Alberta Premier Alison Redford delivered an ardent pitch for expanded development of her province's oil sands, calling it critical to the long-term growth and security of the United States and Canada.
Ms. Redford made her appeal in America's financial capital, part of a continuing campaign by federal and provincial officials to keep the pressure on American policy makers as they approach a final decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
Such pipelines are crucial, Ms. Redford said, if "we're serious about moving large enough volumes of oil to achieve true independence and responsible prosperity together."
Once an obscure issue known only to experts, the Keystone pipeline has grown into a raging debate at the centre of U.S. energy policy. Proponents say it will create jobs while critics say it will accelerate climate change.
Ms. Redford said the controversy had taken Alberta's energy industry and political leadership by surprise because "they presumed that everyone understood how important energy was … [and] people understood that when they flip on a light switch, that comes from somewhere."
Those who oppose the pipeline, she suggested, needed to be educated on those topics. "There's lots of people who live around the world that don't have energy industry or energy economy in their consciousness, because they don't live in Fort McMurray or they don't live in Alberta," she said. "We needed to do a much better job, as people that care about [Keystone's] success, to explain to people how this is all interconnected."
Ms. Redford spoke in a gilded ballroom atop a Manhattan hotel during a conference organized by the Foreign Policy Association and sponsored by the Alberta government. The speech was followed by several expert panels on North American energy independence, something Ms. Redford described as "close and getting closer."
Earlier in the day, Ms. Redford attended had breakfast with senior executives from private equity firms and large financial institutions.
Keystone is one of several options under consideration for moving Alberta's oil, she stressed. The prospects for reversing the flow of an existing TransCanada Corp. pipeline to the east are particularly promising, Ms. Redford said. That would allow Alberta's energy producers to send oil east to "Quebec refineries, perhaps to New Brunswick refineries, and to export to India faster than off the West Coast of Canada."
She also sounded a positive note about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia. "I would say there has been a significant shift" by that province's political leadership in discussions of the pipeline, Ms. Redford said.
Some of the concerns raised by British Columbia are similar to those voiced by U.S. states with respect to the Keystone pipeline, she said. "It's entirely appropriate, much as we saw, frankly, in Nebraska, where a state leader could come out and say: 'There's a particular concern that we have.'"
In Keystone's case, TransCanada adjusted the route of the pipeline to skirt a sensitive Nebraska aquifer.
At every opportunity, Ms. Redford underscored the economic benefits that would accrue to the United States from greater exports from Canada's oil sands, including a growth in high-paying manufacturing jobs.
At one point, a questioner told Ms. Redford that a relative worked as a pipefitter in Alberta's energy industry. "He probably makes more money than most U.S. politicians," Ms. Redford remarked.