Alberta Government's New York Times Ad Makes Case For Keystone XL Pipeline

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NEW YORK TIMES
People pass the New York Times building in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. The New York Times Co.'s stock rose on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, after an analyst raised his rating and price target on the shares. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) | AP

EDMONTON - The Alberta government, continuing to press its case for the Keystone XL pipeline, took out out an ad in Sunday's New York Times newspaper, tying the controversial project to core American values and to U.S. pride in its military.

The half-page ad is headlined "Keystone XL: The Choice of Reason."

It acknowledges the validity of environmental concerns, but stresses the $7-billion pipeline is about much more than that.

"America's desire to effectively balance strong environmental policy, clean technology development, energy security and plentiful job opportunities for the middle class and returning war veterans mirrors that of the people of Alberta," reads the $30,000 ad.

"This is why choosing to approve Keystone XL and oil from a neighbour, ally, friend, and responsible energy developer is the choice of reason."

Stefan Baranski, a spokesman for Premier Alison Redford, said the ad was taken out to counter a New York Times editorial that ran a week ago urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the 1,800-kilometre TransCanada (TSX:TRP) line.

"It's important for Alberta to get the facts on the table as widely as possible," said Baranski.

"Certainly the Sunday Times is a critically important audience to speak to, and I think Alberta has a good track record, a very good story to tell, and it's important that we're out there telling that story at this very critical time."

Obama is expected to decide the fate of the pipeline in the next few months.

If approved, Keystone XL would take oil from Alberta's oilsands through the heart of the U.S. Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas for transshipment to consumers around the world.

Alberta and the federal government are urging Obama approve the deal to open up new markets for the oilsands.

A glut of oil due to new finds in North Dakota coupled with pipeline bottlenecks in Canada are squeezing the price of the oilsands product compared with the North American benchmark West Texas Intermediate. That price gap will cost Alberta an estimated $6 billion in lost revenue this year alone.

Keystone proponents, including labour groups and the petroleum industry, got a boost two weeks ago when the U.S. State Department, in a preliminary report, said rejecting Keystone XL would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions or slow down development in the oilsands.

Protesters, meanwhile, have gathered by the thousands in Washington in recent weeks to demand the project be abandoned.

For them, the carbon-intensive oilsands operations are a symbol of greedy, shortsighted thinking. Approving Keystone, they say, encourages producers to pursue high-carbon operations that will boost the greenhouse gases already causing climate problems like higher temperatures, superstorms and severe flooding.

The New York Times, referred to by some as the paper of record in the United States, agreed with that position in its editorial last Sunday.

The Times said Obama must adopt a broader view and take a stand.

A yes to Keystone XL, said the Times, makes it economical to expand the oilsands, resulting in even higher greenhouse gas emissions to go along with more collateral environmental damage like denuded landscapes and polluted waterways.

"In itself, the Keystone pipeline will not push the world into a climate apocalypse. But it will continue to fuel our appetite for oil and add to the carbon load in the atmosphere. There is no need to accept it," said the editorial.

The Alberta government ad takes pains to make the case for the province's environmental responsibility. It reiterates previous arguments that Alberta is financing more clean energy projects and is the first North American jurisdiction to charge large emitters $15 a tonne on carbon.

The ad focuses on the economic benefits of Keystone, including 42,100 jobs during the construction phase.

It also makes the case, suggested previously by Redford and others, that the oilsands have become been unfairly scapegoated despite much larger emitters burning coal on both sides of the border and around the world.

"Greenhouse gas emissions from all the oilsands in Alberta, Canada, make up just over one-tenth of one per cent of the world's emissions," said the ad.

Provincial officials, however, have previously conceded Alberta isn't even close to meeting its goals for reducing greenhouse gases. The province has pledged to reduce emissions by 50 megatonnes a year by 2020 but has averaged just over five tonnes a year since 2007.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Redford has stated her case in mass-circulation newspapers in the United States. She made a similar pitch in a guest column in USA Today three weeks ago.

Baranski said they requested a guest column in the Times but were turned down, leading to the decision to take out the ad.

The newspaper offensive is being matched by work on the ground. Redford, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and federal politicians have been jetting down to Washington in recent weeks to make the case for Keystone.

Redford has been to the U.S. capital twice and is scheduled to return there on April 8th or 9th for three days of meetings with decision makers, said Baranski. A detailed itinerary has not been set, he said.

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