U.S. urges 'fivefold expansion' in Alberta oilsands production
The U.S. wants Canada to dramatically expand its oil exports from the Alberta oilsands, a move that could have major implications on the environment.
U.S.and Canadian oil executives and government officials met for a two-day oil summit in Houston in January 2006 and made plans for a "fivefold expansion" in oilsands production in a relatively "short time span," according minutes of the meeting obtained by the CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada.
The meeting was organized by Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Canada is already the top exporter of oil to the American market, exporting the equivalent of one million barrels a day â€” the exact amount that the oilsands industry in Alberta currently produces.
A fivefold increase would mean the exportation of five million barrels a day, which would supply a quarter of current American consumption and add up to almost half of all U.S. imports.
But the current extraction of oil from the tarsands results in the spewing of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere: it's already the biggest source of new greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
The news of call for the massive boost in oil production comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to make the environment one of his top priorities, vowing that Canadians deserve more action on climate change. Polls show the environment is the number one concern of Canadians.
Yet, according to the minutes of the Houston meeting, to multiply its output by five and to do it quickly, Canada would have to "streamline" its environmental regulations for new energy projects.
"We need to look at additional pipelines from Canada to the U.S. as a new source of supplier, a growing source of supply," said Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute.
In his state of the union address in 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush set out a goal to drastically reduce oil imports from the Middle East and make American dependence on Middle Eastern oil "a thing of the past."
"America is addicted to oil which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," Bush said then.
Paul Michael Weaby, a Washington insider and an expert on the geo-strategic aspect of the oil industry, said Bush is counting on Canada to achieve the U.S. of goal to wean the country off Middle Eastern oil â€” a goal now defined as a national security objective.
"He wanted to have a reduction of 1.5 million barrels a day by 2015 from the Middle East. Although he did not mention Canada, that is in fact where the replacement supply will come from."