The delay of the Keystone XL pipeline has led Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to threaten that he will pick up his dirty oil and go to Asia instead:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he will step up efforts to supply energy to Asia after Washington delayed a decision on whether to approve a new oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.

In a subtle warning to Washington, Harper told Chinese President Hu Jintao that providing energy to Asia was an important priority for Canada.

“This does underscore the necessity of Canada making sure that we are able to access Asia markets for our energy products,” Harper told reporters on Sunday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Hawaii.

“That will be an important priority of our government going forward and I indicated that yesterday to the president of China.”

This is an idle threat. First of all, the Keystone XL pipeline only facilitated the tar sands oil to US refineries. It didn’t earmark the oil for US markets; oil is a globally traded commodity, and the tar sands oil delivered through Keystone XL to refineries would then move onto the open market. So for Canada to supply Asia with oil, it doesn’t really matter what route the pipeline from the tar sands takes. That’s a fact that’s been lost in this discussion.

The other part of this is that, if it were so easy to just reconstruct the pipeline through, say, British Columbia, presumably Canada would have accomplished that by now. There’s far less red tape involved in routing a pipeline internally than in putting one through a transnational border. My assumption is that a) refineries in B.C. don’t have the capacity or the expertise to handle tar sands oil, or b) Canada has as much NIMBY problems in its own country as the State Department does with residents of the Nebraska Sand Hills.

President Obama met with Harper on the sidelines of the APEC summit, and here’s the readout on the issues concerning Keystone XL:

The Leaders discussed the recent announcement regarding the Presidential Permit process for the Keystone XL pipeline application. The President underscored his support for the State Department’s announcement regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.

So far, this weak attempt at bullying from Harper hasn’t swayed the President. Of course, all that Obama announced was a delay, not an end to the pipeline project.