The U.S. wants Canada to dramatically expand its oil exports from the Alberta oilsands, a move that could have major implications on the environment.Nice euphemism there: streamline.
U.S.and Canadian oil executives and government officials met for a two-day oil summit in Houston in January 2006 and made plans for a "fivefold expansion" in oilsands production in a relatively "short time span," according to minutes of the meeting obtained by the CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada.
The meeting was organized by Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Canada is already the top exporter of oil to the American market, exporting the equivalent of one million barrels a day — the exact amount that the oilsands industry in Alberta currently produces.
A fivefold increase would mean the exportation of five million barrels a day, which would supply a quarter of current American consumption and add up to almost half of all U.S. imports.
But the current extraction of oil from the tarsands results in the spewing of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere: it's already the biggest source of new greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
The news of the call for the massive boost in oil production comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to make the environment one of his top priorities, vowing that Canadians deserve more action on climate change. Polls show the environment is the number one concern of Canadians.
Yet, according to the minutes of the Houston meeting, to multiply its output by five and to do it quickly, Canada would have to "streamline" its environmental regulations for new energy projects.
Many Canadians won't criticize anything related to the oilsands, since they generate jobs almost as quickly as they do greenhouse gases. But just as we can't allow the logging and paper industries to determine which forests get cut down - or we'd have no trees left - we can't let the oil concerns to set our environmental priorities.
Maybe the fact that this call is coming from Bush's US will help turn Canadians against the idea.