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Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a stark case for the Keystone XL pipeline to an influential New York audience, saying no further debate is necessary and an increasing supply of oil from Canada is inevitable.
“This absolutely needs to go ahead,” Mr. Harper said during a packed session at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan. “All the facts are overwhelmingly on the side of approval.”
The only “real immediate environmental issue here,” he added, “is do we want to increase the flow of oil from Canada via pipeline or via rail.”
Mr. Harper’s trip marks a new tactic in an all-out effort by the Canadian government to counteract the project’s opponents and ensure that the pipeline moves forward. The push includes an ad campaign launched this week and rotating visits to the U.S. by a parade of cabinet ministers.
On Thursday, however, Mr. Harper did the selling himself. His destination is a stronghold of Democratic voters, some of whom oppose the Keystone project.
But New York is also the nation’s business capital, something Mr. Harper embraced. At the public event on Thursday afternoon, his audience included corporate executives, investors and academics. He also participated in a private breakfast and intimate afternoon roundtable with selected business chieftains.
He noted that the Keystone pipeline, a project of TransCanada Corp., could create 40,000 U.S. jobs. Given the current challenging climate for job creation, he said, “I don’t think … we can afford to turn up our noses at that.”
Ottawa considers the pipeline a crucial conduit for moving oil from Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. But the proposal has met with stiff opposition from critics who say it will accelerate climate change by making it easier to develop Alberta’s reserves of carbon-laden oil.
Mr. Harper rejected those arguments. “Yes, there still are emissions issues, but no more so than heavy crudes in other parts of the world,” he said. “This is an enormous benefit to the United States in terms of long-term energy security.”
The Prime Minister also alluded to the tactics of those who oppose the project – including a number of vocal protesters just outside Thursday’s event – following a question about how to combat climate change.
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