Keystone Cop-Out

November 15, 2011

Multiple Pages
Keystone Cop-Out

It ain’t “nostalgia” if you weren’t there.

“Anachronistic” more accurately describes the current left-wing sensibility. Watching twenty-somethings at Occupy gatherings clad in late-1970s punk gear while cheering ancient commie Pete Seeger proves that today’s “progressives” live in the past.

As they stumble through another ham-fisted variation on “Hey! Hey! LBJ,” I worry that my side’s general distaste for marching and sloganeering will be our undoing. We roll our eyes when college kids and celebrities reenact the sixties in the name of the latest trendy cause and break the law with apparent impunity. The sad fact is that more often than not, they win.

As one of my fellow Canadian bloggers puts it whenever lefties get their way again: “Not showing up to riot is a failed conservative policy.”

Case in point: the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Anti-Keystone rallies didn’t get as much media attention as their “Occupy” counterparts, but not for lack of trying. Hundreds of pipeline opponents were arrested after a two-week sit-in outside the White House in August. Earlier this month, thousands of them formed the first human chain around the White House since the 1960s. The cause is supported by show-biz functionaries such as Daryl Hannah and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (whose billionaire father is both a Democratic Party donor and an oil-and-gas industry magnate.)

“Maybe we really do need to revisit that ‘no rioting’ thing.”

Publicly, protesters claim the proposed pipeline will destroy jobs rather than create them and imperil six states’ water supplies. But they’re really pissed off because the pipeline will prolong America’s “addiction to oil” and further delay the advent of their solar-powered millennial kingdom. They look at Keystone the way conservatives see free heroin clinics. (I have my own “eminent domain” concerns about Keystone, especially after Kelo, but few people seem to share them.)

Last week, the Obama Administration announced it was delaying its decision on whether to proceed with pipeline construction pending the results of a new “environmental impact” study that, conveniently, won’t be revealed until after the 2012 election. This “temporary” delay may derail the $7-billion project permanently.

Pipeline opponents are spinning this decision as a triumph of old-fashioned grassroots (or more precisely, cornfield) activism led by “Nebraskans who worry that a fractured pipeline might spill oil and contaminate the state’s aquifer.” However, risking the single electoral vote it won from Nebraska in 2008 hardly seems enough to panic the White House.

Expat-Canadian-turned-DC-insider David Frum writes:

The true locus of opposition to the pipeline is not Nebraska, but California, where big liberal environmentalist donors have seized on the pipeline as a talismanic cause….What will curtailing oilsands accomplish for the environment? Nothing. This is a big planet full of oil, and if the United States does not buy its oil from Canada, it will buy its oil from somebody else.

“Somebody else,” as oil-sands defenders point out, includes Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other nations of dubious repute. For all my country’s faults (sorry about Nickelback, OK?), we’re a saner, more reliable ally than any of America other oil suppliers.

It’s a point pro-Keystone Canadians are making by rebranding Alberta’s output as “ethical oil.” Leading the campaign is professional troublemaker Ezra Levant, most famous beyond our borders as “that guy who got charged with printing the Muhammad cartoons.” His latest cause is to undo years of anti-tar-sands propaganda churned out by US-funded environmentalists.

He seeks to do so by appealing to their “progressive” sympathies, pointing out that Alberta’s oil sands account for “just over one-hundredth of one percent of all the greenhouse gases going up into the atmosphere, or 0.015%. Farts emitted from all the cows and pigs on Canada’s farms emit more than that.”

And while it’s true that the air around Fort McMurray, Alberta—oil sands’ ground zero—smells like sulfur and the water tastes awful, diaries of the area’s early pioneers record identical phenomena because, well, there’s oil under the soil. (The local Indians used the plentiful tar bubbling up through the ground to waterproof their canoes.) In other words, the landscape was never postcard-pristine. Even today, Levant claims, only 2% of the area is marred by those undeniably ugly pits left behind after extraction—the pits that provide Greenpeace and others with some of their best fundraising materials.

The area’s “cancer cluster” turned out to be a hoax. The oil sands allow hundreds of the nation’s poorest people—Aboriginals—to earn six-figure salaries. By the way, Fort McMurray’s mayor is female, whereas Saudi women can’t even vote.

That last poke got under the Saudis’ skin. After an “ethical oil” NGO started running TV commercials that contrasted the lives of women in the Kingdom with those in Canada, the Saudis sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Canadian bureau that approves broadcast advertisements. All but one of the nation’s networks quickly dropped the ad.

This week, the commercial begins airing where it most needs to be seen: the United States. Alas, it doesn’t star any celebrities. And the NGO’s mock “counterdemo” outside the White House in September consisted mainly of two performance artists wearing burqas and claiming to be from “Americans4OPEC.”

Maybe we really do need to revisit that “no rioting” thing.


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