Canada, U.S. must work to become energy independent: Alberta premier
Alberta Premier Alison Redford attends the 2013 Western Premier's Conference in Winnipeg, Monday, June 17, 2013. (John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013 9:04PM EDT
EDMONTON -- Alberta Premier Alison Redford says the United States and Canada share political and environmental values and must work together to become energy independent of those who do not.
Redford, speaking to the Foreign Policy Association on Wednesday in New York, said until recently North American energy independence was wishful thinking.
"We looked out at a world in which a significant proportion of energy production occurred in countries run by governments that don't live up to our values. And we regretted that so much of our money was going to enrich them," said Redford according to a prepared text of her speech.
Not anymore, she said, as increased production and technology on both sides of the 49th parallel are closing the gap.
"Canada is the single largest source for U.S. oil imports, so as overall imports diminish, you'll be able to buy a larger portion of them from us," she said.
"Your money will go to a country with the same democratic values, and a lot of it will return here, since the U.S. receives 89 cents back for every dollar spent on Canadian goods and services."
Speaking later to reporters, Redford stressed she wasn't referring to broad-based value systems.
"I'm not linking cultural values. I'm linking environmental values," said Redford.
She said Alberta is competing on an uneven playing field by being held to account for the environmental impact of its oil production while other jurisdictions are not.
"It's not really comparing apples to apples, and what we think is important is for Americans to know that we share the same goals with respect to environmental objectives."
As for democratic values, she said: "I think it's important that whenever we talk about pipeline regulation or environmental regulation that ultimately, at the end of the day, the people that are accountable for putting in place decisions that will impact (those regulations) are people that are accountable to the citizens."
Redford did not single out any particular nation. The United States imports oil mainly from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, but also from OPEC, which includes nations like Angola and Nigeria.
It was Redford's third trip to New York in the last year and half. She has also made multiple trips to Washington D.C. to promote Alberta's oil production and environmental record.
Her government is lobbying U.S. President Barack Obama to green light the transborder Keystone XL pipeline.
The line would take bitumen from Alberta's oilsands diagonally across the U.S. Midwest to refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast in Texas.
Keystone has been the focus of heated debate in the United States. Critics say Keystone XL reinforces dependence on carbon-intensive operations like Alberta's oilsands that lead to greenhouse gas emissions and associated weather-related catastrophes.
Redford's government has stressed the pipeline is one of the keys to alleviating a bottleneck that is driving prices down and hurting the provincial budget and, by extension, the Canadian economy.
"Forty per cent of the world's total refining capacity for heavy oil is located on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and we're determined to reach it through the Keystone XL pipeline," Redford said in her speech.
Redford said oil production and environmental sustainability don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts, and that both countries need to face up to the challenge of aging populations who need care.
"Governments have promises to keep. The only way to pay for them is by encouraging growth and investment," she told her audience.
The province donated $50,000 to sponsor the conference.
Redford told reporters it was money well spent and that she wasn't merely buying a soapbox.
"I highly doubt they (the Foreign Policy Association) are going to decide to create platforms for me to speak if they're not prepared to engage in real public policy," said Redford, noting her government was one of many sponsors.