The Keystone XL pipeline project proposed to extend from Alberta, Canada, to Texas has been the subject of much controversy — namely, the environmental costs versus the economic benefits of its realization. The project is part of a more prominent Canadian foreign policy in trade and energy, whose development is not only in America’s interest, but which also creates new opportunities for pioneering environmental protection techniques.
I want to present a Canadian viewpoint on the matter. The pipeline is symbolic of Canada’s enhanced international presence, and America’s interests are served by a more robust Canadian international position.
First, the Alberta oil sands are only an introduction to the amount of oil and gas trapped in Canada’s northern latitudes. Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories altogether hold approximately 100,000 people. This region is approximately the size of Western Europe with an average population density lower than Russia’s, and the colossal potential for its development has not been fully comprehended yet.
Second, Canada is a resource-rich country — oil and gas aside, it has vast supplies of fresh water fisheries, timber, and minerals of all kinds. All of these resources will be in demand in the foreseeable future, not only in the United States, but also throughout the rapidly growing developing world.
Canada’s international position is also changing. Its relationship with the United States is integral to this country economically, militarily, socially, and politically.
The pipeline is part of this overall trend in Canadian foreign policy. From a geostrategic perspective, there is mutual benefit. America receives an assured energy supply from a long-time ally and a politically-predictable partner, which is preferable to importing oil from politically volatile regions, such as the Middle East or West Africa. On the other hand, Canada profits from demand and rising prices of primary exports, much in the same manner as Russia.
Keystone is also of symbolic importance to Canada — our international profile is permanently raised from a larger stake in world affairs, and especially with a project of continental significance that makes Canada and America increasingly co-dependent on matters of energy infrastructures and policies.
The environmental risks certainly exist — however, Keystone is an excellent opportunity for companies and organizations to develop new approaches to dealing with environmental risks posed by large-scale projects. Big business is often accused of not caring about environmental impacts — to a degree this is true — but the example of the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico indicates that environmental liabilities will be increasingly incorporated towards sustainable development.
Canada has two advantages over other countries in general: It has a low population and is resource-rich. A multipolar world is good for Canada, because it raises its relative profile and influence on the international stage and the Keystone pipeline is indicative of that trend. In the meanwhile, America can only benefit from this development.
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