Keystone XL certainly earned its nickname as the “zombie” pipeline.
Once considered unstoppable, it was killed and resurrected and killed off again. It appears to have been fully euthanized this week when TC Energy formally abandoned the project.
There’s been so much drama around Keystone XL that it’s easy to forget it was not so long ago that the consensus among Very Important People was that the pipeline was inevitable.
Stephen Harper, infamously declared Keystone XL to be a “no-brainer.”
George W. Bush agreed, calling it a “no-brainer” as well.
Hilary Clinton’s State Department endorsed the project.
Bill Clinton urged everyone to “embrace it.”
Justin Trudeau has “always advocated for the project.”
Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors described Keystone opponents as “naive.”
Moody’s was confident Keystone XL would go ahead.
When mass arrests against Keystone started, the National Journal did a poll of Art Washington “insiders,” and 93 per cent of those Very Smart People predicted the pipeline would go ahead.
And yet, here we are. On Wednesday, the pipeline company walked away from the project. The expression “no-brainer” rings very differently today. So many VIPs were so wrong and the Kenney government has Albertans on the hook for over a billion dollars.
One take away from the Keystone saga is that public mobilization worked. Indigenous water defenders, Canadian and U.S. environmentalists, Nebraska ranchers and many others mounted an incredibly impressive organizing effort.
There’s another moral I take from the Keystone story, one that can be strangely comforting in the climate era — we just don’t know what’s going to happen.
We may have pretty good predictions for how the climate will respond to human activities, but we really don’t know what the humans will do.
What we do know is that sometimes the “inevitable” isn’t. And what seems implausible today can be conventional wisdom in a few years.