The Washington Post

Washington’s unwelcome delay in the Keystone XL pipeline project
The Washington Post

EARLY LAST WEEK, as the Obama administration prepared to announce a delay in deciding whether to permit the construction of the Canada-U.S. Keystone XL oil pipeline, Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, was in Asia to discuss cooperation with the energy-hungry and cash-flush Chinese on extracting his nation’s oil reserves. Given that China already has an $11 billion stake in Canadian oil production, Mr. Oliver should have little trouble getting the help.

Despite the passion among environmentalists against Keystone XL, Mr. Oliver’s travels illustrate the critical point: Canada’s oil will come out of the ground, and someone somewhere will refine it and burn it.

Even under optimistic assumptions about greening the world economy, the United States and every other nation will demand immense amounts of oil for decades. The resulting upward pressure on oil prices provides a massive incentive to develop previously unattractive oil deposits, such as those in Alberta’s tar sands. Nixing a pipeline that would bring more of that oil to U.S. refineries wouldn’t cut that demand, it wouldn’t shut down Canadian production, and it wouldn’t make any difference to global carbon emissions.