Concerns over the safety of tar sands oil from Canada is at the forefront of the political debate in the United States. President Obama's critics accuse him of being a "job killer" for stating initial opposition to the planned $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline while his allies on the opposite side of the aisle don't believe much of what the Republicans say about the pipeline anyway. But across the border, it seems the imbroglio is much worse. There, it seems, pipeline company Enbridge is throwing money at aboriginal groups along the country's western border to keep their objections about tar sands to themselves.
There was some U.S. controversy early on in the Keystone XL debate when Hillary Clinton said it was a matter of getting dirty oil from the Middle East or dirty oil from Canada. Any conflict of interest she had, however, pales in comparison to what seems to be the case in Canada. Aboriginal groups have expressed concern that plans by Enbridge to build its Northern Gateway pipeline to the west coast would wreck their environment, but now it seems some of their economic concerns were offset by Enbridge itself in the way of what could be seen as an equity-sharing scheme.
Enbridge officials were quoted in The Canadian Press as saying they gave cash, with no strings attached, to aboriginal groups to study the pipeline project. There's no way that looks principled, however. What it looks like is that Enbridge is paying off Canadian First Nations so oil can reach Asian markets. Considering the country's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said it was the environmental "radicals" that were making life miserable there, things start to get a little more suspicious in the Great White North.
The Canadian Press article goes so far as to say part of the deal encouraged aboriginal groups to "participate in and support" the pipeline from the drawing board to completion. Understandably the Canadian government needs to make the best use of its available resources. But, considering the political debate over tar sands, even the slightest allegation that the issue is somehow corrupt is especially problematic.
The BBC, meanwhile, now claims Canadian Prime Minister is "muzzling" scientists there who claim climate change is a rather serious issue. With the environmental groups noting that extracting oil sands spews out more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude, it's no wonder the Canadian government would counter the dirty tar sands narrative.
Canadian media reports state that aboriginal groups in Canada could gain around $400 million from the Northern Gateway pipeline. Is that hush money? While nothing's for certain, the same reports note that one chieftain is now in hiding. After signing a deal with Enbridge, he's now wanted by members of his own tribe.
Now that's dirty.
By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com