What will it be, Paris or Calgary? That is the question.
Are the commitments made so energetically and with such a show of elan in Paris superior to the need to give support and relief to the oil industry in Calgary? Indeed, the commitments made in Paris run counter to the needs of Calgary (let Calgary here stand for all Alberta).
One cannot make huge pledges to reduce carbon emissions one week and wax all enthusiastic about giving federal support to pipelines intended to carry Alberta oil the next. The two agendas are simply not compatible.
Thus, the debate over pipelines is not about the pipelines themselves, as there is really only one question that a debate over pipelines has to answer: will they be safe? With the technologies and expertise already available, that’s a question accessible to an “evidence-based” inquiry. It is not one that takes years or introduces novel concepts like “social license,” or requires the stamp of approval from herds of mayors.
If pipelines are not safe, they should not be built. If, however, they are safe, and can be proven to be so within the limits of human scientific competence, then all other questions disappear.
Safety is the social license. It is the political license. It is the economic license. Thus, there is no call for any other direction of inquiry once that fundamental question has been answered.
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