Obama voices oilsands concern
President Barack Obama on Wednesdaysaidconcernsinthe United States about the potentially “destructive” nature of the Canadian oilsands need to be answeredbeforehisadministrationdecideswhethertoapprove construction of Calgary-based TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the Keystone XL project, Obama referred to Alberta’s bitumen deposits as “tarsands” — the term favoured by environmentalists — but refused to offer an opinion about whether the 3,200-kilometre pipeline should be approved.
“I will make this general point, which is that, first of all, importing oil from countries that are stable and friendly is a good thing,” Obama said, essentially repeating comments he made last week in a major speech on U.S. energy security.
Canada “is already one of our largest oil exporters,” Obama said during a townhall meeting in Pennsylvania on energy.
“These tarsands, there are some environmental questions about how destructive they are, potentially, what are the dangers there, and we’ve got to examine all those questions.”
Obama’s remarks came as Premier Ed Stelmach struck back at the New York Times for an editorial late last week that urged the U.S. government to block TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In a letter to the editor, Stelmach urged Americans to consider the sources of their crude imports and “how their environmental, economic and security interests are best protected.”
Compared to other favourable editorials in the Washington Post and USA Today, the Times editorial adopted the language of environmental groups, invoking the pejorative term “tarsands” to describe the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
“As a neighbour and ally we ask that this important and worthwhile discussion be based on fact and science,” Stelmach wrote.
Canada is the biggest foreign supplier of oil to the United States, providing about 23 per cent of the crude America imports every year.
The $7-billion Keystone XL has been delayed since last July, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the State Department to conduct a supplemental environmental impact study to address concerns about pipeline safety and the impact on climate change of oilsands production.
The State Department last month ordered the new study and has announced a period of public comment this spring on the pipeline.
The State Department has the authority to issue or deny a presidential permit for construction of the pipeline because it crosses an international boundary.
“I can’t comment on the specifics of this because the State Department is going through this complicated re-
As a neighbour and ally we ask that this important and worthwhile discussion be based on fact and science Premier ed Stelmach, in a letter to the editor of the new York timeS
view process, and if it looks like I’m putting my fingers on the scale before the science is done, then people may question the merits of the decision later on,” Obama said when asked by an audience member about Canada’s oilsands. “So I’m not going to get into the details of it.”
DuringaWhiteHousemeeting in February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally pressed Obama to approve Keystone XL. Harper said the United States faced a “choice” between importing oil “from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy (from), which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States.”
Obama drew a comparison Wednesday between the environmental review of oilsands to that of natural gas, which must face scrutiny to ensure chemicals don’t leach into groundwater during extraction.
“So we’ve got to do some science there to make sure that the natural gas that we have in this country, we’re extracting it in a safe way. The same thing is true when it comes to oil that’s being piped in from Canada,” Obama said.
Canada’s oil industry, and environmentalists, have been watching Obama’s statements on foreign oil closely in recent months for any hint of his views on oilsands or the Keystone XL project.
The president won applause from the Canadian oil industry for his speech last week. Even as he announced the U.S. planned to cut imports of foreign oil by one-third over the next decade, Obama singled out Canada as a “steady and stable and reliable” source of oil for America.