Susan Rice’s Conflict of Interest – Major Holdings in Tar Sands Oil, Keystone XL Pipeline, and Canadian Financiers

By Michael Collins
Photobucket(Washington, DC 11/29) United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will face serious and blatant conflicts of interest if nominated and confirmed as United States Secretary of State.  Rice has major financial interests in the company extracting oil from Canada’s tar sands, the company building the pipeline that will carry the oil across the U.S., and the Canadian banks financing this deadly project. (Image)

As Secretary of State, Rice would be responsible for the key recommendation to President Barack Obama on lifting the president’s ban on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline imposed in January.  She would make the decision knowing that there would be major impact on nearly one third of her (and her husband’s) investments.

According to her 2011 financial disclosures, “Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers.” These include Enbridge,  the oil company extracting the highly toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada’s boreal forest, which are being destroyed to access the oil (boreal forests sequester carbon).

Rice has major holdings between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada Corp, the firm building the Keystone XL pipeline.  The pipeline crosses the Canadian border at North Dakota  and proceeds through the Midwest on its way to Houston, Texas area refineries.  The pipeline crosses over the main source of water for the Midwest, the Ogallala Aquifer.  The oil will be shipped to China from Houston to fuel that nation’s voracious energy needs.

Rice also has holdings between $5.0 to $11.25 million dollars in the Royal Bank of Canada and lesser Canadian financial institutions funding the tar sands – Keystone XL pipeline enterprises.

These three elements form a perfect pyramid of interlocking conflicts.  If the U.S. pipeline is not approved, Enbridge, TransCanada, and the Royal Bank of Canada will be stuck with oil that cannot be moved.  Canada’s Vancouver, British Columbia port is the logical exit path for the oil for China.  However, environmentalists and Canada’s First Nations (aboriginal Canadians) have effectively blocked the Vancouver route.

The financiers, the oil companies, and the pipeline companies will be stuck with finding alternate routes after having failed twice to ship their toxic brew.

Major Concerns Raised

There are two striking concerns that emerge immediately from this situation.

Lifting President Obama’s ban on pipeline construction should not be a question open to debate.  Tar sands oil is filthy.  It will add CO2 to the atmosphere at rates far above levels from current fuels.  The situation is so dangerous, leading climate scientist and head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen described the result as Game over for the climate in a recent New York Times article. Only the most adamant climate change deniers think that use of this oil is anything other than a major detriment to limiting the already damaging effects of climate change.

Another concern focuses on the judgment of both President Obama and Ambassador Rice.  How could the president, his advisors, and staff overlook this blatant conflict of interest?  The material on financial holdings is collected by the federal government.  It is used to spot just this type of conflict.

Did Obama think he could put Rice up for nomination and have Rice’s stock holdings go unnoticed?

Did he think that we would just roll over and trust him on one of the most important decisions he will make regarding our health, safety and livelihood as a nation?

Why didn’t Rice speak up and say, “Mr. President, with these huge holdings in every aspect of the tar sands/pipeline situation, I can’t consider a nomination for Secretary of State.”

The president may have a plan to disapprove pipeline construction before Rice’s nomination is offered or before the anticipated date of approval.  If so, he had better disapprove the pipeline quickly or face a very harsh evaluation of his judgment for considering her in the first place.  We need a president who will solve problems, not perpetuate them.

This is one example of many absurd and totally illogical situations we must endure living in a time of moral and intellectual decadence among the ruling elite.  They take what they want because they can and presume they can move through any public objection unscathed.  Why shouldn’t they.  They get away with this sort of thing all the time.


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Executive Branch Public Financial Disclosure Report – Susan Rice 2011

The Money Party


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Michael Collins

DC area

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • So, not to be a dick or anything (okay, maybe to be a teensy dick* but hopefully a bit thought provoking), what are people actually doing about this? Again and again the position is driven home here that global warming is a significant threat and that burning fossil fuels is a huge contributor and essentially going to end life as we know it, but I’ve seen basically zip to indicate that folks are doing anything with regards to their behaviour to mitigate that. The impression that I’m left with is that issues like this are to be piously decried on one hand, but the notion that folks would reduce or stop driving, stop flying and generally reduce their energy use on the other seems to be curiously absent from any discussion. To the contrary, I’ve actually seen stuff that’s essentially “I hate fracking, let me show you my pictures, everywhere I drove in Texas there it was” and “fracking is bad because it wastes ground water, and everyone knows that it’s better spent on growing corn”.

    I mean, c’mon, if the issue’s that serious, then where’s the actual action – or is this another thing that it’s more important to be mouthing the right words while externalizing the costs?

    *For the record, this is the only acceptable association between me, teensy and dick. All other usages will be referred to my attorney. 😉

    • Well, I’m getting ready for our families week-late Thanksgiving, so I’ll have to be brief. We don’t excessively drive and our single car is not a gas-guzzler. We own and use bicycles. We recycle or repurpose as much as we can and reduced our power useage a goodly deal. We’ve been re-learning how to grow our own food in our garden again, as both my wife and I’s families did when we were kids. We’ve also been learning about things like solar systems and wind power for the home, alternative building materials such as rammed earth and straw, and reed-bed septic systems. The entire family is planning a move, probably next year and if not then for sure the next, from W. Texas to either Oregon or Washington – we’ve done some research and think they’ll be least negatively affected by climate change – buying some land and putting all we’ve learned into effect.

      • Well, here we are 24 hours on and it’s just you and me talking about what we actually do. Guess it really is primarily a political football that folks can be impotently outraged about…

        For the record as a family we drove about 500 klicks via an auto sharing scheme in the last calendar year – about 80% of it on our annual trip to cottage country, rode something like 5,000 klicks across the various bicycles [we track it using odometers] with the balance local mass transit, all my business trips have been transitioned to rail [if I book it right on most of the routes I can actually take bikes for local transport at the destination], and as we re-do the house we’re retrofitting energy efficient fittings, insulation, etc. [probably most significantly we let the temperature in the house swing from 18 in the winter to 25 in the summer – 64 to 77 for the SI challenged]. Growing one’s own food I tend to think is not that big a deal, provided one is drawing from the local farm economy which is what we do.

        • You’d likely have enjoyed the family’s Thanksgiving afternoon discussion – which was mostly about our plans for the move and what’s going to happen once we get there. My eldest daughter’s husband is ex-SOF and we both agreed it’d be best for everyone if there were two properties separated by about a day’s cycle – we both figured there’s no reason why we should set up an alpha male clash when we don’t need to 🙂 His plans for their place are awesome, and I learned a goodly bit I didn’t know about organic waste management. We’re looking to both properties being as off-the-grid and self-sufficient as possible, but in pooling resources across that short divide. Not particularly because we’re survivalist-minded, more because it seems the way to go to make a minimal footprint.

    • Of course, this is a tragedy of the commons writ large. Why would any rational person take too-drastic-yet-ineffectual action while the neighbors continue to live like there’s no tomorrow? And why should the US exert itself on its own when China has overtaken the US as top emitter?

      To fix this problem requires much more than individual efforts can attain on their own, and governments are beholden to the monied interests who have no interest in solving this problem at the moment.

      We’re left with trying to affect popular opinion in an attempt to force governments to rapidly wean us off carbon and onto something green. Who knows if that’s even possible within corrupt political systems around the world?

      • They’d do this so they’re not raging hypocrites. Rationalism isn’t a synonym for “a means by which one intellectually obscures one’s moral failings”.

        No dispute that it takes more than individual action, but the largest part is actually going to be individual action – throwing up one’s hands and saying it’s about governments doing this and governments and talking on about all the beholden interests without actually doing something smells a lot like “I don’t want to because it’s inconvenient”.

        • Rationalism isn’t a synonym for “a means by which one intellectually obscures one’s moral failings”.

          If you don’t mind, JPD, I’m going to steal this quote.

  • One question on the post, how is it that the Secretary of State is the one responsible for the key recommendation on the Keystone pipeline rather than, say, the Secretary of the Interior? Or whatever the individual post is called. The pipeline is already in place in several areas, with only certain sections blocked by Obama so far, and whatever international negotiations required that conceivably would involve the Secretary of State with Canada is a non-issue given our government’s panting at the bit for the oil sands to be exploited. I’m not saying there aren’t Canucks hoping the whole thing falls through, but at this point the pipeline’s completion is almost entirely a domestic U.S. issue, which makes the conflict of interest claim for a possible Secretary of State Rice less apparent to me.

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  • Keystone Conflict: Nebraska Firm Reviewing Tar Sands Project Has Ties to Pipeline Builder

    OnEarth, By Ted Genoways, December 7

    When Nebraska residents showed up for their final chance to speak out about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday night, they were greeted at every turn by smiling employees of HDR Engineering, Inc., uniformly decked out in khaki pants and blinding white Oxford shirts embroidered with the company’s corporate logo. HDR, an engineering and consulting firm based in Omaha, was hired by the state to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the $7 billion project, which, if approved, would transport toxic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands fields across Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.

    Conflict-of-interest concerns have plagued the Keystone project from the beginning. Now it turns out that HDR has a very cozy relationship with the company it was supposed to evaluate. For starters, HDR was hired by TransCanada in 2009 to help build a $1.2 billion natural gas-fired power plant in Ontario. In a press release, a company executive called landing the Ontario project “a significant win for HDR.” Then in 2011, HDR undertook a feasibility study for TransCanada’s renewable energy development group. These facts were far from hidden. As part of the selection process for the Keystone job, HDR let the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality know about its links to TransCanada.

    What’s more, HDR’s own website says one of its missions is to “help oil and gas clients overcome the challenges [of increasing government regulation and oversight and harsh physical and political climates] and exploit those opportunities.” Among the services its provides to pipeline companies is “helping them through the environmental planning and permitting process.” HDR promises “one-stop shopping,” so these companies “can focus on what they do best — delivering oil.”


    HDR officials did not return calls for comment this week. But when the company applied for the Keystone job, it assured Nebraska officials that the company could be objective. Even though it had worked with TransCanada twice before, HDR wrote in its disclosure statements: “Both of these work efforts were of limited scope, have been completed, are the only recent work assignments with TransCanada, and were complete[ly] unrelated to the Keystone XL pipeline.”

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