Defending Keystone, Canadian official rips top US climate scientist

The “game over” line from Hansen — who recently left NASA to focus on climate change activism — has served as a rallying cry for opponents of Keystone, which would bring oil sands from Canada to Texas.

Oliver told reporters that Hansen’s comments on Keystone amounted to “crying wolf.”

The impact of Keystone on emissions has been a contentious point between the project’s supporters and opponents. 

Canadian officials say the pipeline is key for developing that nation’s lucrative oil sands, a carbon-intensive fossil fuel that has raised the ire of environmentalists and progressive groups. Canada has downplayed the emissions impact of oil sands.

Oliver argued that emissions from the oil sands account for one-one thousands of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that Hansen's statement would distort public views.

“To say that’s the end of the planet if that’s developed is nonsense," he said. "You know what it does? It can have an impact on the attitude of the population towards this issue. And that’s not a positive thing. It’s not a positive thing if people start getting skeptical.” 

Oliver noted that transporting oil sands by rail — as is currently done — “cannot be a long-term solution.” He also stressed that U.S. rejection of Keystone “would represent a serious reversal in our longstanding energy relationship.”

Oliver’s appearance is part of the Canadian government’s campaign to drum up U.S. support for Keystone in hopes of pressuring the White House to approve the project. Oliver said he has a meeting with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Thursday to discuss Keystone and other issues.

The Obama administration has the final say on Keystone because it crosses national borders. Keystone builder TransCanada Corp. needs a cross-border permit from the State Department to complete the pipeline’s northern leg.

The State Department said in its March draft environmental review that Keystone would not accelerate oil sands production or lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

It noted the project would displace oil imports from other nations — such as Venezuela — and that some of the pipeline would transport light crude oil from the U.S. Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana. It also said rail transport would continue to haul oil sands, even without Keystone.

Then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenged some of those conclusions in public comments to the draft report submitted Monday. It urged State to go back to the drawing board before it finalizes the report.

Despite the EPA’s objections, Oliver said he had faith that the State Department would rule that building Keystone was in the U.S. national interest.

A determination of national interest would signal the Obama administration’s intention to approve a cross-border permit to TransCanada.

“Democracy can sometimes be messy. But we’re comfortable with the safety, with the environmental protection involved here. And, you know, we look to the lead agency for its opinion, and we’ve heard from them twice,” Oliver told reporters.