Planet Gore

The Coming Battle Over Canada’s Oil Sands

The U.S. gets most of its imported oil from Canada – and the last time I checked, they were not a member of the axis of evil, and are thus a pretty nice place to get oil from. Oil sands, however, are a bug-a-boo with the greens. So, will President Obama play nice with our neighbors in the Great White North, or will he bow to environmental extremism? Canada would like to know:

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, will seek a climate-change agreement with President-elect Barack Obama that would protect development of Alberta’s oil sands, according to a story in today’s Globe and Mail.

From an environmental perspective, oil sands are problematic. A recent study by RAND, the research institute, found that producing synthetic crude from oil sands resulted in 10 to 30 percent higher carbon-dioxide emissions than conventionally produced crude. The Canadian oil sands industry — which stirs controversy in Canada as well as other countries, as my colleague Clifford Krauss recently reported — has also been buffeted recently by the falling price of oil, and by volatility in the Canadian-U.S. dollar exchange rate.

Last year Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s governor who has been active on climate protection, signed an agreement with two Canadian provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, to implement a low-carbon fuel standard that is designed to promote the use of cleaner fuels – a move that analysts perceived as a bad sign for the oil sands.

Mr. Obama’s energy plan calls for cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol, but has since been backpedaling. Environmental groups have sued the Canadian government to force it create a plan to meet Kyoto targets, but a judge threw out the suit last month.

In seeking to protect the oil sands, the Canadian government is appealing to the desire in the United States for security of oil supply. Canada already accounts for 19 percent of U.S. crude oil imports, with Saudi Arabia and Mexico the next largest suppliers.

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