Obama message to Canada: clean energy is best

Just two days before visiting Canada, in an interview on Canadian TV tonight, President Obama said that tar sands "creates a big carbon footprint." Alberta's controversial tar sands oil industry is known for its damage to the Boreal forest and its significant output of global warming pollution. The President also raised the question of how we obtain energy in a way that is "not rapidly accelerating climate change." 

No matter how hard Canadian government officials try to prove that the environmentally damaging tar sands oil development can be cleaned up, the truth is that there are  no technological fixes that would make it environmentally acceptable. Dealing with tar sands pollution is a challenge, and this includes the greenhouse gas emissions, which are much harder and more expensive to capture than emissions from other sources. The tar sands industry is on a path to make global warming worse - both through its plans for expansion that will mean growing emissions and through its inability to put in place a system to reduce its emissions in a meaningful way.

America already imports over 1 million barrels a day of tar sands oil. The current global warming pollution and other environment and health impacts of tar sands are unacceptable. But expansion of tar sands oil in today's world of reducing global warming pollution is also unnecessary according to NRDC analysis. Green energy and energy efficiency can truly be a substitute for our dependence on oil.

The President's comments on Canadian TV come in the context of the many actions that he is taking to fight global warming. The U.S. has already made a start to reduce global warming with fuel efficiency standards, green infrastructure funding in the stimulus package, revisiting global warming pollution regulation of coal-fired power plants, supporting the California efforts to reduce global warming pollution, and the requirement that U.S. federal government contracts for fuel do not include fuels with higher carbon emissions than conventional oil.

The message is clear: we need energy that does not rapidly accelerate global warming. That means we need alternatives to tar sands oil.