “industry’s own numbers show that Keystone XL is more than enough for a massive increase in their climate-disrupting product…What they need is to find the decency to allow other Canadians to protect the values they cherish, as well.”