- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

KEYSTONE DIPLOMACY

Canada is putting diplomatic pressure on the White House after President Obama delayed approval of a major oil pipeline from Alberta, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week heads to energy-hungry China, which wants the fuel.

Mr. Harper will meet with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese officials.

He leaves for Beijing on Tuesday on a trip that is largely “in response to decisions taken in the United States,” Mr. Harper’s spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, told Agence France-Presse in Ottawa on Saturday.

Mr. MacDougall was referring to Mr. Obama’s refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry up to 590,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta’s oil sands fields to refineries in Illinois and Texas.

Critics accuse Mr. Obama of caving to pressure from environmentalists, but the president says he needs more time to study the impact of the pipeline. The State Department has conducted three studies since 2008 that concluded the 1,700-mile-long pipeline would have no serious impact on the environment.

“If you look at the world economy and where it’s growing, the Asia-Pacific region is where the activity is,” Mr. MacDougall said.

Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer last week urged the Obama administration to approve the pipeline based “on its merits,” an implication that Canada believes Mr. Obama’s decision was based on politics.

“We have a resource the world wants,” he told the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on a visit to Texas last week. “We are going to develop our options. We’re not going to stand still while others stand still.”

A former U.S. ambassador to Canada flatly accused Mr. Obama of “political pandering” to “strong, vocal and loud environmentalist” groups.

David Wilkins, a political appointee of former President George W. Bush, predicted that the pipeline eventually will get White House approval.

“If President Obama is re-elected, he may approve the pipeline,” Mr. Wilkins said in Edmonton, Alberta, last week. “If President Obama is not re-elected, the pipeline will absolutely get approved because all of the Republican candidates [seeking the presidential nomination] have indicated they are very much in favor of it.”

Mr. Wilkins, a lawyer, is now with the firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, which includes the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers among its clients.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

1st:Monday

c Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai of India, who discusses U.S.-Indian relations in a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

1st:Tuesday

c Members of the European Parliament: Derk Jan Eppink of Belgium and Geoffrey Van Orden of Britain, vice chairmen of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group; and Jan Zahradil of the Czech Republic, president of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. They address the Heritage Foundation.

1st:Wednesday

• Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore of Ireland, chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He discusses human rights issues at a hearing of the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at 11:30 a.m. in Room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

•  Pedro Aspe, former finance secretary of Mexico, who addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

1st:Thursday

• Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, who meets with President Obama and addresses the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.