In an interesting tussle, a virtually unnoticed clause was added almost at the least moment to a US energy bill that bars the government, in particular the Department of Defense, from using Alberta crude because it is deemed unconventional and too dirty.

A provision in the US Carbon Neutral Government Act incorporated into the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 act effectively bars the US government from buying fuels that have greater life-cycle emissions than fuels produced from conventional petroleum sources.

The United States has defined Alberta oilsands as unconventional because the bitumen mined from the ground requires upgrading and refining as opposed to the traditional crude pumped from oil wells.

California Democrat Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Republican Tom Davis added the clause.

Thanks, guys. I’ll remember you whenever I fill up. Some cynics might suspect a corrupt motive:

Wihbey underlines Saudi Arabia and Canada were direct competitors for the biggest customer: the US. David Kirsch, head of Oil Markets PFC Energy, says that “In the US mid-continent, the penetration of oilsands crude is deep, they are increasingly competing with the long haul crude from the Middle East. Until recently we saw a Saudi domination, but now it is becoming a Canadian affair.” And that’s why the Saudis are starting to play hardball, claimed Wihbey.

“They’re playing hardball … then all of a sudden this legislation pops in, literally a month after these statements were made in November,” noted Wihbey.

But I’m sure it’s just a sincere concern for the environment. I had missed this story, and I suspect most people did. Via Jerry Pournelle, who observes:

The easy way to make ethanol is to import sugar from Brazil and use that. Of course we don’t and won’t do that.

The easy way to bring oil prices down is to drill offshore and on the North Slope. Of course we don’t do that.

The easy way to bring electricity prices down (you can make fertilizer with electricity) is to build nuclear power plants, expensive but cheap compared to wars. Of course we won’t do that.

And why won’t we?

UPDATE: Environmentalists are indefatigably trying to block this new source of energy:

Alberta’s oilsands came under fire in Washington, D.C. yesterday, with environmentalists protesting the visit of deputy premier Ron Stevens and demanding a ban on “dirty oil” be enforced.

The National Resource Defense Council, which claims 1.3 million members across the U.S., [NOTE: I think they mean the Natural Resources Defense Council] bought an ad in the widely read Capitol Hill Roll Call newspaper, featuring a Maple Leaf oozing oil.

If we really do see seven-dollar gas by 2012 as some are predicting, we’ll know who to blame. On the other hand, here’s some good news:

Alberta expects a U.S. working group to classify the province´s oilsands fuel as a conventional resource to exempt it from tough new restrictions on imports, provincial envoy Gary Mar said Tuesday.

It certainly should.