* Oliver says winning public opinion big challenge
* IEA forecast adds urgency to building pipelines
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, Nov 30 Ottawa may try to tug
at Canadians' emotions as a way to build public support for
building pipelines to ship growing crude production to the West,
East and South, the federal natural resources minister said on
The International Energy Agency's new forecast of booming
U.S. light oil production has only added urgency to the need to
build pipelines so Western Canadian crude can get to new
markets, such as Asia and Eastern Canada, as the United States
edges closer to self-sufficiency over the next 15 years, Natural
Resources Minister Joe Oliver said.
But many Canadians, enamored with their country's natural
beauty, remain wary of the environmental impacts of such
proposed projects as Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway
pipeline to the Pacific Coast from Alberta and new pipeline
capacity to Montreal and points east, Oliver said.
Having already devoted major efforts to explaining the
economic reasons for such developments with statistics and
forecasts, it is time to communicate "at an emotive level", he
told a Calgary business audience.
"I think we have to realize that this is a huge challenge,
because if we don't get people on side, if we don't get the
social license, politics often follows opinion," he said. "We
could well get a positive regulatory conclusion from the joint
panel that's looking at Northern Gateway, but if the population
is not on side there's a big problem."
He described shifting public opinion as the biggest
challenge facing the need to build energy infrastructure in
Oliver decried some environmental groups that he said will
oppose any and all energy developments out of hand. They would
not be the target of such communications.
He has already delved into the emotive. At the start of the
Northern Gateway hearings early this year, he issued a statement
blasting "environmental and other radical groups" who only want
to block Canada's aims at diversifying energy trade.
A new campaign aimed at Canadians across the country would
be somewhat less provocative, Oliver suggested.
"There's a history in the country of resource development
being part of the lives of Canadians and the prosperity of
Canadians, and I think if we can make people understand how
resources are so integral to Canadian history, that's something
a lot of people in this country feel proud about," he said.
The joint review panel hearing the Northern Gateway
application faces deadline of the end of 2013 to issue a
decision on the project, which would move 550,000 barrels of
Alberta crude a day to the West Coast. From there it could be
shipped across the Pacific on tankers.
Environmental and many aboriginal groups staunchly oppose
it. Enbridge and TransCanada Corp have also proposed
projects to move oil to Eastern Canada, though opposition to
those concepts is building as well.
Oliver denied that he was becoming less supportive of
Northern Gateway, saying he had never promoted a specific
project, just the need to move oil to the coast.