Eight months ago, in June 2008 President Obama was trying to improve his green credentials. The press were reporting how Obama may “Say no to Canadian tar sands”.

One press report at the time noted that “Barack Obama took aim at the Alberta oilsands, declaring he would break America’s addiction to ‘dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive’ oil if he is elected U.S. president.”

What a difference eight months make.  On the eve of his first foreign trip as President to Canada, Obama has changed his tone on tar sands.  He doesn’t want a diplomatic rift on his first trip.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before his visit to Ottawa tomorrow, Obama declined to label oil from tar sands “dirty oil” which should somehow be curtailed. Obama acknowledged that tar sands did create “a big carbon footprint” but then said the US and Canada should collaborate on ways to sequester carbon, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere. “Ultimately, I think this can be solved by technology” said Obama.

“I think that it is possible for us to create a set of clean energy mechanisms that allow us to use things not just like oil sands, but also coal,” he said.

So if “dirty” can become “clean”, America can consume oilsands and the problem is solved (at least to an unsuspecting public!).

Carbon capture and storage, the technology that Obama seems to be endorsing, is in fact a technology that not even the fossil friendly folks of the Bush Administration could fully get behind.  Last year, Bush withdrew public support from the FutureGen project, after the only thing it succeeded in capturing was taxpayer money.

It is interesting how the press are interpreting Obama’s remarks: Bloomberg’s headline is ” Oil From Canada’s Tar Sands Can Be Made ‘Clean,’ Obama Says”. The financial newswire says “Oil extracted from tar sands in Canada can be made a clean energy source, and the U.S. will work with its northern neighbor to develop the technology, President Barack Obama said. A joint effort by the U.S. and Canada, its biggest trading partner, on ways to capture and store carbon dioxide underground would “be good for everybody,””

By “everybody”, you can read the “oil industry”.

But the sense of irony is almost palatable. Obama also said that “you know the natural beauty of Canada is extraordinary”. Well I don’t think he will be sending anyone a post-card of the tar sands ….

If you want to read a transcript from President Obama’s interview on CBC go here.


  • I think that carbon cabon capture and storage might work for a while, but our future generations will probably be the ones that experiance the downfall of it. Before we do this we need to research and make sure carbon capture and storage isn’t going to effect us in the long run.

  • Nice post. I can’t help but feel like Obama’s losing support even of his most left wing supporters. You really think he has what it takes to pull this energy initiative off?

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