By ALISTAIR MACDONALD AND TENNILLE TRACY
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took his case for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to the United States, burnishing Canada's environmental credentials and saying the arguments for the project are "overwhelmingly on the side of approval."
Speaking in New York, Mr. Harper repeated arguments his deputies have made repeatedly in their own trips to Washington. Ottawa says the project will reduce United States dependence on oil from less stable and less friendly countries like Venezuela, and create jobs on both sides of the border. But by making the pitch himself, Mr. Harper dramatically ratcheted up the level of government lobbying over the line, proposed by Calgary based TransCanada.
"I think all the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval of this, but there is a process in the United States," he said, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations.
He also took aim at critics who have said the line would boost global greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists and some prominent Democrats in the United States have said the project, which would boost exports of Canadian crude to the United States, would heighten America's dependence on fossil fuel, including heavy Canadian oil sands crude. Oil sands production is generally more carbon intensive than many blends of conventional oil, but is less intensive than others.
Mr. Harper said building the line would add "almost nothing globally" to carbon emissions. Meanwhile, he sought to portray Canada as an environmentally conscious nation that is doing its share to cap global emissions.
"Truth of the matter is, heavy oils out of the oil sands, yes, there are still emission issues, but no more than other places in the world," he said. Mr. Harper also said the United States should not "turn up" its nose at the potential of 40,000 construction jobs, or the prospect of being able to reduce its dependence from oil shipped in from overseas by 40%.
Washington is currently deliberating whether to approve the 875 mile pipeline, envisioned to carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska, for further shipment to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The project has divided Washington and featured prominently in the United States presidential election last year. In Canada, Keystone is a crucial economic issue.
A lack of pipeline capacity has bottled up Canadian supplies, triggering wildly volatile prices that have threatened provincial and federal revenue and clouded future investment in the Canadian oil sector.
The State Department is expected to finalize its environmental review of the project in coming weeks. After that, the department will seek input from federal agencies for 90 days and then determine whether the project serves the national interest. Still, officials say there is no set timetable for a final decision.
"The State Department continues to review the permit application for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in a rigorous, transparent, and efficient manner," a State Department official said. "The State Department will make a determination after we have thoroughly and transparently considered all the issues."
Capitol Hill Republicans continue to pressure President Barack Obama to deliver swift approval for Keystone. A GOP controlled House transportation committee approved a bill that would effectively push through approval for the project. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a similar bill in April.
Dow Jones Newswires