By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, March 5 A top Canadian cabinet minister
tried to persuade the United States on Tuesday that it should
approve a controversial oil pipeline and said Canada is also
looking to other markets to sell its oil.
The remarks by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were
one of the most high-profile attempts so far to pressure
Washington into giving the green light to TransCanada Corp's
Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to
"We don't normally advocate for a particular project but we
believe that it's in Canada's strategic interest to get our
resources to tidewater to attract a higher price and to access
broader markets," Oliver told reporters after a speech to the
Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
The U.S. State Department said in a draft report last Friday
that building the pipeline would not demonstrably boost
emissions of greenhouse gases. Oliver said his visit to Chicago
was arranged before the report was issued.
A final decision on Keystone will be made later this year by
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is under heavy pressure from
environmentalists to veto the project on the grounds it will
help speed up the process of global warming.
Oliver said the pipeline would generate thousands of jobs in
the United States and reduce reliance on imports from Venezuela
and Saudi Arabia.
"America imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day and
will need to import oil for decades to come," he said in the
"With Canada able to supply all of the U.S. future imported
oil needs and the energy sector in the U.S. continually growing,
together we can achieve North American energy independence by
2035, and probably before."
Canada's pro-business Conservative government is keen to see
more development of the tar sands, which are estimated to
contain 169 billion barrels of crude and are the world's
third-largest proven reserve of oil.
Ottawa is particularly keen to sell tar sands oil to China
and backs Enbridge Inc's proposed Northern Gateway
pipeline from the tar sands to Canada's Pacific Coast. But
environmentalists and aboriginal groups oppose the pipeline and
there are strong doubts whether it will ever be built.
Oliver also mentioned Kinder Morgan Energy Partners'
plans to expand its existing Trans Mountain pipeline from the
oil sands to the Pacific Coast, as well as a proposal to run a
pipeline to Eastern Canada from Alberta.
Canada's economy is losing an "enormous amount of money"
because the lack of pipelines from Alberta limits access to the
country's oil and reduces its price, Oliver said later on a
"We want to nurture our relationship with the United States
but we know that it will be inadequate for all our oil
production, and so we need to move west to the Asia-Pacific
market, particularly to China," he said on the call. "Going east
would bring us closer to India."
Oliver said high-profile activists have no business
criticizing Keystone XL, noting that U.S. emissions from coal
are far higher than those from the oil sands.
In Canada, not one major natural resource project has
escaped opposition by one group or another, he told reporters in
"They're just opposed to the development of natural
resources and this is one of them," he said, adding that
opponents see the pipeline as a symbol in their battle against
hydrocarbons and the oil sands.