Keystone XL must not lead to increase in greenhouse gas emissions: Obama [VIDEO]

Keystone XL has become a flashpoint for US environmentalists, who have branded it a symbol of "dirty oil''.

WASHINGTON – Authorities should only approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline if they’re certain it won’t “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions, US President Barack Obama said in Washington, DC as he unveiled a national plan to combat climate change.

In a highly anticipated speech on his second-term climate objectives, Obama weighed in on Keystone despite suggestions he would steer clear of the controversial project because it’s in the midst of a State Department review.

A determination that building the northern portion of Keystone XL will not result in greater greenhouse gas emissions “is absolutely critical in determining whether this project will be allowed to go forward,” Obama said to cheers from the crowd gathered on a steamy day at DC’s Georgetown University.

Check out Obama’s speech in the video below:

The pipeline must be found to “be in our nation’s interest,” he added.

Keystone XL has become a flashpoint for US environmentalists, who have branded it a symbol of “dirty oil” and have spent the past two years mounting a fierce public relations battle against the project.

Calgary-based TransCanada has been pouring money into lobbying efforts in the US capital in recent months. The company’s CEO, Russ Girling, said recently that he’s confident Keystone XL will ultimately win approval.

The draft environmental report on the pipeline by State Department officials, released in March, suggested Keystone XL’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal. The powerful Environmental Protection Agency later questioned that finding.

TransCanada officials have said that even if Alberta oilsands production doubled, the carbon emissions would be “immaterial” to global greenhouse gas levels. They say Canada accounts for only 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the oilsands make up only 5% of that total.

He’ll use his executive authority to implement most of the proposals, bypassing congressional lawmakers reluctant to move on climate change.

Obama is directing the EPA, for example, to initiate regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal and gas-fired utilities by next June, and to kick-start similar rules on new power plants.

And he’ll ask the Interior Department to issue permits for new wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects on public lands in efforts that could fuel more than six million American homes within seven years.

New energy-efficiency projects are also a big part of the plan – proposals that could present major opportunities for Canadian biofuel companies.

Environmentalists on both sides of the border, meantime, cheered Obama’s words, especially on Keystone XL.

“The Keystone XL tarsands pipeline is a gateway to tarsands expansion and the scientific community agrees that, if built, tarsands pollution will soar,” Hannah McKinnon of the Toronto-based Environmental Defence organization said in a statement.

©The Canadian Press