Canada: Putting the “North” Back In North American Energy Security

Originally posted on EnergyTomorrow

Nearing the home stretch of the U.S. presidential campaign, there’s lots of talk about energy. Both candidates have embraced increased domestic production – even as other politicians, energy experts and the media have talked increasingly about the potential for American “energy independence.” Because oil is a global commodity, it’s more accurate to aim for American “energy security.” Whatever you call it, strengthening our energy partnership with Canada is vital.

Not that the relationship isn’t already robust. Canada is our top provider of imported oil. The United States imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil and petroleum products from Canada in 2011, accounting for about 25 percent of our crude oil imports.

But how about the future? We know demand for oil is likely to increase, and delaying approval of the Keystone XL pipeline sends a clear signal that the U.S. isn’t serious about our energy future. It’s no wonder Canada continues to explore opportunities to partner with other countries that realize a good thing when they see it.

Given that 97 percent of Canada’s oil reserves reside in the oil sands, Keystone XL – which will transport not only Canada’s oil sands but also pick up U.S. – produced oil in Montana and North Dakota – is a critical component in any plan for American energy security.

Yes, Keystone XL also means U.S. jobs and economic growth. The $2.3 billion southern leg will create about 4,000 U.S. construction jobs, while the $5.2 billion northern portion could generate up to 9,000 new construction jobs. The pipeline could be an economic engine for years to come.

But it also has positive economic implications beyond what too many elected officials and candidates seem to recognize. According to Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy at the Council on Foreign Relations, any slowdown in Canadian oil production could mean higher-than-usual crude oil prices across the board.

“The Keystone XL pipeline helps make sure that this resource can be developed if it’s economically needed,” Levi has explained. In other words, as long as we need affordable oil, we need infrastructure projects like KXL.

The November election is right around the corner. As November becomes January and beyond, we must make sure we take every step to promote American energy security, to increase domestic production, and – just as crucially – to strengthen our energy relationship with our neighbors.

Supporting the development of the Canadian oil sands means building the infrastructure to access those resources. Doing so will go a long way toward increasing our energy security and positioning North America as a leader in the global energy market. The path to U.S. energy security hinges on harnessing North America’s energy riches.

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