Canada the answer to U.S. energy worries, Prentice says

The federal government intends to impress on U.S. President Barack Obama that Canada can play an even larger role in resolving U.S. concerns over the security of its energy supplies.

The federal government intends to impress on U.S. President Barack Obama that Canada can play an even larger role in resolving U.S. concerns over the security of its energy supplies.

Speaking in Toronto just hours before Obama's inauguration, Environment Minister Jim Prentice noted the president plans to visit Canada in the near future.

"To say the least, there is lots to discuss and then later to do," he said. "And hopefully, one of the many points of agreement for action will be commencing a co-operative, bilateral approach to the environment and energy, in ways that spur on economic recovery and renewal."

Green energy in the news

Jan. 21, 2009 — Ontario Power Generation announces a  plan to replace coal with biomass at a power-generating plant.

Jan. 20, 2009 — In his  inauguration speech, U.S. President Barack Obama vows to build roads, bridges, electric grids and digital lines to boost commerce and spur unity. He also hints his administration will invest in developing alternative energies.

Jan. 20, 2009 — Environment Minister Jim Prentice called for a  co-operative, bilateral approach  to environmental issues involving Canada and the United States. Specifically, Prentice called for initiatives including a common bio-fuel mandate, shared fuel efficiency standards and a strategy to scale back dependence on foreign oil. But Prentice noted Canada should continue to uphold its status as a stable supplier of energy noting a "No Carbon" plan of action was not viable.

Jan. 19, 2009 — Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., says negative perceptions of the Canadian oilsands industry would prove a significant hurdle to overcome.

Jan. 15, 2009 — The  Canadian International Council  releases a report calling on the prime minister to create a national energy strategy to help offset the perception that Canada oilsands pose considerable environmental threats.

Jan. 8, 2009 — The  Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers  says it believes it needs to improve its public relations after a poll reveals many Canadians don't believe the oil industry is taking adequate steps to protect the environment.

Nov. 24, 2008 — The CBC obtains a  government document  which suggested the method of piping CO2 emissions underground may not be as effective as first thought.

Prentice said supplying oil to the U.S. could be part of bilateral plans that would also seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create cleaner fuel. The plans could include a common cap-and-trade carbon market system and tougher fuel standards.

He said the two countries also need to discuss concrete action plans to reduce not only greenhouse gas emission levels, but North American dependence on foreign oil.

U.S. oil production currently covers just 40 per cent of American consumption and that figure will likely drop to 20 per cent by 2020, Prentice said.

'Unfriendly voices' criticize oilsands: analyst

"We’re the key supplier of energy to the United States. They’re not going to do anything to shoot themselves in the foot at least right away," Fen Hampson, the director of the Norman Paterson School for International Affairs at Carleton University told CBC news. 

 "There certainly are some unfriendly voices in the Congress when it comes to the oilsands, some who would like to see a ban on oilsands imports. One of our challenges is to assure we and the Americans are on the same page when they start moving on the direction of a new climate change policy," he said.

Prentice's comments came a day after Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, said one of the federal government's biggest challenges with the Obama administration is Canada's reputation as a purveyor of dirty oil.

Prentice, however, defended Alberta's oilsands production as "a reality" that is not going away, and said the U.S. will find that oil from that source is important to its future.

Hampson agrees and believes a North American-wide energy policy can be negotiated with the new administration.

"We can work with the Americans in the developments of new renewables, increase our hydroelectric exports to the United States, and even when it comes to oil," he said. "The fact is the US economy is going to use oil for many years to come, and Canada is a much more stable and secure supply of oil than the Middle East."

With files from the Canadian Press