Photo: Jungbim via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Not all of the cables aired in the latest Wikileaks focus on the tense, high-stakes diplomacy with China, Afghanistan, or the Middle East, though that stuff certainly grabs the headlines. Yet there are quiet revelations about other important diplomatic subjects as well -- like Canada, for instance. And no, the news is not that our northern neighbor is boring; it's about the concern over tar sands. Specifically, how the Obama administration is aware of how destructive tar sands oil is -- and plans on moving ahead with the pipeline that will pump it across the US regardless.Here's a chunk of the cable, which was sent from a US diplomat before on of president Obama's trips to Canada:
there is ... keen sensitivity over the higher environmental footprint of oil from western Canada's oil sands and concern about the implications for Canada of your energetic calls to develop renewable energies and reduce our reliance on imported oil. Canada is also rich in hydroelectric power, has similar objectives for developing renewables, and is working strenuously to improve the environmental impact of production from the oil sands ...The cable makes it clear that both Canada and the United States are aware of the dreadful impact of the Alberta tar sands -- roundly dubbed the 'most destructive project on earth'. Yet, the public statements from both parties differ significantly from the private cables. Here's Friends of the Earth, who unearthed the cable from the Wikileaks dump: (emphasis mine)
This candid admission of the impacts of tar sands oil production, which results in three times more global warming pollution than production of conventional oil, differs markedly from the description of tar sands oil given by the State Department in public documents.This revelation isn't exactly surprising -- the environmental impacts of the tar sands have been made pretty clear over the last few years, and it would be more surprising if the Obama administration wasn't aware of them. But rather, the cable reveals the tight spot the State Dept. has been put in -- and how it's not being entirely candid about the issue.
In its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared to analyze the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada through six U.S. states to refineries in Texas, the State Department claims that tar sands oil is "similar" to other oils and that the impact of increasing reliance on tar sands oil "would be minor." Despite the fact that her agency is still completing its final EIS, Secretary Clinton has stated that she is "inclined" to approve the pipeline.
A year ago, Obama made a semi-admission that tar sands oil posed an environmental problem. And then he fell silent, almost certainly, as the cables reveal, to preserve positive diplomatic ties to Canada -- and the Keystone XL pipeline, which will pump oil from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in Texas, is still moving forward.
More on the Alberta Tar Sands
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Waxman Tells Obama To Just Say No To Tar Sands Pipeline
Canadian Official Threatens Obama and Clinton With Cutting Off Tar Sands Oil