The KXL Pipeline May Be Dead Thanks To Stunning Liberal Win In Alberta, Canada

A landslide victory for liberals in Alberta, Canada is a huge win for the United States, too.

On Tuesday, voters showed they’ve had enough of Big Oil and the climate-changing pollution that accompanies tar sands extraction. They overwhelmingly backed a party that ran on a program of forcing the gas and oil industries to pay their fair share of taxes and royalty payments, of cutting back pipeline projects, and of quickly phasing out coal power.

For 44 years, Big Oil and the Progressive Conservative Party (Tories) have ruled Alberta. But the province’s newly elected premier from the liberal New Democratic Party (NDP), Rachel Notley, told supporters:

“I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight. Friends, I believe that change has finally come to Alberta. New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province.”

Even though the United States usually pays little attention to Canadian politics, Alberta’s election is of stunning importance to Americans. It’s hard to overstate just how important.

Alberta is known as “the Texas of Canada.” Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel put it this way:

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“Imagine if Democrats took not only Texas Governor, but supermajority control of [the] Legislature and all state offices. That’s what [Alberta’s election] is like in Canada.”

One of the most significant impacts for the United States is that premier-elect Notley is opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline. She has pledged to stop spending money on lobbying Congress for approval of its construction. That doesn’t come out of a concern for the pipeline’s effect on the U.S. but because Alberta has become known as the biggest producer of climate-changing gases in Canada, thanks to the poorly regulated production of tar sands oil.

About 78 percent of Canada’s oil comes out of Alberta. Most of that is from the extraction of dirty tar sands oil, which releases much larger amounts of greenhouse emissions than the regular production of oil.

The head of the environmental group Pembina Institute, Ed Whittingham, hopes that the reputation Alberta has as “a laggard on climate policies” will improve with the change to liberal leadership. He points to the uproar in the United States over the KXL pipeline as an indication that the province’s “social license” to export tar sands oil is coming to an end.

Many onlookers are reluctant to become too excited about the potential for change because the NDP has been light on details of how it will go about reforming the industry. However, the fact that the shift is enormous is undeniable. The NDP, which previously had four seats in the provincial legislature, appear to have won 53. The Conservatives not only lost power, but have fallen to third place after another rightist party.

The huge loss apparently took Conservatives by surprise. After 44 years in power, the idea of not being in power may have been too much to grasp, even though the polls taken before the election gave warning that a revolution was under way. Journalist David Climenhaga summed up the reaction of many Albertans as “Pinch me! Am I dreaming?”

Many Americans, after years of protests and rallies against the KXL pipeline, may feel the same way as the word spreads. Yeah, the proof is ultimately in the not-yet-made pudding, but this is a moment to savor. At a minimum, the momentum has been lost. At its best, perhaps the outcome in Alberta is an inspiration for American voters to follow in giving Big Oil the boot.

Featured image via Wikipedia