The Petroleonic Wars: Why the Battle over Pipelines Could Become Our Energy Waterloo. Bring on the Coalitions

Article excerpt

THE DEBATE about the Keystone XL pipeline has dragged on for more than five years now, and it is beginning to look like a petroleum-fuelled version of the Napoleonic Wars.

On one side, Big Oil and its revenue-hungry government allies want to maintain the Napoleonic status quo by expanding an aging and poorly regulated hydrocarbon infrastructure. It took 150 years to build this leaky petroleum empire, and its owners will not surrender any part of this network without a bitter fight.

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Having invested $200-billion in the tar sands over the last decade and billions more in shale oil extraction. Big Oil hopes to create new Asian markets for extreme hydrocarbons before the global community puts a real price on their sizeable carbon and water liabilities. Meanwhile, industry PR shills vow that the pipeline will bolster continental energy security--but that's another dramatic rupture of the truth.

Since 2005, US oil demand has dropped by two million barrels per day due to the ongoing financial crisis, new fuel standards and rising domestic production. This diminished demand for oil on the continent poses a problem for the petro-state of Canada, which plans to more than double bitumen production to six million barrels a day by 2035.

Keystone proposes to repeat a telltale Canadian tragedy: exporting a raw good abroad so others can add value to it. Underutilized US coastal refineries owned by Big Oil or Saudi Arabia are already turning railcars filled with Canada's heavy sour crude into gasoline and diesel for global sales. Not surprisingly, the export of US-refined oil products has increased 150 per cent since 2005.

The ragtag army of North Americans who oppose the pipeline recognize that a bold "no" to Keystone XL could be an energy Waterloo. In fact, they hope a "no" could signal an end to the expansion of petroleum's empire and the start of some sort of transition to a low-carbon society. And they've marshaled their forces to take on three issues that are pivotal to the decision-making process: climate change, the freedom to choose different energy futures, and abuse of power. …