Calgary

Obama touts technology as solution to oilsands footprint

U.S. President Barack Obama stopped short of calling the Alberta oilsands dirty in an exclusive interview with CBC News, but acknowledged that the industry leaves its impact on the environment.
CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge and U.S. President Barack Obama at an interview conducted in Washington on Tuesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama stopped short of calling the Alberta oilsands dirty in an exclusive interview with CBC News but acknowledged that the industry leaves its impact on the environment.

"What we know is that oilsands creates a big carbon footprint," said Obama on Tuesday.

"So the dilemma that Canada faces, the United States faces, and China and the entire world faces, is how do we obtain the energy that we need to grow our economies in a way that is not rapidly accelerating climate change."

When asked if the future of oil produced from the oilsands hinged on a cap and trade policy, Obama suggested that technology would be the ultimate solution to creating clean energy.

'The more that we can develop technologies that tap alternative sources of energy but also contain the environmental damage of fossil fuels, the better off we're going to be.'— U.S. President Barack Obama

"Canada, the United States, China, India, the European Union, all of us are going to have to work together in an effective way to figure out how do we balance the imperatives of economic growth with very real concerns about the effect we're having on our planet," he said.

"We're not going to be able to deal with any of these issues in isolation. The more that we can develop technologies that tap alternative sources of energy but also contain the environmental damage of fossil fuels, the better off we're going to be."

CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge interviewed Obama in Washington on Tuesday, two days before the president's planned visit to Canada on Thursday.

Special interest groups, including environmentalists and First Nations, have been ramping up public campaigns criticizing the Alberta oilsands, which use large amounts of energy and fresh water to extract bitumen.

They've called on the U.S. president not to rely on fuel from the oilsands and to press the Canadian government to clean up the industry.

Praises Mexico for green energy initiatives

Showing a thorough understanding of the issue, Obama said that Canada and the U.S. could collaborate on ways to capture greenhouse gases before they're emitted into the atmosphere.

In July, the Alberta government committed $2 billion to major projects to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and industrial facilities and inject it deep underground for permanent storage.

"That's going to be good for everybody," Obama said. "Because if we don't, then we're going to have a ceiling at some point in terms of our ability to expand our economies and maintain the standard of living that's so important, particularly when you've got countries like China and India that are obviously interested in catching up."

Obama praised Mexico as taking "some of the boldest steps around the issues of alternative energy and carbon reductions of any country out there."

Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S., exporting nearly two million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

now