Oil sands producers must cut emissions: U.S. envoy

Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:44pm EDT
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By Scott Haggett and Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Oil sands producers must do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. ambassador to Canada said on Monday, as the two countries move to harmonize rules on carbon dioxide cuts.

Canada's oil sands, the largest crude reserve outside the Middle East, offer secure energy supplies for the United States. But David Jacobson, appointed as President Barack Obama's envoy to Canada in 2009, said the companies exploiting the resource must take further steps to reduce their environmental impact.

"I understand (the oil sands) importance to your country and to mine," Jacobson said in speech to the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region Summit in Calgary.

"I'm aware of the significant steps that have been taken by the industry to the effects of the oil sands operations on the land, the water and the air, but I do not think I'm alone in saying that more needs to be done," he said.

Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the United States, responsible for about 20 percent of U.S. imports, and the bulk of that oil comes from the oil sands.

However the large-scale projects that exploit the oil sands of northern Alberta are a rising source of carbon dioxide, while toxic waste from mining projects, held in vast tailings ponds, is a threat to birds and other wildlife.

Those environmental hazards have spurred some U.S. legislators, including Henry Waxman, the influential chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to oppose a new pipeline planned to carry Canadian crude to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

A number of environmental groups are also bitterly opposed to oil sands production. One green group put up billboards in U.S. cities last week urging Americans not to travel to Alberta, though the ambassador, a Chicago native, said the campaign was a too-simple response to a complicated issue.   Continued...