White House briefing on Obama's visit - Macleans.ca

White House briefing on Obama’s visit

On NAFTA, the oil sands, climate change and Afghanistan


White House briefing on Obama's visit

Officials from the White House and National Security Council just gave a briefing about Obama’s trip.

The bottom line seems to be:

1) On NAFTA: While Obama supports the idea of putting the labor and environment side agreements into the main Nafta agreement, he will not make any moves to actually do this (*for the time being) given that the world economy is too fragile and he does not want to send out a negative message on trade. “This is not time to give the impression that we are interested in less rather than more trade.”

2) On oil sands: Canada is an important partner on energy. Obama wants to work with Canada to improve carbon capture and sequestration of carbon emissions from the oil sands. Technology is the answer. There is $3.5 billion for carbon sequestration research in the stimulus bill that Obama signed today. (This should make Alberta envoy-to-DC Gary Mar’s day since an item in the Washington Post today used the words  Alberta and “the dirtiest oil on earth” in close proximity.)

3) On climate change: Obama will be accompanied by his climate czar, Carol Browner. He wants to talk to Harper about “building on” an idea for continental carbon emissions plan pitched to him by Mexican President Felipe Calderon at their meeting in Washington during Obama’s transition. Calderon’s plan apparently calls for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050.  Calderon’s name was mentioned several times during the briefing. The Three Amigos approach lives.

4) On Afghanistan: Obama will not make a direct appeal for Canada to extend its troop presence. However, he will make clear that for the next month and a half he is holding a “strategic policy review” on Afghanistan and that the way forward will not require only military might, but also “all elements of our national power and all elements of national power of our friends and allies.” Sounds to me like an ask for Canadian help in training police or judges or some such thing.


White House briefing on Obama’s visit

  1. Wolf Blitzer just reported that he’s about to go to a story about Obama making a pitch to Canada for more troops in a CBC interview… It will be interesting to see how the pitch is worded.

    • Ah, never mind. I just answered my own question by reading the CBC.ca article about the Mansbridge interview. A “comprehensive strategy” is the name of the game.

  2. 50% in 2050???

    I think Calderon stold that one from the CPC. This will make the Dion LibsNDPBloc alliance very unhappy.

  3. The March 2009 issue of National Geographic, currently arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes, has a 26-page story titled “The Canadian Oil Boom: Scraping Bottom.”

  4. very interesting indeed! This time the 3 amigos won’t have the short white guy…

    • Yeah, they don’t need us anymore Wayne. Our kind is done. Welcome to the REALLY new world order!

  5. My wife ( she who has Gitmo-like custody of the remote – for now ) tells me that the Wolf has an interview with PMSH this evening to discuss the Great Event. In my experience, a less than reliable source but lets keep that between us, eh. Funny he didn’t call Wells with first refusal ?

  6. Check out my bold prediction from a month ago:

    It’s not in the US strategic interest to shut out oilsands oil, so they won’t do it. It really is that simple. Prentice will throw some money at carbon sequestration projects, and the US misgivings will vanish. There will be some dissent from Waxman and a few other Democrats, but the majority of the US Congress do not share Waxman’s views.

    Meanwhile, Harper will probably pitch a continential carbon cap initiative to Obama in the first meeting. Harper’s been planning this for a while; it’s why he selected Prentice for the environment portfolio.

    Finally, I predict that Harper’s relationship with Obama will be surprisingly warm. They will bond as family men. They are very close in age, younger than most other world leaders. Harper’s wife Laureen is a year older than Michelle. Daughters Rachel Harper and Malia Obama are both 10. It seems like a trivial detail, but if Rachel and Malia play well together it could be a huge PR coup for both leaders, given the international media interest in Obama’s family.

    Sometimes the most accurate predictions are also the most obvious ones.

    • CR
      While not disagreeing with you in essence, i feel confident in saying that no matter how well their kids get along their respective political imperitives will not be suceptible to such sentiment.
      On the question of the tar sands, other factors outside of the control of these two gents may eventually impinge. Northerners [ mostly native remember] are becoming incresingly aggitated by the downstream effects of these projects. They may be small in number, but gone are the days when a few extra indians getting sick is a price that the big boys can easily pay. Keep yr eye on these types of stories, people wont just grin and bear it anymore.

      • Kc, I agree with you that the Northerners are becoming increasingly agitated by some of the megaprojects (except for those who are directly or indirectly employed by the projects, of course.)

        I don’t think it has been proven that the “big boys” are responsible for getting “a few extra indians” sick. You are probably talking about that study in Fort Chip where they found a slightly higher cancer rate than the Canadian average (I think they found 13 cancer cases more than they expected).

        The authors of the study emphasized that there was no cause for alarm, because the data did not “prove” anything. As you well know (being a Northerner), if you look at any group of Northerners and compare their health to the Canadian average, you need to look at the impact of lifestyle choices as well (higher rates of smoking, drinking, etc.)

        • CR
          I think the whole sordid story of Fort Chip is a lot more than a few deaths. The Alberta govts latest report is widely viewed with scorn here. I don’t know abot the numbers but the politics stink. A Dr from the community who blew the lid off this story was intimidated and an attempt at silencing him was made; backfired of course. I don’t want to blow things out of proportion but the decisions and some of the actions of the regulatory boards in AB have been highly questionable. Two of the most prominent critics of the oil-sands development – Prof Shindler and a certain P. Lougheed are certainly not yr average eco-cranks. I have a friend who has worked in the patch for a number of yrs, and he says the enviro damage is horrendous.
          Hope yr not implying that overdrinking can bring on these cancer clusters? Besides, why in FC which is downstream and not elsewhere, drinking is quite popular everywhere up here you know. It should be able to draw a timeline btween these cancers and the development of the tar-sands. Part of the problem has been the attitude of the AB govt, they seem to regard critiicism of the oil patch as boarderline treason. Wondr where i’ve noticed this parochial attitude before? Oh i know, there seems to be a bit of it in Ottawa these days!

          • Kc, I’m just waiting until the facts are out. Obviously I don’t have any special knowledge about the health issues, it’s just that I’ve learned to be skeptical about unsubstantiated health claims that get politicized (remember the hysteria in the US about the phony link between autism and vaccinations).

            I think we should develop the oilsands in the most environmentally sensitive way possible. I realize that there is a huge trade-off. but I think it’s worth it given that there are trillions of dollars worth of oil in those sands. Other industries like mining and forestry are also blights on the landscape, but nobody ever suggests shutting those down.

            As for the carbon footprint, I think carbon sequestration should help once we invest enough money in new technologies.

  7. I would agree with Critical as well … did anyone notice in that interview with Obama on the national that Obama started to sound like Harper on the major issues. That was weird and promising at the same time. I have a sneaking feeling that there are going to be more and more frustrated left wing nut Obamaniacs out there! I think that there are quite a few people that have projected onto Obama all sorts of things that as reality sets in are going to lead to some serious disappointments – especially when it comes to the realization that Obama is going to do absolutely nothing to impede the flow of 2 million barrels a day and growing significantly to them not if he wants to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Not to mention the fact that he will also do his best not to interrupt the billion a day back and forth trade we have – lot’s of talk, lot’s of mutual agreements with pen signings and rolled up sleeves and hopefully joint ventures on global issues.

  8. For those like CR and Wayne above who claim some sort of vindication or victory over oil sands development arising from this brief, their understanding of the issues is slightly deeper than open mine extraction, but not nearly as deep as in situ.

    Under the Ralph Klein “permit to everyone and anyone” who wants to develop an oilsands lease, a lot of American investment flowed into Northern Alberta. This also resulted in the need for pipelines and refinery expansions/modifications in the Gulf of Mexico states, Chicago area etc. – ie there is a fair bit of inertia and economic interests in the US to keep the current developments unfettered.

    The best that the anti-oil sands activists can hope for is a decrease in the rate of their growth (which has already happened due to a changing world economy) and increased focus on mitigating the environmental impacts, largely ignored by the Klein and Bush administrations.

    Alberta will come kicking and screaming to the environmental responsibility table (as they have already started) but this is largely due to the efforts of the environmental groups in Canada /US working jointly – NRDC being the main force in the US. This focused lobbying effort began a couple of years ago in DC at the Alberta/Smithsonian exhibition, which Savage Washington covered.

    • Hey you need to check out just how deep those open sand mines really are …have you ever actually seen the oil sands hmmmm? I have and believe me quite a sight indeed. Especially fascinating is that as you approach the big toys giant size dump trucks (lots of women drivers too apparently more talented than most of the men) as you slowly approach the trucks the scale of the whole thing starts to draw you into it … it is quite simply the most amazing and awesome thing that I have ever seen and there is an air of beauty in what you are seeing like looking into a volcano or something like that. Quite something indeed. By the way I make no claims of any vindication or whatever only my opinios of how things are and maybe how things might be.