U.S. quest for new energy supplies spells opportunity for Canada: minister
Updated: Wed, Feb 21 06:14 PM EST
CALGARY (CP) - Canada needs to capitalize on the current preoccupation with energy issues in the United States, Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday.
"There's clearly a desire on the part of the Americans to increase North American supplies of energy, and that can spell major new business opportunities for Canadians," Goodale said Wednesday. Goodale was in Calgary to outline the country's energy agenda to the World Oil Conference. He will be in Washington next Monday to meet the new U.S. energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, and will head to Mexico a week later for discussions with Canada's other NAFTA partner.
Goodale said he plans to advance Canada's economic interest, while remaining "alert to our own energy security, our own sovereignty issues, our internal jurisdictional sensitivities."
The minister's U.S. initiatives follow similar comments from Prime Minister Jean Chretien earlier this month after a meeting with newly elected President George W. Bush.
Chretien urged the United States to look at investing in northern Alberta's oil sands, which hold immense energy reserves, rather than opening up drilling in the vast, environmentally fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Goodale also noted that the location of Canada's energy producing regions is much more diversified than in previous years. Specifically, this includes off-shore drilling mega-projects in the North Atlantic, heavy oil expansion in Saskatchewan and the massive gas reserves in the high arctic.
"There's a lot of very good news. . . .with enormous future potential," said Goodale. "We need to maximize our relationship with the United States, but obviously not in a naive way." Republican Senators in the U.S. plan to push ahead with legislation to end a 20-year moratorium on drilling in the 7.5-million hectare arctic wildlife refuge. The area is estimated to contain anywhere from three to 16 billion barrels of oil.
But the Canadian government is fervently opposed to drilling in the reserve, fearing that such development would cause irreparable harm to a massive caribou herd that supports many native communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
David MacInnis, public affairs vice president for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said talking the Americans out of drilling in the reserve will be tough.
"There is a real sense in the industry that we're going to need an energy supply mix in the future that will be more than just energy from the north, or just oil sands or just natural gas," said MacInnis.
"And I think that with the current demand crunch, it's going to be very difficult to get the Americans off the idea of developing in the North."
MacInnis said his group firmly believes that the issue is not just an American debate and is one that requires clarity both fiscally and in the regulatory environment of both governments.
Another key energy issue between the two countries this year is how America will access vast gas reserves in Alaska and the N.W.T.
One proposed route follows the Alaskan pipeline across the state, then into the Yukon and Northern Alberta. The other way is down through Canada's Mackenzie Delta, picking up Canadian gas along the way.
At issue is the billions of potential development dollars that such a multi-billion dollar project represents.
"Obviously it would be in Canada's interest and it would be to Canada's advantage to maximize the economic benefit from our point of view," said Goodale. "The Americans clearly have requirements that they would want to see satisfied and so would we."