OTTAWA – President Barack Obama on Tuesday compared Canada’s massive oil sands operations to the U.S. coal industry, saying he was concerned about the operations’ big carbon footprint.
Obama heads to Canada, America’s top source of foreign oil, on Thursday in his first foreign trip as president.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said energy security and the environmental impact of Alberta’s oil sands operations will be priorities during the meeting in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Harper is expected to lobby Obama on the merits of the oil sands as a safe and secure source of oil.
Industry officials estimate northern Alberta could yield as much as 175 billion barrels of oil, making Canada second only to Saudi Arabia in crude oil reserves.
But critics say the growing operations by major oil companies will increase greenhouse gas emissions and threaten Alberta’s rivers and forests. Experts say producing a barrel of oil from sand results in emissions three times greater than a conventional barrel of oil.
“What we know is that oil sands create a big carbon footprint,” Obama said. “So the dilemma that Canada faces, the United States faces, and China and the entire world faces, is how do we obtain the energy that we need to grow our economies in a way that is not rapidly accelerating climate change.”
Obama said he would like to work with Canada on developing carbon capture and storage to deal with the emissions coming out of both the American coal and Alberta oil industries. The new technology would bury harmful emissions underground. The Obama administration dedicated billions from its economic stimulus package to renewable energy and new green technologies.
Canada has warned Washington would lose energy security if it doesn’t take Alberta’s oil.
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