Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his province needs an energy "champion" in the prime minister's office.

Wall made his remarks during a speech at a conference of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, which was held in Regina Thursday.

Wall noted that oil is an important industry in Saskatchewan and Canada and said a project, known as the Energy East pipeline, needs support. Wall has long been in support of the project, which would use new and existing pipelines to move oil from western Canada to the east and abroad.

"[We need] more than tacit support for these things, this is such an important sector to all of Canada," Wall said. "What we need in the prime minister's office and in the cabinet is a champion for our energy resources. And that's what I'm concerned about, whether we'll have that champion."

Wall also said that energy independence will not be possible for Canada without the Energy East pipeline project.

Combat critics with facts, Wall says

He also urged the oil and gas industry to do a better job selling itself or risk losing the battle for public opinion to celebrity critics who have unrealistic ideas on how to reduce carbon emissions.

Wall told conference attendees that there is a growing, vocal minority who want the industry shut down completely and they are influencing policy-makers.

"We're at some disadvantage when it comes to this," Wall said, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "The other side has great scientific minds speaking out for them, like Neil Young and Daryl Hannah."

Young, a rock singer, actress Hannah have been outspoken in their opposition to the oilsands and pipelines.

"We don't have a lot of glamour on our side ... but here is something else we have: We have facts," Wall said. "I humbly suggest to this group today that we urgently redouble our efforts to present the facts, to be disseminators of them, to be purveyors of the truth."

Wall said resource proponents need to emphasize the steps Canada takes to protect the environment through advancements in technology such as carbon capture and storage. And the pipeline industry must also emphasize safety advantages to transporting oil by pipe rather than rail.

He said while getting the world off fossil fuels is a laudable goal, it's "magical thinking" to believe that it can be done
quickly and painlessly.

"Have you noticed that there is just not as many people calling for an end to fossil fuels in January in Canada?," he said. "I've certainly noticed that. The fact is, with current technology, renewables can take us only so far right now."

With files from The Canadian Press