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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't buy our 'dirty' crude, green lobbyists urge Obama

By Jason Fekete

Less than n two weeks out from Barack Obama's visit to Canada, an international coalition of environmental groups has launched a public relations offensive urging the U. S. president not to shelter the Alberta oilsands from gritty greenhouse-gas regulations.

The Obama2Canada partners, which includes more than a dozen green groups such as Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, are engaging in a cross-border lobbying campaign in the leadup to Obama's Feb. 19 meeting in Ottawa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The environmental organizations are trying to convince the new president to reject what they believe will be entreaties from Harper to insulate carbon-intensive oilsands production from aggressive climate-change regulations that many observers believe will be introduced by the Obama administration.

The campaign--which kicked off Tuesday with an ad in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper--features print ads and a new website, as well as asking Canadians and Americans to send petitions to the prime minister and president. Both leaders have expressed inter-est in crafting a North American climate-change deal that could include a cap-and-trade emissions reduction program.

"The message is, 'Don't buy our dirty oil,' " said Jean Langlois, campaign adviser with the Sierra Club. "It's a concern of ours that the Canadian government is still out of step with the international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and climate change."

Developing the oilsands produces about three times as many emissions per barrel compared to conventional oil, the coalition notes, while also gobbling up enormous amounts of natural gas and fresh water.

It's the latest salvo in an ongoing war between governments and green groups about the oilsands, the second-largest oil reserves on the planet.Over the past few years, protesters have followed Premier Ed Stelmach and his ministers around the globe and intensely lobbied American lawmakers, hoping to wean the U. S. off of the "dirty" oilsands.

The Stelmach government has fired back with a three-year, $25-million public relations campaign of its own designed to improve Alberta's image and that of the oilsands. It's also announced $2 billion in seed money to kick-start carbon capture and storage, which the government is relying on to achieve most of its long-term greenhouse-gas reductions.

"We believe that the oilsands are a secure source of energy well into the future,"Environment Minister Rob Renner said Tuesday. "We can and we will develop those resources in an environmentally sustainable way and we're committed to show President Obama and anyone else who cares to hear how we're going to do it."

Roman Cooney of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the Sierra Club's efforts are too one-sided and fail to grasp other issues related to energy development in the oilsands.

"The industry is not looking for special treatment, on the oilsands in particular, it's looking for equal treatment," Cooney said.

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