WikiLeaks Reveals State Department Discord Over U.S. Support for Canadian Tar Sands Oil Program

WikiLeaks Reveals State Department Discord Over U.S. Support for Canadian Tar Sands Oil Program

For Immediate Release:
December 7, 2010

Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, [email protected]
Alex Moore, 202-222-0733, [email protected]

WikiLeaks Reveals State Department Discord Over U.S. Support for Canadian Tar Sands Oil Program

Leaked cable warns of tar sands oil’s ‘higher environmental footprint’ as agency considers pipeline that would double U.S. dependence on it

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed that a U.S. diplomat warned the Obama administration about significant environmental impacts stemming from Canada’s controversial tar sands oil production program.

The language in the cable contradicts recent statements by U.S. State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that underplay the environmental impacts of tar sands oil while defending a proposed pipeline that would bring the extremely polluting oil from Canada to the U.S.

In the January 2009 cable, which was prepared for President Obama and Secretary Clinton in advance of the president’s first trip to Canada, the diplomat states that Canada has “keen sensitivity over the higher environmental footprint of oil from western Canada’s oil sands.” The diplomat goes on to warn the president that among Canadian officials there is “concern about the implications for Canada of your energetic calls to develop renewable energies and reduce our reliance on imported oil.”

This candid admission of the impacts of tar sands oil production, which results in three times more global warming pollution than production of conventional oil, differs markedly from the description of tar sands oil given by the State Department in public documents.

In its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared to analyze the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada through six U.S. states to refineries in Texas, the State Department claims that tar sands oil is “similar” to other oils and that the impact of increasing reliance on tar sands oil “would be minor.” Despite the fact that her agency is still completing its final EIS, Secretary Clinton has stated that she is “inclined” to approve the pipeline.

“It’s hard to understand why State Department officials in Washington, D.C. would deny a problem acknowledged by the expert on the ground,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Tar sands oil production takes an unacceptable toll on the environment and public health and should not be supported by the U.S. government.”

Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth, added, “It appears as though the State Department sought to deceive the American public about the environmental impacts of tar sands oil in conducting its draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline. The department is required by law to fully evaluate potential environmental impacts, including the extreme levels of pollution produced by tar sands oil.”

“Failure to fully assess the environmental impacts of this tar sands oil pipeline would violate the National Environmental Policy Act and leave the agency vulnerable to litigation,” concluded Keever.

If approved by the Obama administration, the Keystone XL pipeline would pump 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the U.S. daily, doubling our country’s consumption of tar sands oil and leading to additional global warming emissions equal to adding more than 6 million new cars to U.S. roads.

The leaked cable warning of tar sands oil’s impact is available at:

The State Department’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is available at:

More information about the Keystone XL pipeline is available at: /keystone-xl-pipeline


Friends of the Earth and our federation of grassroots groups in 76 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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