Harper and Obama

Jason Ransom / US embassy – CanadaHarper says, “Let’s make a deal, eh”? Obama laughs inscrutably.

Looks like Canada is getting desperate.

The country’s leaders and its oil industry really, really want the Keystone XL pipeline built so they can ship tar-sands oil from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast. But the Obama administration keeps postponing its decision on the pipeline.

In his big climate speech in June, President Obama said he would approve Keystone only “if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” And in an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said, “there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.”

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So now Canada is trying a new approach, offering to make a deal with Obama on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. CBC broke the story:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama formally proposing “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector,” if that is what’s needed to gain approval of the Keystone XL pipeline through America’s heartland, CBC News has learned.

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Sources told CBC News the prime minister is willing to accept targets proposed by the United States for reducing the climate-changing emissions and is prepared to work in concert with Obama to provide whatever political cover he needs to approve the project.

The letter, sent in late August, is a clear signal Canada is prepared to make concessions to get the presidential permit for TransCanada Corp.’s controversial $7-billion pipeline …

[T]he White House has yet to respond to the letter.

Enviros, of course, are not impressed. Just last week, the Sierra Club and other green groups put out a new report: “FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test” [PDF].

News of Harper’s letter did not change activists’ minds. Expansion of tar-sands operations “is a recipe for climate failure and the Obama administration should reject any deal from the Harper government,” said Danielle Droitsch of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 350.org made the same point more colorfully:

Darth Vader/Keystone graphic