3 Things I’m Tired of Hearing about the Keystone Pipeline

The key to good writing is beginning with several disclaimers, right?
(Where is sarcasm font when you need it?)

Nonetheless, I have some disclaimers.

First, for my handful of readers who live outside Canada, this post may not be for you.

Second, I’ve spent a lot of my career at an energy company (long known as an “oil sands company”, but to leadership’s credit, they realize transformation is needed), and I must note the following statements are my views – not a corporate statement.

Years ago, when it was part of my job to know the ins and outs of pipeline projects, I had some personal guesses about which ones would get built:

  • The “Line 3” pipeline is replacing much older infrastructure, so that seemed reasonable. And while it’s encountered some hiccups, some sections are complete and construction is ongoing in others.
  • Without getting into all the details, the Line 5 project appears to have a similar “not without issue, but it’s happening” story.
  • I figured Northern Gateway would never happen, and I was right.
  • I thought Energy East was an obvious choice, but I was wrong. Apparently Quebec would rather get overseas oil on tankers, or western Canadian oil via railways that are comparatively more dangerous than pipelines.
  • I was also wrong-ish on the Transmountain line, which goes westward from Alberta. It follows the route of an existing line, which I thought would make it easier to see through than a totally new project. And this project is proceeding, but the federal government had to buy it first.
  • And then there’s the Keystone project that would go south into the U.S. I was really wrong about that one. I thought as Canada’s largest customer, America would want that oil. But on President Biden’s first day in office, he ended years of back-and-forth.

In the days before and after his pen hit paper on an executive order, many Albertans were outraged. “The industry is different now!” That’s true: lower emissions, new technologies, and a different stance from the federal government on climate change (and the Alberta government as well, prior to the last election). You’d think the Americans would welcome these changes.

So what’s going on?! Well, there are plenty of opinions about that. And far smarter people than me have already shared well-researched, nuanced views. But a few opinions, to me, don’t fit in that category:

  1. Prime Minister Trudeau hates Alberta.

On many subjects, I will not defend, support, or agree with the current prime minister. But this – as much as I know it pains many of you – is not one of them.

As mentioned above, he had the federal government buy Alberta a pipeline, at political cost to votes in B.C. and elsewhere. And let’s remember how democracy works: decisions are based on what the majority wants. If the federal government is seen to favour Ontario and Quebec interests, that’s because the majority of Canadians live there.

And people in the east don’t hate the west: they simply don’t think about us, as I’m reminded almost every time I’m in a meeting as the lone western voice. Do I wish it wasn’t so? Sure. But let’s be real: Do I consider the needs and wants of people in a province like New Brunswick? Nope. Sorry New Brunswick. I mean no harm; you just don’t really factor into my day-to-day.

“But still,” you may ask, “Why won’t the federal government punish America for this pipeline tragedy?! They retaliated on U.S. tariffs that affected eastern Canadian steel and auto workers!” Well, one reason might be that those tariffs were illegal under global trading rules. President Biden’s executive order on Keystone is not.

  1. The U.S. is obligated to let the pipeline proceed.

Well, no, it’s not. I’m no lawyer or regulator, but President Trump used an executive order to overturn previous regulatory and legal processes that denied the pipeline (whether or not you agree with those processes, the U.S. has a right to have them). So, would it not stand to reason that a different president with different views could ALSO issue an executive order?

The real question for me here is this: WHY ON EARTH, especially knowing that Trump could lose the White House in less than 8 months, would the premier of Alberta invest $1.5 BILLION dollars of TAXPAYER money into a pipeline? Particularly as the premier ascribes to an ideology that says governments should stay out of business?!

  1. The environmentalists did it.

I have two issues with this belief. First, plenty of people believe climate change is human-caused, and that humans should do something about it. Science believes this. Corporations believe this. Kids believe this. I believe this. International energy giants like Shell and Total are planning to become carbon-neutral. General Motors announced last week they are moving toward an “all-electric” future. So whether or not you believe any of the above, it’s not just “the environmentalists.” Times are changing, regardless of whether you like it. What’s the most productive move here? Continuing to pound fists at the perceived unfairness of it all, or figuring out how to catch up/keep up?

And here’s my second reason: guess who else benefits from the lack of Keystone? American Oil!  Yup, there it is. Just in case you were sad that I was leaving you without a conspiracy theory to take hold of, consider this: In the same years that the Alberta oil sands were beginning to lower their emissions and do business differently, the Americans were increasing their fracking and producing loads of oil on their own. They don’t need to be our biggest customer anymore, because they got their own supply. If they can keep Canadian oil out – and apply a big discount to that which comes in (because the price per barrel for West Texas Intermediate is not what Canadian oil sells for) – they are the ones who benefit. President Biden’s order to stop Keystone simultaneously pleased environmentalists AND American oil. Imagine that.


The last time I wrote a post with three things that many of my friends and family disagreed with, it got 30,000+ views. I don’t expect the same to be true this time. In fact, I hope it’s not. Because I’m really tired of talking about this pipeline.

Let me know when we’re ready to talk about the future.

8 thoughts on “3 Things I’m Tired of Hearing about the Keystone Pipeline

  1. Brenda Ell

    Another theory out there that Tylor told me about is : one of the richest men in America billionaire Warren Buffet owns Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. So he would rather have his rail cars hauling oil and making even more money plus he is a huge democrat supporter$$$$


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