U.S. senators to tour oilsands

Three U.S. senators will tour Alberta's oilsands Friday, hoping to learn more about the energy source as the U.S. tries to shake its dependency on Middle East oil.

Three U.S. senators will tour Alberta's oilsands on Friday, hoping to learn more about the energy source as America tries to shake its dependency on Middle East oil.

"Well I'm just interested in learning all about it and seeing the volume that's coming into the U.S," North Carolina Democratic Senator Kay Hagan told CBC News. "And I think we're very concerned about purchasing oil from some of the countries in the Middle East and we're very interested in talking to our Canadian partners."

Hagan, along with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, arrived in Edmonton late on Thursday.

Lindsey Graham is one of three U.S. senators in Alberta to tour the oilsands. ((Alex Brandon/Associated Press))

"There's some lawsuits pending that could affect the ability of the United States to use oilsands products and we're up here to get a balanced view of things," Graham said. "The more Canadian oil for America, the better.

"I'd like our military to be able to use it so we're trying to get informed about the upsides and the downsides," Graham said, adding that all three senators are on the armed services committee. "The province provides the United States with so much of our energy needs. If nothing else [the visit is] just to say thank you for being a good neighbour."

Environmentalists in the U.S. have been campaigning against Alberta's oilsands, launching ads this summer urging Americans to reconsider any vacation plans to the province. The Sierra Club has also launched a lawsuit against the U.S Defence Department for contracting for fuel from Canada's oilsands, claming it's a violation of the U.S.  Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Saskatchewan also on itinerary

Graham said environmental concerns are real but the U.S will need fossil fuels for a long time to come and the friendlier the sources for fossil fuels, the better.

"I'm really worried about the lawsuit. I'm worried about overreaching polices that could deny our military some energy resources that come from friendly areas. So that's what we're here to learn about," Graham said.

The senators are expected to meet with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and later travel to Saskatchewan and meet with Premier Brad Wall.

Their inspection of the site follows U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's high-profile meeting earlier this month in Ottawa with Stelmach, Wall and Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

Pelosi, a key figure in the debate over energy resources, had said and she wanted to learn more about the Alberta oilsands.

Stelmach said that the challenges about developing the oilsands were discussed during "open and candid" talks with Pelosi.