WikiLeaks reveals State Department discord over U.S. support for Canadian tar sands oil pipeline

Leaked cable warns of tar sands oil’s ‘higher environmental footprint’ as agency considers pipeline that would double U.S. dependence on it

Alex Moore and Kelly Trout of Friends of the Earth have the story in this repost.

A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed that a U.S. diplomat warned the Obama administration about significant environmental impacts stemming from Canada’s controversial tar sands oil production program.

The language in the cable contradicts recent statements by U.S. State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that underplay the environmental impacts of tar sands oil while defending a proposed pipeline that would bring the extremely polluting oil from Canada to the U.S.

In the January 2009 cable, which was prepared for President Obama and Secretary Clinton in advance of the president’s first trip to Canada, the diplomat states that Canada has “keen sensitivity over the higher environmental footprint of oil from western Canada’s oil sands.” The diplomat goes on to warn the president that among Canadian officials there is “concern about the implications for Canada of your energetic calls to develop renewable energies and reduce our reliance on imported oil.”

This candid admission of the impacts of tar sands oil production, which results in three times more global warming pollution than production of conventional oil, differs markedly from the description of tar sands oil given by the State Department in public documents.

In its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared to analyze the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada through six U.S. states to refineries in Texas, the State Department claims that tar sands oil is “similar” to other oils and that the impact of increasing reliance on tar sands oil “would be minor.” Despite the fact that her agency is still completing its final EIS, Secretary Clinton has stated that she is “inclined” to approve the pipeline.

“It’s hard to understand why State Department officials in Washington, D.C. would deny a problem acknowledged by the expert on the ground,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Tar sands oil production takes an unacceptable toll on the environment and public health and should not be supported by the U.S. government.”

Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth, added, “It appears as though the State Department sought to deceive the American public about the environmental impacts of tar sands oil in conducting its draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. The department is required by law to fully evaluate potential environmental impacts, including the extreme levels of pollution produced by tar sands oil.”

“Failure to fully assess the environmental impacts of this tar sands oil pipeline would violate the National Environmental Policy Act and leave the agency vulnerable to litigation,” concluded Keever.

If approved by the Obama administration, the Keystone XL pipeline would pump 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the U.S. daily, doubling our country’s consumption of tar sands oil and leading to additional global warming emissions equal to adding more than 6 million new cars to U.S. roads.

The leaked cable warning of tar sands oil’s impact is available at:

The State Department’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is available at:

More information about the Keystone XL pipeline is available at:

Friends of the Earth operates in 76 countries on campaigns that focus on clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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18 Responses to WikiLeaks reveals State Department discord over U.S. support for Canadian tar sands oil pipeline

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    An introduction to the OpenLeaks system and the idea behind it.

  2. Bob Lang says:

    In order to have a 50-50% chance of staying below 2 degrees C, the GHG emissions by industrialized countries have to level off by 2015.

    With projects like the Keystone XL pipeline getting the nod by the Obama administration, the chances of staying below 2 degrees C are nil.

    “Happy” New Year, everyone!

  3. Scrooge says:

    I have been thinking this over a bit and it is a tough one for me. I hope it just wasn’t a cop out. I want it to be a step backwards so we can take a few forward in the near future.

  4. Tuckamore says:

    This is not the way to treat our
    American neighbours.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    No mystery here. The oil companies, and the banks who finance pipelines and refineries, wear the pants in the US government, regardless of who the president is.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You mean to tell me that Clinton and the State Department have been a little creative with the facts, and that this distortion will be to the pecuniary benefit of giant corporations involved in the fossil fuel business, who also, completely disinterestedly, of course, are generous supporters of democracy, US-style, through their political ‘contributions’. Who would of thought it possible?

  7. Leif says:

    Fear Corporate Greed… It would appear to have no bounds. I wonder if the Primary Enemy I should be challenging is “Climate Disruption” or “World Governance under Corporate Control”? Are they one in the same? Which one has a easier understood ultimate adverse impact on society/humanity? Can the American public even process two existential threats at once? Can Climate Change Mitigation be looked at as an “alliterative economy”? In stronger terms, “A survival economy”? Many of us do look at it in terms of “WW II” effort! Is it legal for a population to declare “war” on a non-animated* segment of its society that threatens to cause collapse? Can the President call the people to a free and opened debate with the final decision left, to who? The Courts? Politicians? The Tea Party Faction? Scientists? President? Looks to me like the War Department will have to be it. If we are lucky we get what, 4 out of 6?

    * Are Corporations now in fact people? If so, can they be charged with murder, like you and I, if we kill off our brothers? If they are not people can they be charged with genocide like countries? Are Corporations Beyond the reach of LAW all together in fundamental ways? Are Corporations “people” when they feel like it and “Corporations” when it suits their purpose? If so, did “we the people” grant that status, or was that right taken from behind our backs?

  8. Bob Lang says:

    Leif #7 – Good point!

    Climate change = intergenerational injustice, therefore it is a legal/moral issue, and the courts have to get involved and become part of the solution, as pointed out by Jim Hansen.

    The US Constitution guarantees equal rights to all, including young people and future generations. Therefore, continuing with business-as-usual is unconstitutional and the courts can overrule the legislative branch of Government.

  9. Leif says:

    “Therefore, continuing with business-as-usual is unconstitutional and the courts can overrule the legislative branch of Government.” Bob Lang @ 8

    I would love to hear the Supreme Court talking that one out. Every word should be emanate domain.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Leif#7, corporations are responsible for peddling junk food to children, which ends up killing far, far more people through obesity and metabolic disease that heroin, crack, ecstasy and amphetamines. Capitalist corporations peddled tobacco for decades after its harms were known, and still do so, aggressively, in the Third World. Capitalist corporations are commandeering the food chain, even to the extent of agitating for laws that will effectively outlaw seed saving and seed exchanges. They have contributed to the loss of hundreds of heritage vegetable types and dangerously narrowed the genetic base by buying seed companies and withdrawing varieties from sale. Capitalist corporations have also brought us ubiquitous, inescapable advertising, that seeks to manipulate our behaviour like Pavlov’s dogs, by playing on our feelings of inadequacy, a form of psychological molestation. Capitalist corporations continue to finance the anthropogenic climate change denial industry, despite their own scientific advisers telling them that the science (and hence the hellish consequences) is sound. I could go on and on, interminably. It’s impossible not to see the common thread here.

  11. Jim says:

    And let’s remember that Sec. Clinton’s former top political aide, national deputy campaign director, and chief of staff for delegate selection, during her bid for the White House, was Paul Elliott – now the chief Washington D.C. lobbyist for TransCanada, the applicant for this destructive pipeline.

    Clinton refuses to recuse herself – her behavior of refusing to accept the findings from the EPA, and from her own department revealed in the Wikileak, combined with her conficlt of interest, is a disgrace.

  12. espiritwater says:

    Leif, @7… Yep! According to Naomi Wolfe, in “Letter to a Young Patriot” and “Give Me Liberty” it’s not only legal to declare war when our constitutional rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are being infringed upon– it’s our moral obligation to do so. And we are being the right to life– or at least young people are most definitely being denied this right. That’s why Jim Hansen is filing a lawsuit against the Obama administration. “Sophie (and his other children) versus Obama and the Congress”. That’s how to stop the evil. That’s how Civil Rights leaders and others did it– throught the courts. As far as corporations go– they have been granted the rights of human beings. I assume that they also have to pay the penalities of human beings! But I guess you were talking of Revolution.. which also a good idea!

  13. espiritwater says:

    You make a very good point, Leif. We not only have one challenge… It overlaps with this other more sinister problem. Perhaps in order to stop climate change, we will have to also become embroiled in this more complex situation– arresting our rights from fascist-type government. The whole thing reminds me of “1984”– corporate government control, double speak, heightened surveilance, thier little stun guns which don’t actually kill (except when they do) and are therefore used more frequently… it just goes on and on. It’s scarey. But we may have no choice except to rise to the occassion. Like our forefathers.

  14. Leif says:

    espiritwater, @12: “Revolution” in all but the violent parts. Society, nay, Humanity does not have the time to work this mess out with violence, This needs to be a “all hands on deck” call to save the ship. Humanity needs a functioning financial district; it needs corporations cooperating with humanity and earth’s life support systems. And yes, we need a healthy and housed work force to build our “ladder to the stars”. (The rich cannot build anything for themselves, they are doomed without servants.) Who else to bury the G-tons of carbon? Build the wind turbines? Move the cities? Harvest the crops when the machines get bogged down?

    The problem as I see it is that there is too many middle men in the equation taking their half out of the middle. Want full employment. Retire the investment bankers and paper movers and give everyone else 20 hour work weeks and structure society so all can afford it. We have more than enough millionaires and billionaires. What needs to be done now is deal with the starving masses and degraded ecosystems.

    Like we cared…

    The “We All Win War…”

  15. espiritwater says:

    Unfortunately, in order to “deal with the starving masses and degraded ecosystems” we will have no choice except to challenge a government which only takes care of the wealthy elite. The problem is they don’t care if the masses are starving or the ecosystem is degraded. That’s the whole point. They simply don’t care. If billions of people die off, so what? There are too many people anyhow. IMO, we will have no choice sooner or later except to fight. I’m not advocating it or looking forward to it. It just seems inevitable to me.

    I agree with the last paragraph. Unfortunately, I doubt the millionaires/billionaires will just divide their money up equitably.
    They are going to hold on to power until forced to do otherwise. I don’t think we will just “decide” to have a revolution. It probably wouldn’t work that way. I think it will be forced on us. (by life/the situation).

  16. espiritwater says:

    Leif, I respectfully disagree with some of your comments…
    If they cared about the ecosystem and all the other things you mentioned, they would have already done something about it. They are not stupid. They have to know what’s happening: 97% of the original forests are all gone. 97%!! Around the same rate of natural grasses. Most of the big fish in the ocean are gone. The oceans are half full of trash. If they wanted to do something about it, they would have done so by now. There’s not a whole lot left of our planet. (Did you see the list Wit’s End gave of species on the endangered list?) They have to have noticed by now what they are doing. And Climate Change? Don’t hold your breath. They simply don’t care because they put money before all else. Derrick Jensen described them in his books,as “psychopaths”. They have no conscience and lie, lie, lie. (He writes excellent books on this subject. Like “What We Leave Behind” and “Endgame”. Hope you check them out at the library!)

  17. Leif says:

    Some one long ago said, “Revolution was societies method of dealing with compound interest.”

    As I pointed out above, revolutions have a tendency to have messy outcomes. Humanity needs to hit the ground running with functioning infrastructure to combat the centuries of abuse. We need the schools and universities. We need farmers, we need garbage collectors. We cannot build supper conducting off shore power grids or span the hemisphere with bullet trains as China intends without stable governments and secure boarders and banking. The fact is that unless something promotes an epiphany in the heart of the Corporate/Capitalist beast, it ain’t looking too promising. The only Power that I see that has a chance if taking on that C/C beast is the Military in our society. They did it in WW II. It is time for a replay without all the dead folks. The “We All Win War.”

    We get done with that and there is still the need to lop off a few heads, so be it.

  18. Leif says:

    espiritwater, @ 16: All true. Courts could come to the rescue but they currently want to kick the can. The politicians are double blocked. The President is considered an illegal alien by a quarter of the population. (No facts needed.) ~50% of the population consider the environmental status quo just fine and are buying guns to prove it.

    What is left?

    War powers, Scientists, Military, The President and some enlightened economic and corporate interests. Oh, and WE THE PEOPLE! The rich need to be convinced that it is in THEIR best interest to invest enthusiastically into the Awakening Green Economy. The Rich, and their cannon fodder, the Tea Party, need a stern talking to. The Military is all that they will listen to, assuming they have not grown too cocky for even that. I think Not.

    If they have, then you are right. Heads will roll…


    I am also right, Humanity will lose.

    I hope a lot of the Rich are reading Climate Progress and attempting some holistic thinking.