TORONTO – If the Obama administration rejects the Keystone XL pipeline, it would be a significant thorn in Canadian-U.S. relations, Alberta’s premier said Wednesday.
Premier Alison Redford was in Washington for her fourth trip to lobby on behalf of a pipeline that Canada sees as critical to its economic well-being. The Obama administration is considering whether to approve the pipeline, which would carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta across six U.S. states to the Texas Gulf Coast, which has numerous refineries. A decision is expected this summer.
“It would become something that we would continue to talk about,” Redford said of a possible rejection during a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “It would be a continuing issue.”
The pipeline has become a flash point in the U.S. debate over climate change. Republicans and business and labor groups have urged the Obama administration to approve the pipeline as a source of much-needed jobs and a step toward North American energy independence. Environmental groups have been pressuring President Obama to reject the pipeline, saying that it would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.
Obama’s initial rejection of the pipeline last year went over badly in Canada, which relies on the United States for 97 percent of its energy exports.
The pipeline is critical to Canada. Northern Alberta has the world’s third-largest oil reserves.
A lack of pipelines and a bottleneck of oil in the U.S. Midwest have reduced the price of Canadian crude and have cost oil producers and the federal and Alberta governments billions in revenue.
Redford said the debate about Keystone XL has had glaring deficiencies “that are overshadowing the truth.” She tried to put the Canadian oil sands in perspective during a speech at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday by saying the oil sands contribute to just 7 percent of Canada’s greenhouse emissions and less than 0.15 percent of the global total.
She said the oil sands operations produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the electric power plants in Ohio and Indiana.
Redford said that those opposed to the pipeline are trying to link the approval of the proposed pipeline to Obama’s legacy on climate change, but said she’s optimistic it will be approved because there is a strong regulatory system in the United States.
“It’s one the reasons that there are 185,000 miles of pipeline infrastructure in the United States already. Keystone would only add 1 percent in terms of linear distance,” she said. “The infrastructure exists. It works well.”