This is oil country.
Beneath the peat bogs and boreal forests in the northern part of this Canadian province are among the largest oil reserves in the world. Canadians have been getting it out of the prairies for over 100 years and piping much of it to the United States, which imports more oil from Canada than anywhere else.
But President Obama's denial of a permit for an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas that has been worked on for years has angered many here who claim that the U.S. environmental lobby is harming their livelihoods without scientific basis.
They even accuse it of illegally assisting Canadian environmental groups and say it's time to scrap plans to sell more oil to America and step up efforts to redirect the pipeline to the Pacific Coast and energy-hungry markets overseas.
"You've got a friendly source of oil from a friendly country," says welder Rob Tessier after lunching at the Pipeline Alley Cafe in Nisku. "If you don't want it, we'll send it to an Asian market."
Environmental groups say it's time for Canada to reassess its exploitation of its energy resources. They say oil pipelines are encroaching on sensitive lands and are improving access to oil when the world should be putting more effort into solar power and other forms of renewable energy.
Canada must stop "putting all our eggs in one basket," says Merran Smith director of Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada.
Canadians pride themselves on taking full advantage of their energy resources to create jobs while ensuring the protection and beauty of natural surroundings Canada is known for. But as the environmental movement gains influence in the United States, Canada is feeling the effects.
Obama's denial of the Keystone XL project has set politicians against each other and provoked heavy criticism of the local environmental groups.
Workers in Nisku, an industrial center where plants manufacture pipes for the petroleum deposits, are especially bewildered given that the southern leg of the pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf coast had already been approved.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the approval of Keystone XL a "no-brainer." Stunned by the project's denial, he is pushing for a "Northern Gateway" pipeline to direct Canadian oil to Asia.
"Certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America."
He has an ally in U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who wants Keystone to go forward to create jobs in the United States.
The ire of the pro-pipeline people has focused on the alleged nefarious influence from the south on Canada's environmentalists. In the past, U.S. groups and foundations primarily donated funds to Canadian groups for preservation efforts, such as protecting old-growth forests, said Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause.
But in recent years U.S.-based groups such as the U.S. Tides Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have been trying to prevent oil production in Canada, she says.
"This is a story of American interference in Canada under the guise of charity," says Krause.
While the U.S. Department of the Interior has pleased environmental groups by reducing the number of energy leases and permits allowed on federal lands, Canada's minister of natural resources is outraged that groups are trying to stop oil development here.
Most Popular Stories
- Slow Week Ahead of December FOMC Meeting
- Hispanics Seek to Grow School Board Members
- 'Knockout Game': Myth or Menace?
- U.S. Companies Eager for Iranian Business
- Questions Remain in Jenni Rivera's Death
- Entrepreneurs' Next Creation May Be New Laws
- Banks Fret as Volcker Vote Approaches
- Bitcoin Used to Buy Tesla Car
- GM Bailout Saved 1.2 Million U.S. Jobs, Report Says
- Paul Walker Fans Pay Respects