WASHINGTON — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday urged U.S. officials to approve a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, calling Canada a "secure, stable and friendly" neighbor that poses no threat to U.S. security.
By contrast, many other countries that supply oil are not stable, secure or friendly to U.S. interests, Harper said at a White House news conference following a meeting with President Obama.
Harper did not name any other country, but pipeline supporters have singled out countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iran as places where the United States faces security threats and instability. Canada's environment minister has used the term "ethical oil" to describe his country's crude supplies, saying Canada respects human rights, workers' rights and environmental responsibility.
"The choice that the United States faces in all of these matters is whether to increase its capacity to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States," Harper said.
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Obama, standing next to Harper at a news conference, did not address the pipeline issue.
A Canadian company is pushing to build a 1,900-mile pipeline that would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The $7 billion pipeline, which would pass through Kansas, could substantially reduce U.S. dependency on oil from the Middle East and other regions, according to a report commissioned by the Obama administration.
The study suggests that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, coupled with a reduction in overall U.S. oil demand, "could essentially eliminate Middle East crude imports longer term." The pipeline would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada, producing more than 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil derived from formations of sand, clay and water in western Canada.
"This study supports what we have been saying for some time — that Keystone XL will improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela," said Russ Girling, CEO of Calgary-based TransCanada, the project's developer. "Keystone XL will also create 20,000 high-paying jobs for American families and inject $20 billion into the U.S. economy."
A coalition of 86 environmental and progressive groups sent a letter Friday urging Obama to reject the pipeline and "stop giving a free pass to oil companies to increase profits at the expense of Americans."
The American Petroleum Institute, meanwhile, sent a letter urging Obama to approve the project.