Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Opposing Canadian oil: Another “ugly American” with a lovely cause

Pushing smaller countries around isn’t only an evangelical conservative vice. It’s just that liberals do it on behalf of different gods.

The New York Times editorial board yesterday urged Obama’s State Department to stop being so squeamish about the dangers of the proposed Keystone oil pipeline from Alberta. It should interfere directly in how Canadians develop their energy resources while meeting their responsibilities to address climate change. In “Canada’s Oil, the World’s Carbon,” they insist that the new project impact hearings ignore the Canadian border.

“What is less certain is whether it will ask an essential global question that transcends borders: What is the pipeline’s likely effect on the climate?

“But the climate question must be addressed, if only to give a full accounting of the range of consequences of developing the tar sands, an effort in which the United States will be complicit if it allows the pipeline.”

The Times and the American environment movement, of course, claim they know the answer: the Canadian oil sands are pivotal to the fight against climate change and, therefore, hobbling their development must be an American priority.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to stop climate change at the Canadian border?

Wasn’t one little war to democratize the entire Muslim world worth stretching international law?

Iraq hasn’t revitalized the American right. Fixing northern Alberta will not compensate for the impotence of climate change policies in liberal Washington.

Those who understand commodity markets better than the behavior of clouds know beyond any reasonable doubt that mitigating the growth of CO2 emissions will depend—above all else—on what consumers do, not on how oil producers produce to meet consumer wants.

Oil sands production will not alter the competitive price of oil in the energy market and, thereby, the propensity of people to use it and invest in it. Oil sands production, in any event, will be out-paced by the extraordinary expansion of fossil fuel production in the United States, let alone in Asia.

Of course, it’s an election year. Environmentalists see themselves as far too sophisticated to ask their liberal allies to talk about carbon taxes and consumer practices right now. They believe they can raise people’s awareness—and raise money—by supporting politicians willing to stand up to Canada.

Liberals will promise to tax the millionaires, but not gasoline. In swing states, they will support investments in clean energy, not dis-investment in coal.

These evasions aren’t free. They entrench their own climate denier mentality. They are reality-based about the dangers and Pollyanna about the solutions.

And, by the way, they disguise the fact that climate mitigation plans in Canada are in better shape than in the US—and they delay cost-effective collective action with Canada that could impress the world.

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