As he belligerently wades into the debate around the Keystone XL pipeline, NY Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera seems unaware that the tragedy of the commons is, in fact, a tragedy:
Over the past two decades, energy companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in the tar sands, so much so that Canada now ranks No. 3 in estimated oil reserves. Along with the natural gas that can now be extracted thanks to hydraulic fracturing — which, of course, all right-thinking environmentalists also oppose — the oil from the Canadian tar sands ought to be viewed as a great gift that has been handed to North America. These two relatively new sources of fossil fuels offer America its first real chance in decades to become, if not energy self-sufficient, at least energy secure, no longer beholden to OPEC. Yet these gifts have been transformed, like everything else, into political footballs…
As it turns out, the environmental movement doesn’t just want to shut down Keystone. Its real goal, as I discovered when I spoke recently to Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, is much bigger. “The effort to stop Keystone is part of a broader effort to stop the expansion of the tar sands,” Brune said. “It is based on choking off the ability to find markets for tar sands oil.”
This is a ludicrous goal. If it were to succeed, it would be deeply damaging to the national interest of both Canada and the United States. But it has no chance of succeeding. Energy is the single most important industry in Canada. Three-quarters of the Canadian public agree with the Harper government’s diversification strategy. China’s “thirst” for oil is hardly going to be deterred by the Sierra Club. And the Harper government views the continued development of the tar sands as a national strategic priority.
Thus, at least one country in North America understands where its national interests lie. Too bad it’s not us.