Canada’s pipeline preacher will not slow down – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – March 25, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver carries the government’s torch on oil exports. We’ll know this year whether he can overcome historic opposition

OTTAWA—Stephen Harper’s pipeline preacher has not lost any of his zeal.

Joe Oliver takes to his pulpit daily, spraying statistics and “fact-based” arguments at his opponents, refusing to be slowed by recent heart surgery, perhaps the loudest and most determined environmental protest ever mounted on both sides of the border or native leaders who promise a long, hot summer followed by potentially years of court challenges.

He is unbowed by his government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, its international vilification, the oilsands “branding” battle that, by his own admission, his government was losing when Harper tapped him as his natural resources minister.

He soldiers on resolutely in what has arguably become the country’s most important portfolio as his government ties the country’s economic future to the export of its deep oil reserves, but doesn’t even pay lip service to climate change in its budget.

One cannot help but wonder whether fate has placed the Toronto MP in the position of selling the wrong product at the wrong time, pushing an outdated energy source in an era of renewable resources.

A U.S. National Research Council study released last week, as the New York Times pointed out Sunday, said the use of alternative power sources and greater fuel efficiency could cut the amount of oil used in cars and trucks in that country in half by 2030.

The same analysis points out that Canada produces 63 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources.

That doesn’t negate the urgent need for the approval of the final extension of the Keystone XL pipeline, Oliver says, but he adds its own urgency comes from the need to diversify Canadian exports because, by 2035, U.S. oil imports may be negligible.

This is the pivotal year for the Harper government and its pipeline wish list.

The Keystone decision is expected by June. The joint panel decision on the giant Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline plan in British Columbia is due in December.

A west-east pipeline depends on approval by Quebec Premier Pauline Marois.

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