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In 2010, Canada's Oil Became a Contentious American Energy Issue

The world's first major foray into unconventional oil starts to generate heated debates in the U.S., Canada and globally

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 28, 2010

This was the year the Canadian oil sands registered for the first time on the political and public radar in the U.S. beyond the circle of green activists in the know.

Congressional members from both parties, farmers and ranchers fought a proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline that would double U.S. consumption of the crude. Federal agencies met with First Nations who urged against depending on the "dirty oil." The prestigious U.S. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published an on the toxic effects of the tarry sands.

Anti-oil sands groups campaigned with billboards to convince would-be tourists to "rethink" visiting Alberta. Hollywood mogul James Cameron used his star power to raise awareness of the industry's environmental costs.

"The U.S. has been somewhat of a breakthrough in terms of awareness in 2010," said Simon Dyer, policy director and former head of the oil sands program at the , a Canadian environmental think tank.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time. America is Canada's largest customer of the relatively high-carbon fuel. By 2030, it is projected to supply up to 36 percent of U.S. needs, up from 8 percent in 2009, according to .

But most observers agree the BP PLC oil leak triggered the sudden attention. The worst accidental oil spill in history sent environmental security concerns soaring up the national energy agenda.

Keystone XL at Center of Post-BP Debate

"The BP disaster has catalyzed a lot of interest and concern around the whole idea of energy and oil in general," Dyer told SolveClimate News.

Along with the offshore drilling industry, the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline which Calgary-based wants to build, became a focal point in the effort to protect America from future oil accidents.

The 35-inch petroleum pipeline would carry up to 900,000 barrels of crude per day from Alberta across six states to tankers off the Gulf Coast. It would cut through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas, and crisscross the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 78 percent of the water supply and 83 percent of the water for irrigation in Nebraska.

Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the must either approve or reject the project.

Once a shoo-in for approval, the $7 billion pipeline found itself under increasing scrutiny after the BP oil spill.

In June, 50 House Democrats raised alarm over poor safety protocols proposed in the design. In October, Mike Johanns, Nebraska's junior Republican senator, urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reroute the pipe around the vulnerable aquifer.

Ben Nelson, the state's senior Democratic senator, echoed the sentiment in a that also voiced deep concerns over Clinton's seeming basis towards okaying the oil artery.


I have a feeling that we'll be hearing a lot more in 2011 about the dirty oil coming from Canada...

Oil War

I sometimes wonder if this oil battle or "oil war" as it may commonly become known as will ever reach a point where it will be viewed for what it really is. There are many who believe it is nothing more than a battle over money.


Je suis uniquement l’un des millions de parieurs qui adorent ce pour ses versements importants de casino, ses machines à sous progressives, ses tournois de poker et bien plus.

Stop Pipelines from Canada

I wish there had been this kind of wake up call and awareness before the state department OKd the "Alberta Clipper" pipeline coming into Minnesota, which was approved last year!!

It's the same situation, dirty oil from Canada, but received no awareness boost from James Cameron et al. 

I guess we'll just have to live with it -they aren't going to stop building it now.  The Sierra Club and others have to REALLY STEP UP their public education efforts on these pipelines. These pipelines are getting approved under the radar with not even local people knowing or understanding the ramifications.


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