Writing at On Earth, Scott Dodd’s Secretary of State Candidate Has a Major Financial Stake in Canadian Tar Sands has introduced an environmental / energy factor into the conversations about Susan Rice.

There’s another possible consideration involved: a potential conflict of interest.

Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project.

Rice’s financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.

Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel “” including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. …

At OpEdNews, Michael Collins considers what he calls a “perfect pyramid of interlocking conflict” Rice would bring to making decisions regarding the Keystone XL pipeline: Rice and her husband own “at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers,” including Enbridge, the “oil company extracting the highly toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada’s boreal forest”; “major holdings” of between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada; “holdings between $5.0 to $11.25 million dollars in the Royal Bank of Canada” and other Canadian financial institutions funding the pipeline project.

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.

Also see Stephen Lacey’s Nation of Change analysis:

Most of the attacks against Susan Rice, Obama’s supposed top pick for Secretary of State, have come from Republicans. But now the left ““ mainly groups opposed to developing Canadian tar sands ““ may have some reasons to question Rice.

Of course there are multiple factors to consider when filling the Secretary of State position. My guess is that this particular one won’t reach the level of concern for enough people that would raise questions about Rice’s appointment. I hope I’m wrong about that.

Competing environmental and fossil fuel industry views on the Keystone Pipeline, and “tar sands” refining in general, did enter into Obama’s re-election campaign. He called for additional studies on the northern route, while expediting the construction of the southern leg, a decision which made neither side happy, but did provide cover campaign. Expectations are that the decision regarding the northern section will be made in the first three months of 2013.

According to activists who have been working to stop the pipeline, State Department “collusion” with the TransCanada project now exists. Rice would, they argue, continue what’s already happening, but at an even more questionable level.

From Dodd at On Earth:

“˜It’s really amazing that they’re considering someone for Secretary of State who has millions invested in these companies,’ said Bill McKibben, a writer and founder of the activist groups 350.org and Tar Sands Action, which have organized protests against the Keystone XL project. “˜The State Department has been rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline builders, and it’s really distressing to have any sense that that might continue to go on.’ Emails obtained by an environmental group last year show what critics call a “˜cozy and complicitous relationship’ between State Department officials and a lobbyist for TransCanada, who was also a former deputy campaign director for current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. The agency also assigned an environmental impact review of the Keystone project to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Dodd writes that should Rice become Sec. of State, one possibility is that “federal ethics officials could recommend that she sell her stock in TransCanada and related companies before deciding on Keystone XL.”

Interestingly, Dodd also notes that

Leading Keystone opponents say they wouldn’t necessarily oppose Rice’s nomination “” but they would want someone else in charge of deciding the pipeline’s fate.

KXL opponents have argued that it should be the Environmental Protection Agency or the White House Council on Environmental Quality making the environmental assessment, not the State Department.

(Susan Rice photo via State Department)