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Wikileaks: Obama briefed on oil sands’ ‘environmental footprint’

American President Barack Obama received a confidential heads-up about Alberta’s oil sands industry before his first visit to Canada, a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks reveals.

“Canadians wish that more Americans would recognize that Canada is the largest source of imported energy for the U.S.,” reads the January 2009 document.

“There is also keen sensitivity over the higher environmental footprint of oil from western Canada’s oil sands and concern about the implications for Canada of your energetic calls to develop renewable energies and reduce our reliance on imported oil.”

The cable, whose subject line reads “scenesetter for the President’s trip to Ottawa”, also stressed that Canada “is working strenuously to improve the environmental impact of production from the oil sands.”

In early 2008, a top American diplomat wrote an oil sands memo to the U.S. Department of State, the Tyee reported.

“In our view, our goal should be to encourage, where we can, a process that is already making fitful progress, the 'greening' of the oil sands," read the document, which was signed by U.S. consul general Tom Huffaker.

"Should we opt instead to support policies that damage the market for the oil sands and raise the cost of capital here, we should at least do so knowingly, well aware that, while this may seem to advance our environmental interests, it will harm our energy security."

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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