Obama Questions Environmental Effects of Tar Sands

In his first-ever public reference to the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline yesterday, President Obama questioned the environmental effects of the controversial Canadian oil source: “These tar sands, 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.” Although the President was careful to avoid the appearance of “putting his finger on the scale” before a decision is made on the Keystone XL project, which is currently under review at the State Department, he was apt to highlight the need to study the risks of this highly polluting resource. These remarks come on the heels of Senator Ron Wyden’s call for an investigation into “whether Canadian oil companies are seeking to drive up crude prices in the U.S. Midwest through the construction of a proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas.” The public controversy around this project also reached new heights last week when the New York Times ran an editorial urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. We’re pleased to hear the President acknowledge the need for scientific evaluation of the risks of developing this tar sands oil. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would nearly double U.S. imports of this highly polluting fuel by carrying up to 800,000 barrels a day of tar sands bitumen from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Houston, Texas. Clean energy advocates have long hoped that President Obama will not permit this additional pipeline, as tar sands oil is one of the most destructive fuel sources on the planet. Developing tar sands generates three times as many greenhouse gas emissions as conventional petroleum fuel – something completely out of line with the Obama Administration’s stated commitment to combating climate disruption and transitioning the U.S. to a clean energy economy. The environmental devastation resulting from tar sands production goes beyond its impact on the climate. Currently tar sands production threatens to turn an area the size of England into an industry wasteland blighted with massive, toxic wastewater dumps – affecting the pristine Boreal Forest, wildlife, and the First Nations communities living nearby. President Obama was right to acknowledge that there are a lot of unanswered questions about this fuel and that these must be scientifically evaluated – we’re quite sure that once the tar sands are thoroughly investigated and their impacts are widely broadcast, Americans and the Administration alike will see that approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is simply incompatible with a much-needed clean energy future. ((07 APR 2011))








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