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“Keystone Isn’t A Futile Fight”: The Owners Of The Keystone Pipeline Just Canceled A Project In Canada

TransCanada on Thursday announced a two-year delay to its plans to move the Canadian tar sands. The company is cancelling its plans to build a controversial export terminal in Quebec, citing environmental concern over the endangered beluga whale. This means a delay to plans for finishing the Energy East pipeline, now set for 2020. In the meantime, TransCanada will search for a new location for its port.

For once, then, Canadian oil news isn’t about the TransCanada-owned Keystone XL, which has faced a six-year delay as the Obama administration sits on a decision to issue a permit. At least not directly, anyway. Energy East, once completed, would be even bigger than Keystone XL, delivering 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day, compared to Keystone’s 800,000 barrels. As its name implies, the pipeline would run from the Alberta tar sands eastward to the shipping lanes of the Atlantic coast.

Not only are Keystone and Energy East similar battles, but proponents (and opponents) often tie the two pipelines’ fates together. Keystone opponents say building that pipeline would ensure tar sands extraction continues at a rapid pace, setting the world on track for severe climate change. Proponents argue that Keystone doesn’t matter either way, because other pipelines like Energy East make tar sands development inevitable. If the United States doesn’t build its pipeline, they say, Americans will miss out on the economic benefits. “We don’t think there’s any way that the oil will stay in the ground,” Matt Letourneau, a spokesperson for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said last year. “Certainly the market will find a way.”

But so long as there are delays, tar sands development isn’t inevitable because Energy East’s future, like Keystone’s, is far from settled. Oil companies are still in the middle of working out how to get the landlocked tar sands to the coasts for refining and shipment, and during their delays on multiple fronts, Keystone isn’t a futile fight.

The delay could provide a boost to organizers trying to delay other tar sands projects. Each of these pipelines face a similar environmental playbook: Delay as long as possible in the hopes that it becomes unprofitable or impossible for companies to pursue their plans. Keystone has faced years of delay, and now Energy East faces its own uncertain future. Environmentalists weren’t the only reason for TransCanada’s change of plans. Because oil prices are low right now, companies have little incentive to pursue their plans to extract costly tar sands for little profit.

TransCanada still has a strong incentive to find a new port and finish construction. Oil prices surely will rebound eventually, making the tar sands profitable once again.

“I don’t think you can look at this as a major impediment to the future of oil sands development but it certainly speaks to the opposition to pipelines, the anxiety about shipments of oil and, of course, to the increasing importance of environmental protection to the public,” Andrew Leach, an economist with the University of Alberta, said. “The beluga is an iconic species, so I think the writing was on the wall for this once the risk to habitat was made clear, in particular in Quebec.”

In the short-term, however, this is a win for environmentalists. And it may even help them in their fight against Keystone.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, April 2, 2015

April 4, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Environment, Keystone XL | , , , , | Leave a comment

“David Vitter, God Bless The Koch Brothers”: The Most Patriotic Americans In The History Of The Earth

It stands to reason that Republican politicians are going to celebrate Charles and David Koch. After all, the billionaires’ generosity is critically important in conservative politics right now and may ultimately be the deciding factor in which party has power in Congress.

But Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is willing to take his appreciation for the Koch brothers to a pretty extraordinary level, as evidenced by a town-hall event in Shreveport this week. American Bridge posted the above video (http://youtu.be/-7mStFMk6og), and for those who can’t watch clips online, the conservative senator told constituents:

“I think the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth. […]

“God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”

Sure, Republicans are bound to be grateful to the billionaires for saturating the airwaves with anti-Democratic attack ads, but Vitter’s effusive praise seemed a little over the top.

Burgess Everett saw an even longer version of the clip and reported that Vitter, as part of the same discussion, said he’s “not defending big money in politics.”

No, of course not.  He’s just grateful that the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth are fighting for our freedoms.

It’s worth noting that Louisiana will host two major elections in the next two years: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is running for re-election this year, and she’s already facing attack ads from the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, and Vitter is running for governor next year, and likely hopes the Kochs’ operation will support his candidacy.

But there’s an even larger context to this: what is it, exactly, the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth hope to receive in exchange for their political investments?

The New York Times reports today on the bigger picture.

As [Americans for Prosperity] emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.

“We have a broader cautionary tale,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “The president’s out there touting billions of dollars on climate change. We want Americans to think about what they promised with the last social welfare boondoggle and look at what the actual result is.”

Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.

Indeed, Wonkblog reported just yesterday that a Koch Industries subsidiary is the biggest lease owner in Canada’s tar sands, covering an area of 1.1 million acres. The piece added, “Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to 2 million acres.”

This helps bring into sharper focus why the Democratic fight with the Koch brothers has become so important. The dispute isn’t about some misleading AFP attack ads about health care reform; this is about a broader agenda.

As Greg Sargent explained this morning, “The real purpose of the Dem strategy is to create a framework for a broader argument about the true goals and priorities of the actual GOP policy agenda. It’s about tapping into a sense that the economy is rigged against ordinary Americans, and in favor of the one percent, and dramatizing that the GOP’s economic agenda would preserve that status quo, blocking any government policies designed to address stagnant mobility and soaring inequality. Or that, as Jonathan Chait puts it, the GOP has ‘built a policy agenda around plutocracy,’ and its primary ‘organizing purpose is to safeguard the economic interests of the very rich.’”

And it’s against this backdrop that David Vitter proclaims, “God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Koch Brothers, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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