“Argo”: A Keystone Tale?

It must be something about the podiums and bright lights that invites Hollywood stars to make award ceremonies into political venues, but rarely do these shows give us a quality opportunity to reflect on our political landscape. Didn’t think we could tie Keystone XL into an Academy Awards hook? Think again.

“Argo,” winner of the Best Picture award at Sunday’s Academy Awards, brought to the forefront not only a relatively unknown story about the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran, but it also highlighted the strength of the American-Canadian relationship – one that is often taken for granted. While the movie focused on the heroics of American CIA operatives, the lesser told story is that the mission was largely devised by Canadian officials. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter shared his experience of the events this past week on Piers Morgan:

“[N]inety percent of the contributions to the idea and consummation of the plan was Canadian and the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA.”

Giving credit where credit is due is an expected controversy over a movie as big as “Argo,” but away from the entertainment news surrounding the movie is a very real story about the trust and respect the Americans and Canadians have built for one another over the years, especially in the realm of national security. As “Argo” highlights, Canada has been a long-time ally to the U.S. — the most recent example being Canada’s contributions to combat missions in Afghanistan.

Energy security is very much a part of North America’s broader effort to strengthen its domestic supplies. From 2008 to 2011, U.S. oil production and U.S. imports from Canada grew by a combined 1 million barrels per day (bpd). The timing couldn’t be better, as 2012 brought about Western sanctions on Iran, resulting in a 1 million bpd decrease in the country’s net exports of oil. By supporting both increased domestic production and friendly oil imports from Canada, the U.S. was able to strengthen its energy security and the effectiveness of U.S.-led trade policy.

The Keystone XL project should be viewed as yet another chapter in that book. As the Dept. of State concluded in its 2011 draft Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL:

“[The pipeline] would counteract insufficient domestic crude oil supply while reducing U.S. dependence on less reliable foreign oil sources.”

The trust our two countries have built is apparent in other mutual benefits of oil sands development linked to Keystone XL. Canada is the U.S.’ largest trade partner, generating nearly 90 cents in return for every dollar the U.S. invests in its northern neighbor. Canada is also one of the world’s most environmentally responsible energy producers. Of the top five sources of imported oil to the U.S. (Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela) Canada is the only country that currently has GHG regulations in place. And since 2007, such regulations implemented by the Government of Alberta have resulted in GHG reductions by the equivalent of taking 4.8 million cars off the road for one year.

Building a pipeline may not be on the same scale as rescuing foreign diplomats or implementing trade sanctions, but it could contribute to our national security by replacing almost 40 percent of what the U.S. currently imports from the Persian Gulf.

Maybe the construction of a pipeline doesn’t make for good movie material, but it’s no small feat, and can certainly generate more immediate and tangible economic benefits for Americans than Ben Affleck’s next film.

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