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margaret wente

TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

This is part of Fort McMoney, an interactive documentary game that lets you decide the future of the Alberta oil sands, and shape the city at its centre. Joining the fray – and sharing their views along the way – are Globe columnist Margaret Wente and business reporter Eric Reguly. Read the introductory columns written by Mr. Reguly and Ms. Wente.

This week they debate the question: Should the Keystone XL pipeline go ahead? Read Mr. Reguly's view.

It's hard to understand why the environmental movement has staked so much on Keystone. It's just a pipeline. On its own, it has no impact on emissions. If it isn't built, the oil will come out of the ground anyway, and one way or another it will find its market. Some of those ways are far riskier than pipelines, as we learned, tragically, with Lac-Mégantic.

The fight against Keystone is really a fight against the oil sands, which will be developed whether the pipeline is built or not. Keystone is simply the safest and most cost-effective option for getting that sludgy low-grade stuff to southern U.S. refineries. The Keystone pipeline would transport as much oil as 200 ocean tankers a year, with significantly less greenhouse-gas emissions. More pipeline capacity will pay off for our economy because it will boost the price of crude, and higher prices will bring in more royalties and taxes.

The United States would benefit too. It already imports a lot of low-grade sludge from Venezuela (not the most ideal or friendly trading partner) and Canadian oil would simply replace that. There's a lot to be said for increasing trade with a secure and stable ally who shares your values.

The U.S. State Department and independent experts have all declared that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands have no bigger impact on global warming than any other kind of oil. So why do Keystone opponents keep saying hysterical things such as, "It's game over for the planet"? They've become their own worst enemies. The pipeline decision should be made on rational grounds, not emotional ones.