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Harper and Obama Talk Oil Sands Pipeline, Border Security

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Border security topped the agenda for President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper when they met in early February. But close on its heels was the 1,700-mile-long, $7 billion Keystone pipeline, which if given the Presidential green light would went its way from the Alberta oil sands to Texas.

“I think it is clear to anyone who understands this issue that the need of the United States for fossil fuels, far in excess of its ability to produce such energy, will be the reality for some time to come,” Harper said in a joint press conference after their meeting. “The choice that the United States faces in all these matters is whether to increase its capacity to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States.”

Reports circulated that Canada lobbied the White House heavily for U.S. pipeline approval ahead of the two leaders’ February 4 meeting.

Canada’s Postmedia Newsnoted that The Washington Postendorsed the pipeline despite declaring that “oil sands crude is nasty, and the sooner the world stops burning it, the better” in a February 6 editorial.

“The oil's extraction produces loads of greenhouse gases; the stuff is 82 percent dirtier than more traditional oil, according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” the Post said. “Even as Mr. Harper presses the president to consent to the pipeline's construction, environmentalists and their allies in Congress want the administration to do just the opposite.”

However, the piece concluded, “that’s not actually not much of a reason to kill the pipeline” given that the U.S. is destined to import the oil from somewhere, and turning down the pipeline from Canada would just force the U.S. to keep relying on the Middle East. The editorial pointed out that the best way to reduce the need for oil sands oil is to find alternatives to fossil fuels in general. But in the meantime, we must burn oil.

The Post also reported on the intense lobbying efforts that preceeded Harper's meeting with Obama.

The National Resources Defense Council and several other groups protested outside the meeting.