The federal NDP is trying to find its footing on the oilsands issue. Lacking clear leadership, the party is starting to split on whether oilsands projects like the Keystone pipeline should be developed or scuttled, as columnist Barbara Yaffe writes.
Keystone Oil Sands Pipeline Mining News
Warburg Pincus LLC, one of the world’s oldest and largest private equity firms, wants to do more deals in Canada’s oil sands. In a rare interview, Charles (Chip) Kaye, co-president of the New York-based firm, said he thinks the U.S. government’s decision to postpone approval of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline was shortsighted. And it will in no way diminish Warburg Pincus’s appetite for oil sands investments.
Nebraska legislators have voted unanimously to reroute the Keystone XL pipeline away from an ecologically sensitive region and the governor has signed new bills into law. The legislation is to pay for new environmental studies on the exact route the rerouted pipeline will take. The state and the proponent of the project, Canadian company TransCanada Corp. (TSE:TRP), agreed earlier this month to reroute the $7 billion project away from the Ogallala aquifer, a sprawling water table that provides water to cities and for irrigating farms. The new path would involve about 50 kilometres of pipeline. The company had long resisted changing the route, having already spent some $1.4 billion securing right of ways and stockpiling material for the project, which would deliver 700,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Alberta oilsands to Texas refineries.
The price of US crude oil broke through the psychologically important $100/barrel level on Wednesday after news of a pipeline deal that will relieve the oil glut in Cushing, Oklahoma, the pricing point for US crude. The US benchmark crude price West Texas Intermediate is now up more than a third from year-lows of $76 struck in early October. On top of the almost 3% move higher to $102 on Wednesday, the gap between WTI and the international benchmark price, Brent, reduced dramatically. From a record margin of $26.87 early September, WTI is now less than $10 cheaper. At the same time the discount on Western Canada Select narrowed 55 cents to $11.40/barrel meaning oil sands producers now get more than $90 per barrel for their heavy oil for the first time since June.
TransCanada Corp. (TSE:TRP), the company behind the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, has reached a deal with the state of Nebraska to reroute the proposed pipeline around an environmentally sensitive aquifer. The decision was announced late Monday at a news conference from the Nebraska state legislature. A bill was earlier introduced that would divert the pipeline away from the ecologically sensitive Sandhills area. Under the deal reached today, and to be voted on Tuesday, the state will pay for studies to find a new route to avoid the Ogallala aquifer which provides water for millions of people in the area.
Reuters reports the US move to put off a decision on TransCanada Corp's proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline for 18 months is a significant blow for Ottawa, which has strongly backed the project. The Canadian government and the Alberta oil industry will now turn their attention to the 1,170km Northern Gateway pipeline project from Alberta to a new marine terminal in northern British Columbia to serve Asian markets. But the $5.5 billion project which has significant Chinese backing, is already almost a year behind schedule and would not go into operation in 2017 at the soonest. Even this schedule is optimistic: starting in January, an unprecedented 4,000-plus people – mostly greens – will speak for a collective 650 hours at public hearings.
Just a few weeks ago analysts thought the jobs – 20,000 during the building phase alone – and economic benefits would easily outweigh environmental concerns and push the Obama administration to approve Keystone XL. But now, after a summer of protests culminating in Sunday's 10,000 strong White House encirclement and on top of Nebraska's vow to force a rerouting, the US State Department’s inspector general on Monday ordered a "special review" of the Obama administration’s handling of Keystone XL following complaints from members of Congress that the process has been tainted by conflicts of interest.
If you thought it had slipped onto the backburner, you'd be wrong. The Keystone XL pipeline is back in the news, this time courtesy of prime time TV actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, better known as Jerry Seinfeld's witty ex-girlfriend in the '90s blockbuster sitcom. Louis-Dreyfus is the latest Hollywood star to go public against TransCanada's $7-billion project to transport Canadian oilsands crude from nothern Alberta to Texas refineries. Her appearance this week in a Youtube video by environmental group Tar Sands Action follows similar public appearances by Daryl Hannah, Robert Redford, Mark Ruffalo and other celebrity activists.
President Obama will have the final say on whether the Keystone XL gets built. In an interview with the Nebraska news station, Obama said that the State Department will be giving him a report "over the next several months", which he will use to make a decision. "The state department is in charge of analyzing this, because there is a pipeline coming in from Canada. They'll be giving me a report over the next several months. My general attitude is what is best for the American economy and what is best for the American people short term and long term," said Obama to KETV NewsWatch 7's Rob McCartney.
The UK's Telegraph reports two hundred wealthy Democrats were paying $5,000 a head this week to have lunch with Barack Obama – up to $7,500 if they also wanted their pictures taken with him – at San Francisco's posh W Hotel. Outside it was very different – some of the party's biggest donors were protesting. There is increasing bitterness on the left about Obama's perceived closeness to industry and what they see as his failure to honour environmental promises. Like the San Francisco protesters many former campaign donors are now threatening to withdraw financial support if he fails to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline and putting off the decision – hinted at by the US State Department this week – should not come as a surprise to anyone following Obama's poll numbers..
Keystone XL should bring Canadian crude, which at the moment sells at a $30 discount, in line with global prices. At the same time a huge slice of the record profits announced this week by Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil will we wiped out. Here's why.
The US state department's anonymous leak to the media on Tuesday lowering expectations about a decision on Keystone this year should not come as a surprise to anyone following Barack Obama's poll numbers or the increasing bitterness on the left about his perceived closeness to industry.
On top of a 3.3% decline in US crude oil prices on Wednesday comes news from Reuters that a US State Department official said the year-end target to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline could well be missed. It would be the second time a decision has been pushed out. A surge in inventories at the Cushing hub in the Midwest, the pricing point for US crude was behind the fall and a further delay to Keystone, designed to carry Canadian crude to Texas refineries and relieve the Cushing glut, will hit oil sands producers particularly hard. Canada's heavy oil already sells at almost a $30 discount to the international price.
Facing strong resistance from local constituencies, Nebraska governor Dave Heineman says he'll meet with state lawmakers to consider challenging the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline, CBC reports: Pipeline opponents, including a coalition of environmentalists, ranchers and landowners, sought the special session to consider a proposal that would have given the state control over the pipe's route. Lawmakers, however, said last week that the measure wouldn't likely survive a court challenge. The issue is expected to be addressed during the special session beginning Nov. 1.
Bill O'Reilly, the talk show host on Fox, believes Keystone is going to be approved, and it will be good the U.S. O'Reilly made the comments during an interview with talk radio host Charles Adler, which will run later this week. O'Reilly is a leading news commentator on the U.S. cable network Fox News. He is watched by four million people each day.
Ever since Friday's New York Times report saying the US State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the Keystone XL pipeline to Cardno Entrix, a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator TransCanada, in contravention of federal law, opponents of the project have shifted the focus of their opposition to allegations of conflict of interest and corruption. Two prominent names on the political left and in the green movement Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben put it most bluntly: Obama's plan to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast reeks of cronyism and it is quite possibly the biggest potential scandal of the Obama years. TransCanada officials meanwhile appear to have been caught off guard by the vociferous protests that weeks of Keystone hearings that ended on Friday have elicited, pointing out that TransCanada won approval for a similar pipeline three years ago with little opposition.
As the US State Department holds its final public hearing today on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, one observer notes that the debate between the pipeline's supporters and detractors is being framed in more ideological terms than in a manner that actually weighs the pros and cons of the project:
Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican senator representing South Carolina, urged the Obama administration to support the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline. Graham, who was speaking at a political event on Wednesday, said that if the U.S. rejects the pipeline, it would be ". . . one of the biggest energy policy blunders in our history." The senator said that the pipeline has the potential to create thousands of jobs, and rejecting the development would have serious consequences for Obama's chances at re-election.
Even if both Keystone XL and Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipelines are built, bitumen is expensive to extract and cannot compete with the many new shale oil plays – particularly in the Bakken oil basin where studies put the recoverable oil at 24 billion barrels – which have pushed US production to its highest level in a decade. No wonder Enbridge – busy building out its capacity in Bakken while Northern Gateway wallows in the approval process – said "it's the wild west out there at the moment."
The Keystone XL pipeline project of TransCanada Corp. should be halted because the US did not complete an environmental impact review before work started, green advocacy groups said in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Western Nebraska Resources Council alleges the public process was a "sham" and that TransCanada has already started construction in the lawsuit filed in Omaha, Nebraska federal court. Governors of five of the six states the pipeline crosses have backed the project, except for the Nebraska. TransCanada has strongly denied the claims – all it did in Nebraska was "mow some grass."
After crashing through the $80/barrel level on Friday, the price of US crude oil fell further on Monday to trade just above $76/barrel, the lowest in a year, sending the shares of the biggest oil sands players into a tailspin. Suncor tumbled 5.5% and the oil sands bellwether has now lost a staggering $70 billion in market value since its pre-recession high set in May 2008. Canadian Natural Resources gave up 5.6%, Imperial Oil shed 6.5% while Cenovus lost 4.1%. Canadian heavy oil – exported only to the US due to a paucity of pipelines – sells for $10.50 less than US crude and trades at roughly $35 below the international benchmark, meaning oil sands developers have to deal with an effective oil price of $65 and change and now sell some of the cheapest fuel on the planet.
E-mails between the State Department and TransCanada, the company behind a $7 billion proposal to build a pipeline between Canadian oilsands and Gulf Coast refineries, demonstrate "a sometimes warm and collaborative relationship," states a report in today's New York Times. The e-mails, the second batch to be released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, show a senior State Department official at the United States Embassy in Ottawa procuring invitations to Fourth of July parties for TransCanada officials, sharing information with the company about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings and cheering on TransCanada in its quest to gain approval of the giant pipeline, which could carry 700,000 barrels a day.
The price of US crude oil crashed through the $80/barrel level on Friday afternoon bringing its losses to more than 10% in September and suffering its worst quarter since the 2008 recession. At the same time the discount on Western Canada Select widened to $10.50/barrel meaning oil sands producers now sell some of the cheapest fuel on the planet. The international benchmark for oil was pegged at over $102 on Friday. Canada exports 2 million barrels of oil per day and a lack of pipelines means all of it goes to the US Midwest, the pricing point for US crude.
Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge on Thursday announced a proposed new 800 kilometre (500 mile) pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma – the pricing point for US crude – to the Gulf of Mexico. The Wrangler Pipeline would have the capacity to carry up to 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Although the glut at Cushing has eased this year it is the main factor behind US crude trading near a record discount of $25/barrel to the international Brent benchmark. Canadian heavy oil from the oil sands – all of which goes to the US – sells for $10+ less than US crude, meaning oil sands developers have to deal with an effective oil price of $60-$70 a barrel. Unlike the controversial Keystone XL, Wrangler does not cross international boundaries and won't have to be approved by US president Barack Obama.
TransCanada’s bid to build the Keystone XL pipeline is facing growing high-profile opposition, drawing fire from the Dalai Lama (pictured), Archbishop Desmond Tutu and seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates on Wednesday who are following in the footsteps of a raft of Hollywood celebrities and green activists. The laureates, only one of whom is North American, insist the project will "endanger the entire planet" and urged US President Barack Obama not to approve construction of the $7 billion, 3,190km Keystone XL pipeline that could carry up to 700,000 barrels per day of Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast and ensure a better price for Canadian crude, which trades at a discount of more than $20/barrel to international prices.