Alberta’s oil sands pitch in Washington

I wrote this morning about how the Republican takeover in the House has produced a far different attitude in Congress about Canadian oilsands and the Keystone XL proposal. Alberta’s representative in Washington, Gary Mar, testified at a recent hearing on how events in the Middle East might impact U.S. energy supply. Mostly Mar got softball questions about how the U.S. needs Canadian oil and how Americans would suffer if pipelines are built to the Pacific Coast and China starts buying more oil. As much as Mar focused on the “security of supply” argument, Mar’s pitch for oilsands revolves around economics. And he doesn’t like Alberta’s oil being considered “foreign.” Here’s his testimony from the Feb. 10 hearing: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. For the record, Mr. Chairman, my name is Gary Mar, minister-counselor here in Washington, D.C., and I represent the government of Alberta, a province of Canada. I thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. As a former elected official in the province of Alberta, I’ve had ministerial responsibilities in areas including health and environment, and I, like you, have had the privilege of debating difficult issues and making tough decisions on behalf of the people who elected me over a period of 14 years. The issue before you here today is that of energy and where and how you will obtain that energy, particularly oil. And I believe that my home province, Alberta, has and will continue to have a very important role in providing the United States with an alternative to foreign oil supplies, and I hope that nobody here takes offense with Alberta not really considering itself to be a foreign supplier. Now, if I can leave you with three things to take away from my presentation on Alberta oil, they are, number one, security of supply; number two, economic benefits; and number three, responsible development. This is a combination of attributes that is not readily associated with many of the other countries in the world that the United States gets its oil from. For the past five years, Canada has and continues to be the largest supplier of imported oil to the United States. In 2009, Canada supplied 23 percent of America’s oil imports, more than double the imports that come from Saudi Arabia and more than four times the imported oil that comes from Iraq. The lion’s share of Canada’s exports comes from Alberta’s oil sands. If you look at Alberta in isolation, we provide 17 percent of your total crude oil imports, and that is in volume 1.5 million barrels of oil per day that comes to you from Alberta in a transportation system that doesn’t move called a pipeline. This number will grow, and the question perhaps for you is how much will it grow by? The province of Alberta has the distinction of being the largest OECD jurisdiction capable of substantially increasing oil production to meet future demand. In fact, it is forecast that by the year 2019 Alberta will be producing 3.3 million barrels of oil per day compared to current production of two million barrels. That represents security of supply. Moreover, our oil comes from a politically stable and democratic neighbor and is sent to the U.S. via pipeline so it is not affected by political unrest or other disruptions, a point that was supported very recently by a released report of the United States Department of Energy. Alberta oil also far exceeds any other foreign source of oil in economic return that it brings to the United States, and Honorable Shimkus’ example of Caterpillar is but one example — I was at Caterpillar’s offices in East Peoria yesterday — of the largest collection and concentration of Caterpillar trucks in the world, is around the area of Fort McMurray, is what I was advised by the people from Caterpillar. For every dollar that the U.S. spends on Canadian products you get .91 cents in return from the products that we turn around and buy from you. The United States is our largest trading partner by far. There are currently estimated — and this is a very conservative estimate — at the very least more than 900 U.S.-based businesses that are suppliers for Canadian oil sands and related pipeline projects. Mr. Chairman, your state is home to three of those companies. The vice chairman’s home state is home to 36 of them. In addition, over the next four years America will gain 343,000 new jobs as a result of oil sands development. Major U.S. companies like ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Devon, and Marathon have oil sands operations in the province of Alberta. These companies all have firsthand understanding of the stringent rules in place to ensure that energy is developed responsibly in our province and with the highest degree of care and concern for the environment. In 2007, the province of Alberta was the first jurisdiction in North America to regulate large industrial greenhouse gas emitters. Alberta has a price on carbon. To date, we have collected $187 million as a result of this carbon tax. This money is set apart from our general operating fund as a government. It is wholly dedicated to developing clean energy projects, and thus far, $71 million has been invested into 16 different clean energy projects. In addition to this, the government of Alberta has also committed $2 billion to commercial-scale carbon capture and storage projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is $2 billion from a province whose population is only 3.5 million people. It is a significant contribution on a per capita basis. At the start of my remarks, I talked about being a former elected official in Alberta, and now I have the pleasure of working here in Washington, and I spend much of my time talking to our American friends about how Alberta can help meet your energy demands. I want you to feel confident that when the people who elect you go to a gas station to fill up on their way to soccer practice or a baseball game, that they’re using a product that came from a friend, a friend with similar goals and similar values. As the president said last week, our countries are woven together perhaps like no other two countries in the world. We match up more than probably any country on earth. And I agree with that statement emphatically. So, Mr. Chairman, Alberta oil can provide America with security of supply. It does help create jobs and grows our economies. And most importantly, it does both of these responsibly, ensuring that the environment is a top priority. And I look forward to working with the United States to develop sustainable solutions as we continue to advance our clean energy technologies. I thank you for the invitation to be here.” ((25 FEB 2011))








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