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Canada’s oil sands are besieged with two myths: That a “clean” coal technology exists and that the oil sands imperil the planet as the world’s dirtiest fuel.
Meanwhile, they are not swarming around America’s biggest carbon dioxide emissions culprit – Southern Company’s Scherer Plant. In 2007, the plant was the single largest source of carbon dioxide in the U.S. and 20th biggest worldwide, spewing out 27 million tons annually.
And while the environmental industry attacked Keystone during the 2012 election campaign with large protests and media noise, there were no dramatic sit-ins or mass arrests in Georgia or other dirty coal plants. In fact, that year the Scherer Plant in Georgia hired KBR Haliburton to build yet-another gigantic smoke stack, increasing emissions.
Comparing a single plant with the oil sands sector may sound unfair, but consider the numbers. The Scherer Plant’s emissions alone are equivalent to 75% of the carbon dioxide produced by Canada’s oil sands and yet the Georgia utility gets a pass while the oil sands are dubbed the pariah of polluters.
Digging deeper, the Georgia emissions are far worse using the “wheel to wheel” measure that environmentalists like to apply to the oil sands. This is because the Scherer is fed with coal from distant Wyoming and every day between two and five trains, with 124 cars each, are unloaded in Georgia. And there are dozens more plants like this one across the U.S.
But the greens pick on the oil sands even though a recent report stated that the oil sands have only 9% more emissions than average crudes but roughly the same as most foreign crudes or California’s heavy crudes. Canada’s an easy target because Canadians don’t vote in the U.S. and the Keystone XL Pipeline is even easier because there are so many jurisdictions to lobby.
What’s most disturbing about oil sands bashing is that it offers a distraction from smart energy/environmental policy. There are other benefits involved in importation of oil sands that are never acknowledged:
1. Canada is a reliable supplier, now providing 28% of America’s oil imports.
2. Buying more crude oil from Canada is a means of backing out of equally heavy, or dirty, oil from Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq. The U.S. cannot become totally oil independent.
3. Buying crude from Canada to value-add in U.S. refineries creates American jobs, as does operating and building pipelines and refineries.
4. Buying crude from Canada benefits the United States directly because the oil is produced in Canada by U.S.-owned companies or by Canadian companies with as much as half their stocks owned by Americans. Money sent to Hugo Chavez or Nigeria or Saudi Arabia never comes back.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/02/15/8-reasons-america-should-welcome-canadas-oil-and-keystone-xl/