Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday that people should not be surprised by the protest in front of the White House over an Alberta to Texas pipeline and expects more demonstrations to follow.

Hundreds of people have demonstrated against TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline for the past two weeks, and the protests have featured some high profile arrests including Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder and Tantoo Cardinal.

The Calgary-based TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline is a 3,460-kilometre project that transports crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to U.S. markets centered around Illinois and Oklahoma. The Keystone XL would be an extension of the existing line to Houston.

"There's probably more to come but remember this isn't about the pipeline," Stelmach told reporters. "This is more than just the pipeline. It's about how do we position if we have a stable supply of energy to the United States."

The protesters argue the oil is dirty and allege the site of the oilsands is the world's biggest emitter of carbon. They also fear that a leak in the pipeline could cause an environmental disaster.

But Stelmach said protesters do not understand that buying oil from the oilsands is a better option than buying energy from the Middle East.

"If you can buy oil from Canada, what does it do to the world price?" he said. "When you are so close to a very large supply there are many contributing factors here just other than the movie stars lining up in Washington."

The U.S. State Department released its final environmental assessment of the pipeline last week, saying it posed minimal risks to the states it will traverse. Now the Obama administration has until the end of the year to determine whether the pipeline is in the U.S. national interest.

Meanwhile, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu had some good news on Thursday for advocates of the pipeline, suggesting it will ultimately get the go-ahead.

Canada's close ties to the U.S. may help the pipeline win approval from the Obama administration, he said in an interview airing later this month.

Importing oil from Canada "is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil," Chu told an energy program that airs on Bloomberg Television.

The controversial $7 billion US project "is not perfect, but it's a trade-off," he said.

 

With files from The Associated Press