It may be time to step back on Keystone XL project – by Jeffrey Jones (Globe and Mail – September 19, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

CALGARY — Canada is winning the battle for U.S. market share in oil, and, under President Barack Obama, the United States has been cutting its reliance on imported crude – all at the same time and all without Keystone XL. It has been five years, one global financial crisis, two U.S. elections and countless shuttles to Washington by officials from Ottawa and Alberta since TransCanada Corp. filed its initial application with regulators in the United States to build the pipeline.

Today, with the project as uncertain and divisive as ever, it’s time for Canadians to ask if they want their elected officials to keep spending money, time, effort and diplomatic capital trying to persuade Washington that one pipeline is necessary for both economies.

With several alternative export proposals to the United States and elsewhere being floated, perhaps the federal and provincial governments should take a step back, push Keystone XL down on the public agenda and let TransCanada and its shippers take the lead on touting their proposal.

A year ago, many in the oil patch were confident Keystone XL was just a presidential vote away. If Republican candidate Mitt Romney won, the thinking went, the project was a sure thing: he had already served notice that “that pipeline from Canada” was a go. If Mr. Obama was re-elected, then he would no longer be concerned about alienating the environmentally conscious faction of his base, and the pipeline would proceed.

Instead, Mr. Obama’s victory has led to even more stalling, and even Canadian officials now doubt a decision will be made before 2014. This is despite intense lobbying by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and various federal and provincial ministers to press a case that U.S. politicians must know by heart – that Keystone XL offers jobs and energy security, from a country with the highest environmental standards.

Has it worked? Mr. Obama, who has final say, recently scoffed at the project’s job-creation estimates and suggested Canada has to do more to prove its claims on carbon emissions from the oil sands.

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