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Pipeline-punched

27 Jan 2021 | News Roundup

If Alberta premier Jason Kenney felt a “gut punch” when President Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, he is not alone. A great many Canadians who had spent four years longing not just for the departure of his predecessor but for a Democrat in the White House struggled intellectually as well as rhetorically with this immediate cruel blow to our economy and our relations with our southern neighbour. But if they truly did not see it coming they all should have, and recognized that they threw the boomerang, because if you keep saying that fossil fuels are destroying the planet you cannot rationally argue for continuing to produce, export and consume them.

Some commentators accused Biden of hypocrisy on the grounds that the United States has millions of miles of pipelines already. And again, to be shocked that a politician is hypocritical seems naïve and especially if the ground for being shocked is that you were a partisan fan. (We’re also unimpressed by NBC’s headline “For Biden, now comes the hard part”; if you thought campaigning was hard and governing easy you should be on another beat.) But the key point is that the charge of hypocrisy is a lever of straw with which to try to change the decision. If Biden is hypocritical it doesn’t mean we should be too, it means he should stop. Yet there was our Prime Minister apparently asking Biden in their phone call to reconsider. Climate Home News actually slagged our PM, saying “would-be climate champion Justin Trudeau backs Keystone in the face of rising oil and gas sector emissions.” But of course he doesn’t really.

When Biden said nope, killing it dead, Trudeau responded OK, whatever, thanks for rejoining Paris and helping us try to wipe out fossil fuels, or words to that effect, a stand eagerly echoed by his cabinet. And this position reflects what Trudeau really thinks and he has never pretended otherwise. Thus the PMO made no effort to pretend that his brief and predictable exchange with Biden on the pipeline did anything to dampen the mood of a long conversation that the CBC reports “was warm, friendly and collegial, according to a senior government official who spoke confidentially to CBC News because they were not authorized to speak in public about the matter.” (Yeah. We’ll bet they weren’t. Speaking of minor-league hypocrisy.)

When it comes to Jason Kenney, and many energy industry executives, the situation is far murkier. They have never wavered in their support for pipelines. But a great many have also refused to deny, and sometimes have agreed outright, that those pipelines carry a substance dangerous to human civilization and possibly all life on our home planet. And “Buy our product and the Earth gets it” is the worst advertising slogan that has ever existed or probably ever will. You could put Hitler in a promo and do better.

Some conservative politicians and energy executives, we suspect, secretly do not believe it and are, indeed, making a hypocritical calculation that if they publicly endorse the orthodoxy on climate they will in return get permission to build pipelines from the politicians and activists they seek to appease. If so, their cunning plan went all Baldrick on them, leaving them bereft alike of profit, honour and dignity (and we remind them that there is a reason we are warned against the riding of tigers as well as against appeasement). If they were not hypocritical in claiming to believe fossil fuels are causing an urgent global crisis, they are certainly being hypocritical in urging the president, the prime minister or anyone else to facilitate the destruction of the planet so they or someone else can prosper amid the ruins.

By contrast, whatever one thinks of President Biden he acted in his first day in the Oval Office as though he believed precisely the things about climate that he has long said he believed. And in cancelling Keystone XL he fulfilled an explicit pledge he made last May. For such behaviour to astound people is, perhaps, a sign of just how little respect we have for politicians’ integrity or intelligence. And arguably how little we use our own.

2 comments on “Pipeline-punched”

  1. Biden told you what he was going to do, it was up to you to make the hard decision- cancel what had been completed, and sell the product to either Japan, Korea or China. Cry wolf enough times and eventually people believe you, the Canadian government has constantly and consistently stated “Fossil Bad, Green Good”, so you really cannot blame Biden for going along with your narrative.

  2. In the soon to be immortal words of "Viva Frei", "POLITICS RUINS EVERYTHING!". One should never be surprised at the hypocrisy or venality of the Political Class.

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