On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will sit in front of the U.S. Senate committee on energy and natural resources in Washington and make a pitch: Help get another pipeline built to further fortify North American energy security.
Mr. Kenney is in the U.S. capital at the behest of Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator who chairs the energy committee and is a vocal supporter of fossil fuels. Mr. Manchin visited Alberta last month for a whirlwind tour, taking in the oil sands and meeting with leaders in the critical-minerals sector as well as energy-company chief executives.
The Alberta Premier will appear at the U.S. Senate committee meeting on the same day as federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who will participate virtually.
Mr. Wilkinson told The Globe and Mail on Monday that he will emphasize the importance of energy security, but at a broader level that includes new energy sources such as hydrogen, rather than just oil and gas.
And he threw cold water on any hopes from Alberta for a new oil pipeline, saying that he’s heard no interest for one during previous conversations with the White House.
For Mr. Kenney, a key part of his message will be highlighting to senators just how integrated the Canadian and American energy systems truly are. He will also underscore the fact that the lion’s share of oil imported by the United States – 62 per cent – comes from Alberta.
“As the largest supplier of energy to the United States, we need to be much bigger on their strategic radar screen, and this is going to take persistence,” he told The Globe from Washington.
High gas prices are a political headache for President Joe Biden as the U.S. heads into midterm elections. The broader global energy-security conversation has also taken on renewed vigour in the face of Russia’s continuing war on Ukraine, particularly as Europe looks to end its reliance on Moscow’s oil and gas.
Combined, that means Alberta is “pushing on a pretty open door right now” as it makes its case to increase oil exports to the U.S., Mr. Kenney said.
In the short term, he thinks additional Alberta oil production and shipments south of the border can be something of an antidote to energy scarcity and price problems.
But in the long term, he envisages Alberta playing an even greater role in American energy security, displacing the country’s reliance on jurisdictions where environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures play a smaller role in oil production.
“If [senators] really want to completely end U.S. dependence on OPEC, then they need to help us get another pipeline built,” he said.
“That’s not about crying over spilled milk of KXL. It’s just stating the obvious.”
TC Energy Corp. TRP-T nixed the Keystone XL pipeline in June, after Mr. Biden pulled its permit as one of his first official acts as U.S. President.
Mr. Wilkinson was skeptical that Alberta’s pitch to increase oil exports to the U.S. – beyond the short-term needs brought on by the war in Ukraine – will be met warmly.
He was in Washington last week for meetings with the Biden administration, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Speaking to The Globe from British Columbia on Monday, Mr. Wilkinson said that much like Canada, the White House is focused on energy security, in the context of climate change, and moving away from fossil fuels. The two governments are working in “lockstep,” he said.
“Canada has heard nothing from the Americans that they are actually interested in seeing a new oil pipeline,” Mr. Wilkinson said. From the perspective of the Biden administration, energy security “relates much more towards renewables and hydrogen than it does to new oil pipelines,” he added.
Oil consumption needs to peak no later than the mid-2030s if the world is to meet its climate targets, he said, which makes it unlikely that there is the time or rationale to build a new oil pipeline.
Still, Mr. Kenney hopes his visit to the U.S. will result in congressional pressure on the Biden administration “to get off the fence” and do more to oppose Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to shut down Enbridge Line 5. The 1,038-kilometre pipeline transports up to 540,000 barrels of petroleum a day to Ontario through Wisconsin and Michigan.
“While they’re pleading with Saudi Arabia to increase production and trying to lift the oil embargo on Venezuela and on Iran, it’s bizarre that they are ignoring, effectively, an effort by the Michigan Governor to stop the shipment of 600,000 barrels a day of Canadian energy to the U.S. market,” he said.
Mr. Kenney also said he expects to talk about emissions-reduction measures in Alberta’s patch.
The Alberta Premier will meet with the Senate committee the day before he faces the results of a vote on his leadership by UCP members, but said he’s not being distracted by the review vote.
“At the end of the day, I think most of our members just want us to do the job we were elected for, to get on with that,” Mr. Kenney said.
“That’s why I’m here the week of this leadership review vote.”
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.