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The Keystone oil pipeline is pictured under construction in North Dakota.Reuters

A Canadian academic has launched an assault on the Keystone XL pipeline, writing that U.S. President Barack Obama would "do Canada a favor" by blocking the project.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, an author and professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ont., writes in the New York Times that Canada's reliance on oil-sands production "is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don't like.

"Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state," he writes on Monday.

The criticism comes as efforts continue to clean up a spill of thousands of barrels of Alberta oil-sands crude in a suburban Arkansas neighbourhood. Keystone XL opponents seized on the spill as evidence of the additional risks associated with oil-sands crude.

Mr. Obama is expected to decide the fate of the highly contentious proposed Keystone XL pipeline this summer. The $5-billion project would ship heavy Canadian crude to U.S. refineries along the Texas coast.

In his opinion piece, which is headlined "The Tar Sands Disaster," Dr. Homer-Dixon says the oil-sands industry "is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics."

He fingers the Conservative government, writing that "tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet," adding that many Conservative MPs "deny mainstream climate science." He also notes that the Harper government has reduced funding for climate science, closed facilities and muzzled federal researchers.

Dr. Homer-Dixon also calls tar sands production "one of the world's most environmentally damaging activities."

The New York Times has run several opinion pieces critical of the Keystone pipeline, including an editorial last month that argued Mr. Obama should say no to the pipeline because it would cause too much environmental damage.