- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

Given the unfortunate decision to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, it’s important that Americans understand where the oil they use comes from.

Canada is America’s top supplier of oil. Americans can be confident that oil from the Canadian oil sands comes from an industry that operates within a democratic society with world-class environmental and social standards.

I am very much in favor of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by adopting technologies that use less of them, such as a better battery for cost-effective electric vehicles.

Yet I do find a degree of hypocrisy among activists who paint oil companies as environmental criminals while many of these same critics go about driving, flying and otherwise enjoying the benefits of living in a society that depends on oil for more than one-third of its energy.

Greenpeace has taken an aerial picture of a Canadian oil sands mining operation and falsely suggests this is the way it will always look - forever. Greenpeace fails to tell the public that the mine is a temporary disturbance and that by law, oil sands companies are required to return the site to nature, with native trees and shrubs and lakes.

I’ve traveled to some of these restored sites, and they’re beautiful. More than 300 wood bison roam on one such reclaimed site, where the herd is managed by the Fort McKay indigenous people.

In some areas, the oil lies well below the surface and the Canadian oil sands industry is using in situ (in place) drilling. By injecting steam to release the oil from the sand, the oil can be extracted with minimal disturbance to the surface environment.

Canadian oil producers must meet some of the toughest environmental and social standards on the planet.

Compared with the six largest oil exporters (Nigeria, Kuwait, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Saudi Arabia), Canada is far ahead on leading social and environmental indicators:

c The World Health Organization has just said Canada has some of the cleanest air in the world.

c Canada far outranks the top six oil exporters in terms of the country’s water quality and water impacts on ecosystems, according to Yale and Columbia universities.

c According to the International Labor Organization, Canada has one of thehighest female labor participation rates in the world.

c In its 2010 Freedom in the World report, Freedom House ranks Canada among the most free and democratic countries anywhere.

c Canada is one of the least corrupt countries on Earth based on Transparency International’s 2010 assessment.

Anti-oil sands activist groups like Greenpeace live in a dream world where they hope to replace fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro energy - by far the majority of the world’s energy supply - with unreliable, intermittent and expensive wind and solar power.

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