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Canada's Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 31, 2014.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford will use a G7 energy ministers meeting next week to highlight the global importance of Canada's vast oil and gas reserves, and urge the U.S. to approve the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to enhance energy security.

Against the backdrop of a deepening crisis in Ukraine, the minister will travel with Group of Seven colleagues to Rome on Monday to discuss measures to counter Russian dominance of European energy markets, and eastern Europe in particular.

Mr. Rickford will meet separately with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and will again lobby for quick passage of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline project. The State Department has delayed the decision, pending a court decision in Nebraska over whether the state violated its own constitution when it approved the pipeline route.

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"I'm not going to lose an opportunity to raise it," Mr. Rickford said, adding that the crisis in Ukraine illustrates the importance of energy security not just in North America but around the world. "Energy security is the cornerstone of national security, economic prosperity and global stability."

In the short term, there is little the G7 can do to wean Eastern Europe off its dependence on Russian energy. Ukraine and Slovakia have agreed to reverse the flow of a pipeline to bring gas from Western Europe east, but the volumes will be small.

Ukraine depends on Russia for almost all its imported gas, most of its crude oil and all the enriched uranium needed to run its nuclear power plants. Last month, Moscow's OAO Gazprom announced an 80-per-cent increase in the price it will charge the former Soviet republic, which it formerly subsidized.

Mr. Rickford said ministers will look for ways to diversify Eastern Europe's energy supply, but will also encourage countries to use their existing energy supplies more efficiently.

And he said Canada has a prominent role to play over the longer term. Crude pipelines heading east, west and south could bring more Canadian oil onto world markets, while British Columbia is gearing up for more development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

Energy experts told a Commons committee this week that Canada has a serious "infrastructure deficit" that will take up to seven years to address – and that assumes an aggressive, problem-free building program for projects that face significant political opposition. In a declaration signed by U.S. President Barack Obama in March, the United States and European Union said they would "redouble trans-Atlantic efforts" to diversify energy sources.

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