your weekly dollop of KXL, served with hope and a little relish
The area under “development” is the size of England © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

The oil/tar* sands of Alberta in general and the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines in particular are some of the hottest energy topics in North America right now. They also happen to be obsessions pet peeves of mine. Not having a Twitter account, I in effect spam my own Facebook wall by posting article after article about oil pipelines; in the past 3 weeks alone there’s been 9 posts – and there hasn’t even been any real news on the subject!

It has become one of the few energy topics I feel truly qualified to discuss, which is just one reason why I like yapping about it so much. The other reason is that it is not just about energy – the oil/tar sands, KXL, Northern Gateway and the potential West-East pipeline are so tightly wrapped in Canadian, American and international politics that it’s hard not to salivate. Like bacon-wrapped shrimp.

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always make unpopular announcements fri p.m.

Governments and politicians know to wait until Friday afternoon to make potentially contentious, unpopular or controversial announcements. Most people don’t give a darn by then (weekend wheeee!), and the ones who do can have their weekends ruined.

So: the US State Department released its 2,000-page environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Since us normal folk have better things to do than read 2,000-page government reports on a Friday evening, here’s’s summary of the summaries and reactions on NYT, WaPo and Mother Jones.

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china’s alleged “carbon tax” generating a ton of hype

Here’s how it went/is going down: a Ministry of Finance (MoF) official called Jia Chen apparently posted an article on the MoF website announcing that China will introduce a “carbon tax”. The news was spread far and wide – first by state-operated news outlet Xinhua and in Chinese on China Daily, then further through mainstream English media, including mindbogglingly shoddy ‘reporting’ from HuffPo and NYT that has no hard facts. Useless journalism, but regardless, the NYT’s fact-lite blog post is spreading like mad on the interwebz.

But it’s not all bad. My top three picks:

  1. What Would China’s Carbon Tax Regime Look Like – by Ella Chou – now that‘s analysis.
  2. China is getting a carbon tax. But how effective will it be? – Washington Post blog – asks good questions, but it’s all hypotheticals (admittedly there are very few facts to work with)
  3. Chinese carbon tax may pressure Canada to act, experts say – Global – for a Canuck and/or intl trade take on it.

This, as with everything lately, leaves me either cautiously optimistic or mildy sceptical. Keystone XL, for example, was the former. A Chinese carbon tax that could actually just be a pollution fee seldom implemented with no timeline on its introduction?

Mildly sceptical.

dissent is not terrorism

Environmental Protest
At the 2007 “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Protest” in NYC.

Yesterday, my colleague circulated a Guardian article entitled Canada’s environmental activists seen as ‘threat to national security’ by Stephen Leahy (thank god for journalists like him):

Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies […] The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and depict those involved as national security threats

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the bias of investigative journalism

In the US, left-wing political pundits and reporters often defend themselves from conservative critics by pointing out that facts, not their reporting, have a liberal bias. (Here liberal is used in the North American sense of non-conservative or the more contentious ‘progressive’ rather than the European sense of right-wing.)

Investigative journalism is a scarce resource these days. I value it increasingly highly, but have only just noticed that this may be due to the fact that I almost always agree with the results of the investigation. Why is that?

Does investigative journalism have a progressive bias?

“Yes,” I’d argue. The status quo seems to be inherently corrupt and ripe for public scrutiny. The entire idea of progressivism is to progress, surely – to self-improve from what we currently have and are. So long as the status quo can be criticised it can, and often is, glossed over and protected by the powers that be from such criticism. Hence, the object of conservatism – business as usual – lends itself to the critical eye of investigative journalists. And they will always find something damning.

dense all right – and i don’t mean the living

I know, I know: reading any Canadian paper is just asking to be riled up. Where the heck has journalism gone and died? Both our national papers (National Post and The Globe and Mail) appear to be in a race to the bottom of quality reporting. Globe is winning slightly, but only because NP posts giant photos for every article (I like photos).

But where else to get my daily dose of Canadian news? is perhaps more neutral, but does just as little digging, this recent piece of investigative journalism notwithstanding. is quite enjoyable but politically slanted (in my direction, but slanted all the same) and not a daily feed. The Star’s online layout is an assault on the eyes and only good for Toronto news.

The latest piece of offending material comes from National Post: How do you add affordable housing in Vancouver? Build them in the middle of the street (loathe as I am to direct traffic to this tripe). Since when did news stories turn into biased commentaries of the following kind:

What’s the city to do? Cram even more people in. Shoehorn the middle class into tighter spaces. Tear up city streets and alleyways and build homes there. And force developers — somehow — to sell new homes for prices far below market value.

Affordable housing is among the biggest of Vancouver’s headaches. The city has a physical limit on space, and no foreseeable legal limit on how many people move in. But dense living is anything but a bad thing. Canadians and USians need to wake up. A large chunk of the idea and realisation of the northern two-thirds of North America stems from the pre(/mis)conception that ZOMG WE HAVE LIKE SO MUCH LAND, but at some point we as a society need to shift our paradigm and realise that the days of expanding west into hitherto uncolonised land are long gone.