As the United States’ review over whether to grant a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline enters the final stretch, the debate has gotten so out of hand it’s bordering on a gong show.

Wednesday, world jet-setters including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Peace Prize laureates joined former U.S. vice-president Al Gore in opposing the $7-billion Canadian project to carry Canadian oil to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, based on their general disdain for fossil fuels.

Saskatchewan’s Premier, Brad Wall, arguably Canada’s most articulate pitchman, will seek to bring the debate back to reality with a speech to an influential group of U.S. state leaders on Friday facilitated by the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.

At the National Speakers’ Conference, which represents all U.S. state speakers, in Charleston, S.C., the popular Premier plans to talk about the attributes of Canadian oil that are failing to get much needed air time — that it’s “conflict-free,” that it comes from “another freedom-loving country that is a champion of human rights and that has everything in common with the United States, certainly a lot more in common than their other sources of oil.”

It also comes from a country that is likely spending more on environmental improvements to minimize the impact of oil extraction than anyone else on the planet, he said.

It’s fitting that the Canadian message should come from Mr. Wall, who could teach the Americans a thing or two about getting out of economic stagnation due to failed government policies and creating a vibrant economy that is a magnet for foreign investment.

Saskatchewan is a resource and agricultural powerhouse with the lowest unemployment rate in Canada (5.2%), a projected growth rate this year of 3.9% amid a slowing global economy, is a major producer of conventional oil using technological innovation, and has invested heavily in carbon-capture-and-storage to reduce its impact on the environment.

Its credit rating was raised in May by Standard & Poors to AAA — the first time Saskatchewan has been rated so highly based on how well the provincial government has managed the economy.

In an interview, Mr. Wall said he is concerned that Canadian oil is being portrayed as an environmental laggard.

“At the core of the debate is this nonsense that we hear from people like Vice-President Gore about dirty Canadian oil,” Mr. Wall said, referring to Mr. Gore’s statement last week that “the tar sands are the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet.”

“The research has been done on both sides of the border, including by the U.S. Department of Energy,” he said. It “clearly highlights that oil sands, especially SAGD oil sands, have a very similar carbon footprint, and when diluted, a lower carbon footprint, than north California oils.”

Meanwhile, he complained that other U.S. oil sources such as from the U.S. Gulf Coast, Nigeria and Venezuela that have a similar or higher carbon footprint are being ignored, suggesting the real agenda is “protectionism masquerading as environmentalism.” The U.S. renewable energy industry has long seen the oil sands as an impediment to its growth plans.

Rather than reducing dependence on oil, Mr. Wall will advocate the need to step up efforts to increase energy independence through greater recovery of oil from old fields using new technologies. Saskatchewan has been at the forefront of implementing enhanced oil recovery methods in fields such as the Bakken, which straddles Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Montana.

“We know that if we can just increase our recovery rates in Saskatchewan of proven reserves, we could increase production by more than double,” Mr. Wall said. “And that math works in most oil reserves in North America. That is a moonshot we should aspire to as a continent.”

The green movement’s negative portrayal of Canadian oil ignores places such as Saskatchewan, which exports as much oil to the U.S. as Kuwait, all from conventional fields. It, too, would benefit from construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pick up 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border, some of which is now moved on trucks.

“I am hopeful and confident that this is going to get the approval it needs, because it just makes sense from an energy-independence perspective for North America and for the United States, from a job-creating perspective, and truth is going to prevail,” Mr. Wall said.

Source: Financial Post


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