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The Strategic Imperative of Ethical Oil

In his 2009 book Green Oil, Satya Das makes the argument that Alberta has the moral imperative to develop the oilsands. He argues that there are numerous reasons to do this, including environmental reasons. More on that in coming days.

For now, the world's attention remains glued to the Ukraine, where war seems more and more imminent by the day. At least one retired US General has underscored one very important moral imperative in developing the oilsands: the strategic value of Canada's ethical oil.

"The international bullies who wish to use energy scarcity as a weapon against us all are watching intently," explained retired US Marine Corps General James Jones. "If we want to make Mr Putin's day and strengthen his hand, we should reject the Keystone. If we want to gain an important measure of national energy security, jobs, tax revenue and prosperity to advance our work on the spectrum of energy solutions that don't rely on carbon, it should be approved."

Russian President Vladimir Putin is far from the only international bully who uses their energy reserves for strategic advantage. During the 1970s, OPEC brought the economy of the western world to its knees by shutting off the flow of Middle Eastern oil.

The oilsands were still in their formative stage in the 1970s. Decades later, it's a very different story: Alberta is well on its way to developing the oilsands as an economically competitive energy product. What Alberta has not yet completed is the infrastructure necessary to get our ethically-superior oil to international market.

That requires the cooperation of other jurisdictions: in the case of Keystone XL, it requires the approval of the US State department.

As Jones points out, US President Barack Obama's notorious and relentless foot-dragging on the pipeline has played directly into Putin's hands. Energy scarcity is the corner stone of Putin's foreign policy.

"While Russian troops occupy a sovereign country, including a major port, to stop Ukraine from receiving energy imports, Mr Putin's rubles are being spent on campaigns to stop natural gas development in central Europe — all with a mind towards creating scarcity, dependence and vulnerability among countries who are US friends, allies and trading partners," Jones explained.

Had Obama followed the urgings of congress and approved Keystone XL long ago, the pipeline could be helping combat the effects of this artificial energy scarcity. In not having done so, Obama has weakened the US' hand not only in terms of its domestic energy options, but also in terms of its foreign policy options. This particular malaise isn't restricted simply to the US, either: the position of all of Europe has been compromised as well.

After all, it's Europe that has to compete with the US for the same oil sources that provide them with an alternative to Russian oil and gas. Reducing US demand on those sources would have strengthened Europe's hand considerably -- and weakened Putin's by an equal degree.

Perhaps this is the best reason why Canada cannot take no for an answer on Keystone XL: it's Canada's ethical and moral imperative to weaken the international bullies of the world.