Canadian energy reaches out to US presidential candidates
By Jeff Jones
Canada’s energy industry has reached out to both the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties to press its importance as a secure oil and gas supplier as candidates hone their energy policies heading into the November presidential election.
Canada and the oil-producing province of Alberta have grabbed the attention of many U.S. voters as the oil sands have gained notoriety as a key source of crude imports and as environmentalists warn of the ecological costs.
“We’ve had conversations with both parties in terms of where energy policy is going to go,” Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told the Reuters Global Energy Summit.
“In addition, you’ve started to see that a number of U.S. refiners, the labor unions and others, who are starting to see large investments proceeding in the U.S. to take Canadian crude, are part of that conversation as well,” Alvarez said on the day Barack Obama became the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
With oil prices surging above $120 a barrel and Americans paying unprecedented pump prices, encouraging imports from a friendly neighbor with massive reserves seems obvious.
But Canadian energy executives and politicians were thrown for a loop last year when U.S. lawmakers passed legislation banning the federal government from using fuel sources with higher carbon content than traditional supply, putting oil sands use by big buyers like the military in question.
Alvarez said that legislation was misunderstood by many, and he has been assured it is not intended to limit oil sands imports.
“I think U.S. legislators are increasingly aware of the shortages of new supply opportunities, and the oil sands are part of it,” he said.
“At this point there has been no action in the U.S. that would curtail exports to that market.”
Environmental groups have intensified efforts to put the spotlight on the impact of frenzied oil sands development on land, air, water and wildlife in northern Alberta. The recent deaths of 500 ducks on a Syncrude Canada tailings pond grabbed headlines around the United States.
So far, Obama and Republican rival John McCain have said little about Canada’s role in the U.S. energy mix.
“Once the dust settles we get through the election period, my expectation is we will get a more policy-focused debate as opposed to a politically focused debate,” Alvarez said.