- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A former U.S. ambassador to Canada is warning President Obama that China could gain a major source of fuel if he continues to oppose an oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas.

China has approached Canada as a potential buyer for fuel from oil sands in the western province, and the government in Ottawa is growing impatient with Mr. Obama’s refusal to approve the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We don’t need oil going in that direction,” said David Wilkins, ambassador in Ottawa under President George W. Bush. “We need it coming in our direction.”

The Obama administration has been stalling on the project for nearly five years, as green activists demand the pipeline be rejected for climate issues. The State Department has reported several studies that conclude the pipeline would have little negative effect on the environment.

Mr. Wilkins — a South Carolina lawyer and former Republican state legislator — told the Chamber of Commerce in Laurens County, S.C., last week that the United States is Canada’s chief customer and Canada is the United States’ top supplier of foreign oil.

Canada exports nearly 3 million barrels of oil a day to the United States — more than twice as much as Saudi Arabia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

The Keystone project would add more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day.

That would be almost enough to replace imports from the anti-American government in Venezuela, which is among America’s top five oil suppliers.

TransCanada, the company promoting the pipeline, says the project would create 40,000 U.S. jobs.

Mr. Wilkins, chairman of the board of trustees of Clemson University, admitted he knew very little about Canada when he was nominated to the position in 2005, the Clinton (S.C.) Chronicle reported.

But when he left his post four years later, he had traveled throughout the nation, taken French lessons so he could speak with Quebec residents, and petted a 600-pound polar bear. He spent Christmas 2007 visiting Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

In his speech, he also recalled how Canadians sheltered American air travelers stranded in Newfoundland after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and sent supplies to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Canada has always been there for the United States,” he said.

POWER OF FAITH

The new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican extolled the “power of faith” in his first blog posting after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Pope Francis on Monday.

Ambassador Kenneth Francis Hackett said the United States and the Vatican share “global interests that span a broad range of issues.”

“A desire to promote human rights and social justice is the foundation of a relationship that is strong, relevant and enduring,” he wrote. “I am excited and honored to begin this new journey.”

Mr. Hackett noted that in his former position as president of Catholic Relief Services, he had traveled the world to help distribute humanitarian aid.

“I have seen and know first-hand the importance of religion in people’s lives and the power of faith [that] leaders have to make positive change in their communities,” he said.

Mr. Hackett is the second ambassador to the Vatican under President Obama, who had difficulty finding a pro-life envoy early in his first term.

The Vatican rejected three candidates because of their pro-abortion positions and finally accepted Miguel H. Diaz, a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota, in August 2009.

Mr. Diaz resigned in January, and the Senate confirmed Mr. Hackett in August.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

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