Susan Rice, current US Ambassador to the United Nations, and candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, has been found to hold significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks, according to a report published by OnEarth on Wednesday. These holdings would stand to benefit from expansion of America’s purchases from the Alberta tar sands, an expansion which would happen if the proposed Keystone XL pipeline were to be approved. One of Rice’s jobs as Secretary of State would be to consider that very same pipeline project, when it comes up for review in early 2013.
These holdings by Rice and her husband raise obvious, clear, conflict of interest concerns about her status as a neutral decision maker.
She owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the very company proposing the Keystone XL pipeline. Additionally, according to financial disclosure documents located by the OpenSecrets website, a third of Rice’s personal wealth is in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel. This includes companies with poor environmental records in both the U.S. and Canada.
Among the stock holdings of Rice and her husband is Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010.
Another 20% of her personal wealth is in Canadian banks, which are some of the institutions that will provide the loans/funding required to build the Keystone XL pipeline, and other tar sands extraction and major infrastructure projects.
As Ambassador to the UN, Rice was not involved with the previous round of decision making concerning the Keystone XL pipeline. However, as Secretary of State she would be involved deeply with a decision on the pipeline which is expected to occur in early 2013.
The decision in 2011 was to delay consideration of the project, so that alternate routes could be found to avoid putting critical water sources in Nebraska at risk. The decision on those alternate routes were delayed until after the election, so that this project would not become a political football during the campaigns.
Rice is reportedly Obama’s preferred choice to take over as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly stated she wants to step down from that role as soon as Obama is inaugurated. Rep. John Kerry is also reportedly on the short list for either that job, or to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. Kerry’s personal wealth, while far larger than Rice’s, does not include stock of companies involved with the Keystone XL pipeline project.
In addition to risks to water systems, the Keystone XL pipeline will enable oil companies to more easily exploit Canada’s tar sands to make oil and petroleum products. That oil, if burned, would be what environmental activist Bill McKibben calls “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” What he means is that the carbon in those tar sands deposits are currently safely sequestered and locked away. But by mining the tar sands, the resulting petroleum products will be burned and that carbon will be released into the atmosphere, raising carbon levels to dangerous amounts.
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