US President Barack Obama on Friday killed Canada’s bid to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline program in a manner that Norwegian environmentalists said should give Norway pause over how it’s dealing with its own unconventional oil recovery programs.
In ending the seven-year review that spiraled into an environmental flashpoint for the administration, Obama said Keystone failed to serve US national interests and would undercut Washington’s hard-won global leadership in the fight against climate change.
“The State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States,” Obama said in a 10-minute announcement at the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden. “I agree with that decision.”
Obama also confirmed that he would be attending the UN Paris Climate Summit beginning on November 30th at which negotiators hope to hammer out a binding world-wide consensus on curbing global warming.
“If we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,” he said.
Credit: Dag Thorenfeldt
Frederic Hauge, Bellona’s president, said Obama’s remarks were all of a piece that conferred to him great authority as Paris approaches – and giving Europe a tough act to follow. On October 16, Obama cancelled for two years auctions for oil drilling rights off the Alaskan Coast in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas
By contrast, Norway’s Statoil remains invested in the Canadian tar sands the Keystone was meant to bring to refineries along the US Gulf Coast for export, and is still trying to push ahead with Arctic drilling plans.
“Obama’s decision is a good example of the controversial decisions again the oil lobby that our leaders have to be making,” said Hauge in a telephone interview. “It gives Obama enormous credibility to go against the grain of the screaming petroholics, and it’s a decision he made for environmental, not commercial reasons.”
But he also noted that it leaves Norway standing in a relatively lonely position.
“Norway is the last country through the door on this,” said Hauge. “We really need to encourage our prime minister to summon Obama’s courage in the run up to Paris and put Statoil’s plans on hold – this would give Norway the credibility it needs.”
Statoil could not comment by press time.
Indeed, Europe seems to be falling behind in some critical areas Obama has recently made progress in. The US and Canada, according to the Global CCS institute, have emerged as relative crusaders in comparison to Europe in the development and deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage technology.
Canada’s SaskaPower is already operating the Canada’s Boundary Dam plant in Saskatchewan, and Mississippi intends similar measures for its Kemper Project
Norway’s Tekniske Ukebladet reported yesterday that North America would likely see seven new CCS equipped plants begin operation by 2016 or 2017, which would boost carbon storage to some 40 million tons.
Much of this has been made possible, said Hauge, by Obama’s August push for his Clean Energy Plan, which aims to slash a third of emissions produced by the US power production sector.