04/25/2013 06:18 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Is Canada Now Openly Denying Anti-Pipeline Research?

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Joe Oliver, Canada's natural resources minister, speaks during the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) summit in New York, U.S., on Monday, April 22, 2013. The BNEF Summit, now in its sixth year, gathers political and thought leaders to explore key themes that are driving the agenda of the energy industry. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

So Joe Oliver, Canada's Natural Resources Minister, marched down to Washington this week and gave the proverbial finger to one of America's most renowned scientists.

Jim Hansen, the esteemed scientist formerly of NASA, is spewing "nonsense" when he is talking about global warming and Canada's Keystone pipeline, according to Oliver, a former investment banker turned heavy oil mouthpiece.

The Globe and Mailreported that Joe took off the gloves in the question and answer session after his talk at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies this week, saying Hansen was using "exaggerated rhetoric."

Hansen once said it would be "game over" for the planet if the Keystone pipeline was approved and helped fully exploit Canada's vast tar sands, because of the extra carbon it would press into the atmosphere.

"Frankly, it's nonsense," Mr. Oliver said of Hansen's statements, adding that the scientist "should be ashamed."

Yes we all know this is Joe's schtick. He likes to lash out at any and all critics who might speak up against Alberta's oil sands. But what choir was Joe trying to preach to in Washington?

President Barack Obama is in the White House, the one who made all those big hope and change statements on global warming in his State of the Union address just a few short months ago.

And look who is at the State Department. It's John "Cap and Trade" Kerry. Perhaps someone should have put Kerry's Earth Day statement from this week in Oliver's briefing notes before he headed out on his latest adventure. Kerry made a full-throated appeal for the environment: "The science is screaming at all of us and demands action."

Not sure what Kerry means by that just yet, but you can bet that neither Kerry nor Obama think that the science as espoused by Jim Hansen is nonsense.

Hansen, who is also an environmental activist, is sometimes criticized for his strong rhetoric, but the Hansen-bashing mainly comes from the right wing and climate science skeptics.

For most others Hansen is a hero. He is sometimes called the Paul Revere of Global Warming, the one who went before Congress in 1988 to warn of the problems if mankind does not cut back on harmful greenhouse gas emissions. And he's been at the problem ever since.

You've even got to wonder how all this goes down with Oliver's boss, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with his petro-friendly yet decidedly nocturnal style of governing. Surely Harper would see this as a rather sensitive time to be letting loose the bull in the china shop.

The White House is digesting a new and sharply critical report on Keystone from the Environmental Protection Agency. It's unclear if the EPA's report will result in further delays in the project but make no mistake: the EPA is not just another voice in the messy Keystone debate, it's a very powerful tool at the disposal of the White House.

Even Oliver's reasoning in his formal remarks on Keystone sounded lame on why the U.S. should approve the pipeline, along the lines of: "Hey, you gotta take our dirty oil because we are BFFs... and we are not as bad as those guys down in Venezuela!"

The sad fact is Joe Oliver is just the most public face of a government that eschews science and shuns anyone, Canadian or American, who might oppose oil sands development.

"But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy," wrote Thomas Homer Dixon, who teaches at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, in a recent Op-Ed piece for the New York Times. "By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics."

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