Obama's message to Canada: We don't want your oil

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Appeared in the Huffington Post

Once again, energy policy was an element of President Obama's State of the Union Address (2014). What's interesting is both what's seen, and what is not seen.

Here, in the quotes related to energy, is what's seen:

  • More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years.
  • Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades.
  • One of the reasons why is natural gas if extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities.
  • It's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced. Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
  • And even as we've increased energy production, we've partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

I'll put aside for now arguments against the many errors in understanding and fallacies that permeate these comments, and focus on what I find most interesting: What is conspicuously not seen this year? The words Canada, pipeline, and Keystone are nowhere to be found. Of course, this is a U.S. address aimed at a U.S. audience, so one wouldn't necessarily expect to see other countries mentioned much. But from Mr. Obama's energy comments, it's clear that not only are the words not present in his speech, they're not present in his thoughts, or his future energy supply scenarios. Instead of a future of increased American imports of Canadian (or anyone else's) oil, Mr. Obama sees a future where transportation fuels are to shifted from oil to American natural gas, and oil consumption is to be further reduced through higher fuel efficiency standards on cars so we can keep driving down oil imports.

Even when he discusses infrastructure in the U.S., Keystone XL and pipeline infrastructure is conspicuous by its absence, as it is when he discusses trade, where the Mr. Obama gave a nod to trade agreements with Europe and the Asia-Pacific (region? Countries?), while America's largest trading partner didn't merit a mention.

Finally, Mr. Obama reiterated his concerns about climate change, insisting that the U.S. must do more to control carbon pollution. It's that same carbon pollution that is at the core of Mr. Obama's criteria for permitting Keystone XL.

Whether or not one favors Mr. Obama's energy policy, there's one thing very clear about it: Canada's oil is not something that factors into Mr. Obama's calculations other than in the negative: it's not American energy, it's in the basket of imported oil that the U.S. wishes to curtail, and to Mr. Obama it's the wrong sort of energy.

Mr. Obama's energy policy remarks only confirm Canada's energy imperative: If Canada is to reap some of the benefits projected from oil sand development, rather than looking south for its future oil sales. Canada must look west and east.

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