Looking North For Power

Posted on Monday, November 28 at 11:40 by jensonj
Electricity flows across the 4,000-mile-long border as easily as water and air. A network of pipelines links Canada's rich oil and gas fields in the western province of Alberta with U.S. refineries in Chicago that feed essential fuels to drivers and homeowners in the Midwest. The close and well-tuned energy relationship with Canada has attracted renewed attention and appreciation from U.S. leaders this year as worries about unstable supplies of oil in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and even the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico have mounted, causing political and economic distress. President Bush said the United States is eager to see Canada ramp up production from its enormous fields of sands mixed with oil in northern Alberta -- a treasure trove whose 174 billion barrels of proven reserves is second only to Saudi Arabia's in size. Canada already is supplying the United States with nearly 1 million barrels a day of crude from the oil sands. But because deriving oil from the sands is laborious and costly, increased production will not come quickly. The oil companies making claims in the Alberta reserves plan to triple production to 3 million barrels a day in the next 10 years, putting them on a course to hit 5 million barrels by 2025 -- about one-quarter of current U.S. consumption. Greg Melchin, Canada's energy minister, said Americans seem particularly keen to expand the U.S.-Canada energy relationship to avoid becoming more dependent on volatile energy suppliers in the Middle East and elsewhere. "We can provide them with energy security," he said. While it will take time for Canada to ratchet up production to the high levels sought by the United States, its progress has been steady. And once production is up and running, consumers will not have to contend with big disruptions such as terrorist attacks or hurricanes. Some members of Congress have expressed anxiety that recent tensions between the United States and Canada over the lumber trade and Iraq may have led Canada to explore selling nearly 500,000 barrels a day of oil from the sands to China through a pipeline that would be built to the Pacific Coast. "China's expressing an interest," said Mr. Melchin, and it has started two small pilot projects in the oil sands. But "geography will always lend an advantage to the U.S.," because pipelines and refineries are already in place, he said. "Clearly, it's the largest consumer. It will always make sense economically to deal with the U.S." http://washingtontimes.com/functions/print.php?StoryID=20051126-115235-1656r [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 28, 2005]

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