U.S. ambassador warns Ottawa to heed Obama on energy – by Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail – February 14, 2013)

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Canadian progress on combatting greenhouse-gas emissions would sway American views on Alberta’s oil, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson says.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama told the Congress that climate-change action is coming, one way or another. He devoted a substantial part of a speech outlining his second-term agenda to pledges to both reduce emissions and beef up U.S. energy security – but he gave no hints of where Canadian oil fits in.

His ambassador in Ottawa, David Jacobson, said that when Canadians can show progress on climate change, it has an impact on Americans’ judgment of whether the energy-security benefits of oil-sands imports outweigh the environmental impact.

“It does,” Mr. Jacobson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I think that there are an awful lot of folks who are trying to make up their minds, and trying to draw the right balance between these two things, who I think will be moved by progress.

“There has been progress. As I’ve said many times before, there needs to be more progress.” The ambassador’s comments were made on a day that 48 environmentalists, including the head of the Sierra Club, were arrested in Washington as they protested against TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Mr. Jacobson took pains to note that he’s not drawing a direct link to the proposed pipeline, which would carry Alberta bitumen to Texas, or suggesting that climate-change action will clinch its approval.

But in Ottawa, the Harper government is clearly already making that connection: it has stepped up arguments that Canada is making progress on emissions, and will step up action in lockstep with the United States, as it lobbies for for Mr. Obama to approve the pipeline this spring.

Mr. Harper’s government has made a top foreign-policy priority of popping the so-called bitumen bubble – getting Alberta oil beyond glutted markets in Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest, where it fetches lower prices than oil sold in other refining hubs – as well as ensuring the world will accept Canadian oil on its markets one day.

The U.S. President gave no clues in his speech about whether he’ll green-light that pipeline. And Mr. Jacobson isn’t going to scoop the President.

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