Obama takes his clean energy message to Canada

Speculation about how President Obama would handle the murky issue of tar sands oil during his first visit to Canada has been daily in the Canadian media over the past few weeks. Focusing on the imperative of tackling global warming, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced a dialogue about how to move our countries towards cleaner energy. This included an agreement to share information on issues such as an electricity grid based on renewables and carbon capture sequestration technology for coal. There is no mention of tar sands oil in the agreement. 

Canada's lack of action on climate finds its root in the tar sands oil industry's expanding greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands oil development remains a major challenge and in truth there are no technological fixes that would make, especially its expansion, environmentally acceptable. Dirty fuels such as tar sands oil are not compatible with fighting global warming and building a clean energy economy.

So it was hard to swallow when Canadian government officials presented Canadian intensity targets as being the same as absolute limits on greenhouse gas emissions and when they implied that Canada had been taking action to fight climate change. Just today, the Pembina Institute released analysis that shows that with the new stimulus package, the U.S. is to invest over six times more per capita in renewable energy and energy efficiency than Canada. Hopefully, this new U.S.-Canada dialogue indicates Canadian federal government intent to move forward with actions to tackle global warming. And one of these first actions should be to stop tar sands oil industry expansion and to clean up what is already underway.

As the planet edges toward a climate disaster, the global warming costs, along with the environmental and public health impacts, make tar sands unacceptable, especially when we need to pursue clean energy and transportation solutions. The President made it clear that we must deal with economic, security and global warming issues together. Even more - he said that we cannot afford to tackle any of them in isolation.

As the President said today - there are no silver bullets and we need to deal with global warming as an issue that our children will have to live with for many years. In his words and actions, President Obama has sent a clear message that United States will be pursuing a clean energy future and working first on getting things right at home so that we can show ourselves ready to do the right thing in the next round of international discussions. Tar sands has no place in this future.