Keystone XL —- Harper presses Obama to approve

Harper presses Obama to approve Keystone oilsands pipeline. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a personal pitch Friday for President Barack Obama to support a controversial $7 billion pipeline that could double the amount of Alberta oilsands crude exported to the United States. Harper confirmed he pressed Obama on Calgary-based TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline during the two leaders’ hour-long meeting at the White House. The planned 3,200-kilometre pipeline, which would run from Hardisty, Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas, is currently in limbo as the State Department weighs whether to grant a presidential permit allowing construction to begin. In a question-and-answer session with reporters, Harper was asked if he discussed Canada’s role as a secure supplier of oil and whether he sought assurances the U.S. would look favourably on the Keystone XL project. “Yes, we did discuss the matter you raised,” Harper said. Obama has been a vocal advocate of the U.S. developing “clean energy” alternatives to help wean America off foreign oil. In his state of the union address last month, he announced plans to include sharp increases in funding for clean energy technology in his upcoming budget. But Harper said he impressed on Obama the “reality” that the U.S. will need far more energy than it can produce for “some time” to come. “And the choice that the United States faces in all of these matters is whether to increase its capacity to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States,” Harper said. Obama has not commented publicly on the project — and did not respond to the question asked Friday of Harper. But the prime minister’s message was precisely the one that Canadian and U.S. energy sector wanted him to deliver. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, wrote to Obama on Friday appealing to the U.S. president to approve Keystone XL for economic reasons, saying it could create 342,000 direct and indirect jobs between 2011 and 2015. “Other countries are securing their energy futures and we need to do the same,” Gerard wrote. The pipeline has been on indefinite hold since last July, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency described a draft environmental study of the project as “inadequate” — raising concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the potential threat to sensitive ecosystems of a spill. The State Department is now weighing whether to conduct a supplemental eco-study providing more detail on Keystone’s emergency response plans, the chemical composition of the oilsands bitumen and potential damage to groundwater from pipeline leaks or spills. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last October that she was “inclined” to approve the pipeline. But she has since come under political pressure from more than four dozen fellow Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate to address environmental concerns. In particular, lawmakers in Nebraska have suggested TransCanada change the route of the pipeline to avoid crossing over thevast Ogallala Aquifer, a major groundwater source for the Plains. U.S. environmental groups have put Keystone XL at the centre of a national advertising campaign in the U.S. against oilsands imports, triggering a TV air war of sorts with TransCanada over the pipeline’s value. Outside the White House on Friday, a small group of environmentalists protested the pipeline by holding up signs depicting states along the Keystone XL route. “What Prime Minister Harper failed to acknowledge is that tarsands oil is highly polluting,” Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement. “There are cleaner, safer ways to meet U.S. energy needs than to import this dirty oil from Canada via a dangerous pipeline through America’s heartland.” ((04 FEB 2011))













About this entry