Harper touts Canadian oil imports as best for America's security interest

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper argued Friday that it’s in the United States’ national security interest to import oil from Canada.

Harper’s comments came in response to a direct question from a reporter about whether he and President Obama discussed a major Canadian pipeline project that would stretch from Alberta to Texas during a bilateral meeting Friday. The project, known as Keystone XL, is currently undergoing a multi-agency review headed by the State Department.

Harper said the two world leaders discussed energy at their meeting. But he did not say whether he and Obama came to any conclusions on the Keystone XL project. However, Harper made it clear that he believes the United States should rely more heavily on Canadian oil, alluding to the unrest in the Middle East.

“And the choice that the United States faces in all 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 at a press conference following his meeting at the White House. Obama did not address the Keystone XL project Friday.

Environmentalists have mounted an opposition campaign to the Keystone project, arguing that the pipeline could increase the chances of an oil spill and citing the greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production. They held a protest Friday outside of the White House.

But the oil industry has countered, in a campaign of its own, that the project will create jobs and help the country wean itself off oil from the Middle East. Environmentalists and the oil industry sent letters to Obama in advance of Harper’s visit laying out their positions on the project.

Environmental groups were quick to criticize Harper for touting Canadian oil imports. “What Prime Minister Harper failed to acknowledge is that tar sands oil is highly polluting,” Alex Moore, of Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “There are cleaner, safer ways to meet U.S. energy needs than to import this dirty oil from Canada via a dangerous pipeline through America's heartland.”

Moore called on Obama to block the pipeline project. “If the president is serious about making America a leader in clean energy, he has no choice but to stop this project.”