A top Canadian official took his case for the Keystone XL pipeline to President Obama’s hometown on Tuesday.
Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, met with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, addressed the city’s Council on Global Affairs and held a conference call with American reporters as part of his country’s push to convince the White House to approve the massive pipeline.
“The U.S. can choose as its oil supplier Canada, its reliable friend and ally … Canada can ultimately supply all of the U.S.’s imported oil needs. Our cooperation helps replace oil from Venezuela and the Middle East,” said Mr. Oliver, a former banker who took over his nation’s natural resources department in May 2011.
“We hope that Americans ultimately choose to buy competitively priced Canadian oil from a friend and ally that shares their values,” he added.
The Keystone pipeline would move tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, and, according to supporters, would provide a boost to the economies of both nations. Canada would find a reliable, trustworthy customer for its vast amount of fuel; the United States could soon be free from reliance on Saudi Arabia and other nations, and could within only a few years get all of the oil it needs from North American sources.
But the Obama administration has delayed making a final decision on the pipeline and has come under intense fire from each side the debate.
On Friday, the State Department — which has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross an international boundary — issued a lengthy and complex report on the environmental impact of the project.
Green groups had hoped that study would condemn the pipeline and provide scientific justification for Mr. Obama to stop it. Instead, it made clear that the pipeline would have virtually no effect on U.S. oil demand and that stopping it wouldn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the Canadians simply would find other customers.
Mr. Oliver reiterated that point on Tuesday.
“We assume there will be a push to move east and west, even if Keystone is approved. If it isn’t approved, the impetus will be greater,” he said. “We want to nurture our relationship with the United States but we know it will be inadequate [as a customer] for all of our oil production. So we need to move west to the Asian-Pacific market, particularly to China. Going east would bring us closer to India” and its growing demand for affordable energy.
Mr. Oliver also criticized American environmental groups for opposing the project, saying they’re missing a larger point. He stressed that Canada has strict greenhouse gas regulations and is on track to reduce its emissions by 17 percent by 2020, when compared to 2005 levels.
“Some of the countries that [the U.S. is] importing oil from have no rules at all,” he said. “The oil sands are a greener alternative than some of the other sources around the world.”
Mr. Oliver will continue making his case in Houston on Wednesday, while other Canadian officials are in Washington this week to promote the pipeline.
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Ben Wolfgang is a national reporter for The Washington Times. Before coming to the Times, he spent four years as a political reporter in Pennsylvania. His focus is on education and science policy. Ben lives in southeast D.C. and has played guitar in several bands while still in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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