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US must build on its oil ties with Canada

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011

Perhaps no two countries have a stronger — and more special — partnership than do the United States and Canada. It is the world’s largest trading relationship, and Canada plays a tremendous role in our nation’s economic and energy security.

Canada is already our country’s largest supplier of imported oil. As Americans watch the unsettling events unfolding in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, it should be comforting to note that most of the oil we import comes from our friendly and reliable next-door neighbor.

And that neighbor is poised to provide even more of the energy America needs as it develops its vast oil sands resources. Canadian oil sands can support significant U.S. economic growth and job creation, at a time when both are needed desperately. That can only happen, however, if we have adequate means to transport that oil to refineries in the United States.

That is where the Keystone XL Pipeline project comes in. When completed, it will bring Canadian oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast, replacing millions of barrels of oil now imported from elsewhere.

The economic impact of oil sands development in Canada is expected to lead to the creation of more than 342,000 new U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015 and add an estimated $34 billion to U.S. gross domestic product in 2015, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute. This was a preliminary analysis and the actual number of jobs for Americans could be far larger.

In addition, many U.S. jobs already rely on Canadian oil sands exploration and production. A recent analysis by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers found that almost 1,000 U.S. companies in 47 states are suppliers of materials, equipment, training, consulting or inspection services to support Canadian oil sands production operations: from Apopka, Fla., to Norwich, Conn., from New York to San Francisco.

These figures are significant at a time when our nation’s economy is still struggling to recover and Americans in the Midwest — like Americans everywhere — are concerned about job security, about the need to create new jobs, and about protecting their piece of the American dream.

We fully support efforts to develop all sources of energy, but our current energy reality demands that oil and natural gas play a critical role in our economy for decades to come. So, while it is important to continue to invest in the innovations that will bring renewable energy sources up to a cost-effective scale, we cannot sit idly by and deny American workers the jobs and economic boost that will result from the continued development of American and Canadian oil and natural gas resources.

Further, turning away Canadian energy resources at our border will not stop the development of Canadian oil sands. We know that Canada will develop its oil sands resources regardless of the path chosen by the United States. And with global demand increasing, Canada will surely find a market for its oil. Furthermore, let’s not forget that the Canadian oil will not be the only thing that would be sent elsewhere. So will thousands of skilled refinery and construction jobs that would otherwise go to American workers.

The Keystone XL pipeline will ensure that more of Canada’s oil will be processed by U.S refineries, which are the cleanest, most-efficient in the world. We urge the administration to approve this critical pipeline project, for American jobs and American energy security.

• Ayers is president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, 815 16th Street, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20006. Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, 1220 L Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005-4070.



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