* U.S. officials expect final decision by mid-year
* Canada cautiously optimistic, says minister
* Greens strongly oppose the proposed pipeline
By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Feb 28 Canadian Natural Resources
Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday he does not expect the
United States to reject TransCanada Corp's proposed
Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Texas.
U.S. officials say they expect the government to make a
final decision on the northern leg of the $5.3 billion pipeline
by the middle of the year.
Green groups strongly oppose Keystone XL, which they say
will boost global warming, and want President Barack Obama to
block the project.
"I remain cautiously optimistic," Oliver told reporters.
Canada's Conservative government, which wants Washington to
approve Keystone XL, also backs industry proposals for pipelines
running from the oil sands to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
Asked about the effects of a U.S. veto, he replied: "That
rejection, which I do not anticipate, would give even more
impetus for us to move west, to move east ... but we're not
anticipating that result."
Canada, the single-largest supplier of energy to the United
States, sends 100 percent of its natural gas and 98 percent of
its crude to its giant southern neighbor.
Last year, Obama threw his support behind the southern
section of the line, which is now being built. Washington still
has to rule on a new route for the northern pipeline, which is
expected to transport 830,000 barrels per day of oil.
Environmentalists oppose Keystone XL because production of
oil sands crude is carbon intensive. U.S. labor leaders support
the pipeline for the jobs it would generate.
The Canadian government rejects the idea that developing the
oil sands would cause a spike in emissions of greenhouse gases.
Ottawa says Canada, in some ways, was doing more than the United
States to fight global warming, which Obama has made clear will
be a major focus of his second four-term term.
Federal Canadian and Alberta government ministers, who have
made several trips to the United States recently to push the
economic benefits of the pipeline, are starting to stress
environmental issues as well.
Oliver, who is due to make speeches on the Canada-U.S.
energy relationship in Chicago and Houston next week, said the
oil sands were responsible for just 0.001 percent of global
"We think we have science and facts on our side ... in some
respects we're moving with the United States, in other respects
we're in advance of the United States," he said.
Oliver said emissions from coal-powered plants in the United
States were 40 times greater than emissions from the oil sands.
Coal emissions in Obama's home state of Illinois alone were more
than double those produced by the oil sands, he said.
"So the United States has some work to do," he said.
The Globe and Mail on Wednesday cited unnamed Canadian
officials as saying Canada would regard a Keystone XL rejection
as a betrayal.
"I wouldn't view it as a betrayal. We're hopeful they'll do
the right thing," said Oliver when asked about the reported
remarks. "The basic relationship between Canada and the United
States remains very strong".