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A Joe Biden presidency will likely end Jason Kenney's Keystone XL pipedream once and for all

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Democratic presidential candidate, former vice-president Joe Biden speaks at a rally in Norfolk, Virginia at Booker T. Washington High School, March 1, 2020. Image: NSPA & ACP​/Flickr)

Who can forget November 6, 2015, the day that will live in infamy?

Just about everybody, as it turned out.

That was the day that U.S. president Barack Obama decided to pull the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline, declaring that it was not in the national interest of the United States whether or not Stephen Harper was unwilling to take no for an answer.

It was in 2013, by the way, that Harper arrogantly told a room full of Republican toffs in New York City that if president Obama said no, "that won't be final. This won't be final until it's approved and we will keep pushing forward."

If Harper had been in a position to dictate policy to Obama, he probably also could have ensured Jason Kenney was his successor in Ottawa, instead of his protégé in the backwaters of Edmonton.

But that was back in the days when the president of the United States was still the most powerful person in the world, and not a distant third after Xi Jinping, leader of the People's Republic of China, and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. (I dare Forbes Magazine to make that accurate assessment this year, but I digress.)

If history had unfolded as many of us expected it to in the year after November 2015, that would likely have been the end of Alberta's dream of Keystone XL pumping any more of our dilbit to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Canadian oilsands industry would have been out of luck as the United States began to ease into its transition to a low-carbon economy under a president Hillary Clinton, with a nice supply of low-quality heavy crude waiting right across the Gulf of Mexico in Venezuela in case anything changed.

TransCanada pipelines might have changed its name to TC Energy a few months earlier.

A prime minister Kenney would have sourly approved a couple of pipelines to Canada's coasts before Justin Trudeau or some other Liberal managed to send him into retirement, almost certainly not in Alberta.

That picture of Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen in his MAGA cap, bitterly toasting Donald Trump's defeat in the 2016 presidential election, would have been just another unremarkable snap of an unremarkable young Republican.

Alberta might even have gotten serious about developing a sustainable economy while there were still a few bucks to be squeezed out of the Athabasca bitumen sands. Who knows? With the United States on the way to a green economy, we might not only have elected the NDP, we might have kept them around.

Plus, when the ravaging novel coronavirus hit the United States, it would have encountered a better organized public health regime and a competent government, and therefore killed far fewer than 100,000 Americans in the months before the next presidential election.

As a result, this year, president Clinton would probably have been re-elected.

Now it looks as if the naive Alberta bitumen boosters who rallied around Kenney's post-federal consolation prize, the United Conservative Party, are about to be disappointed again. History can contain some surprises along the way, but its long-term trajectory is more predictable.

With President Trump exposed to all as an incompetent nincompoop by COVID-19, it is likely his Republican administration will be consigned to the ash heap of history in November.

Therefore, despite being an old codger, the former vice-president and likely Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, will win with a little help from his former boss, president Obama. The fact he may not last out his first term may even be an electoral advantage, depending on his running mate.

Biden has already vowed, if he does win, to pull the plug on Keystone XL a second time.

In these circumstances, TC Energy may be able to make off with a considerable portion of the $7.5 billion Kenney has pledged on our behalf to complete the Keystone XL project for which no private investors could apparently be found.

Premier Kenney called this "a solid bet." And it is … for someone. That someone is not likely to be Alberta's taxpayers, though. Let's hope he has negotiated a solid escape clause!

President Biden will have the satisfaction of saying to Kenney -- just as his old boss said to Kenney's old boss -- Yes! The answer is still no!

And, what do you want to bet that this time Keystone XL stays unplugged?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: NSPA & ACP​/Flickr

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