Keystone foes press Obama to offset pipeline climate impact

Executive Powers

Whitehouse says the administration can best achieve its goals by using executive powers to force changes in U.S. climate policy. That’s because Obama’s efforts in Congress to combat greenhouse gases or aspects of the pipeline project have been stymied at a time when Republicans control the House and some Democrats from oil producing states side with industry.

“If you were to count on Congress to pass it, it’s not going to happen because polluters own the place,” he said.

He’s seeking some carbon emission changes that would “more than offset” increased pollution from the project.

Moran says the U.S. should press Canada to take some actions of its own.

“This will benefit Canada a great deal, and it will benefit those involved in shipping the exporting oil and gas a great deal,” he said. “What benefit it has for the United States in the long term is more questionable.”

‘Tough Negotiators’

“We should be tough negotiators,” Moran added. “Even though we’re close allies, they would do the same if they were in our position.”

In Canada, where the government last year imposed a carbon cap for coal-fired power plants, officials have said that while they now are working on new rules governing emissions by the oil and gas industry, there will be no proposed carbon tax. They haven’t ruled out other environmental policies that could be politically helpful to Obama if he approves the project.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced C$82 million ($81.3 billion) in funding for 55 clean-energy projects, part of an initiative announced in 2011 to curb emmissions through technological innovation. Among the projects receiving aid under today’s announcement is one to capture carbon dioxide from oil sands operations, according to a statement from Harper’s office.

Alberta Action

Alberta is weighing further action. Wayne Wood, spokesman for the province’s environment minister, Diana McQueen, said the government is reviewing policy for the oil and gas sector and is in “very early discussions” with the federal government and industry.

“We certainly are aware of the fact that we do need to do this review, and we do need to probably set some new targets,” he said in a telephone interview.

The Alberta government may be able to allay concerns about the environmental effects of the pipeline, said Michal Moore, professor of energy economics at the University of Calgary.

“It neutralizes some of the critique and it offers a tremendous amount of cover for the political institutions to say, ‘See, we are capable of causing change on the part of the principal producer,’” said Moore, former commissioner of the California Energy Commission. “That’s the right message.”

At the same time, some analysts in the U.S. said pressing Canada to take concrete environmental steps risks adding more time to the lengthy approval process. It’s more realistic for the Obama administration to seek changes in policy at home, said Christine Tezak, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

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