Canadian PM says Iran threat justifies Keystone XL approval

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the latest stakeholder in the Keystone XL debate to cite Iran’s threats to block the Strait of Hormuz as one justification for the U.S. to approve the controversial oil pipeline.

Harper told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday he thinks it’s “pretty obvious what the right decision is, not just from an economic and environmental standpoint but also from an energy-security standpoint.”

“When you look at the Iranians threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, I think that just illustrates how critical it is that supply for the United States be North American,” Harper said. (Click here for the video. Harper’s comments start around 5:00.)

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline would carry oil sands crude from Alberta through six states to Gulf Coast refineries in Port Arthur and Houston. The Canadian government has long encouraged the United States to approve the pipeline.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been increasing since U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran over concerns about nuclear weapons.

As a result, Iran has repeatedly insisted it would block the strait, a pathway for one-fifth of the world’s oil, if America and other nations were to move forward with sanctions on Iranian oil exports aimed at further discouraging the country from pursuing its nuclear program. Some analysts have contended, however, that Iran is bluffing. Harper’s arguments add to those made by some Republicans ever since the Islamic republic issued the threats.

Harper said “we’ll continue to make” the argument that the U.S. should use North American oil instead of relying on supplies from unstable Mideast countries.

“But we’ll respect the fact that the Americans have a right to make their own decisions,” Harper said.

Pipeline opponents such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have rejected the Iran argument as flawed, saying importing more Canadian oil wouldn’t shield the U.S. from the price spikes and supply shocks that occur in a global oil market.

Even then, they cite a U.S. government analysis in saying Keystone XL wouldn’t measurably alter American imports of oil from Canada at least through 2030 anyway. Instead, they contend, Keystone XL would reroute oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, where refiners could export some of it after they process it.