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An oil sands extraction operation is shown at the Muskeg River Mine

Larry MacDougal

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, says he's "learned a lot" from his tour of the oil sands with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and two other senators. In an interview with the Globe from a Syncrude facility, Mr. Graham said he was impressed by what he saw. He was joined by fellow Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, and Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Why are you here?

Just do the math. There is more oil received from the oil sands region than Saudi Arabia and Iran combined. So from an energy source it is hugely important.

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You talk about dirty oil. Oil sands oil is dirty. They are reducing their carbon footprint. They are making it cleaner. It is less carbon intensive than oil we find in California, within six per cent of oil received from Iran. So when you use the word, I think you have to look at the idea of the regimes. Dirty oil to me is oil coming from Iraq and Venezuela where you have really despotic people running the country. The money that is received by those regimes doesn't go to the common good. It goes to some of the worst organizations in the world.

I am going to do everything I can to make sure that oil sands production is not impeded because of U.S. policy.

Yes, but Nancy Pelosi didn't go to the oil sands.

Oh gosh, yes. I had some ominous views of this place. But it really blends in with the natural habitat. Everybody should come.

We are always talking about Americans' dependency on foreign oil. Every politician says we need to break our dependency on foreign oil and every American cheers. Well you know what, we are going to be depending on fossil fuels for a long time to come.

Do you consider Canadian oil to be "foreign" oil?

No. I consider Canadian oil part of America's energy independent strategy. I consider Canadian oil to be a reliable, safe, and secure source. And with the money we send to Canada to buy the oil we get a lot of it back in trade. To me, this is an extension of the United States' energy independence -- by growing our ability to receive oil from Canada. This is part of the solution.

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Midterm elections are coming up and your party looks to be in a good position.

One thing that's going to happen is we have a chance to take the House back over as Republicans. That's going to stop any draconian environmental policies that would be bad for business.

What have you learned during your trip so far?

There is a lot of oil up here. Canada is a close neighbour and a good friend. The last thing in the world you want to do is to cripple the ability to get it. So that's why I'm here -- so I can go back home and talk intelligently about it.

We want to make sure that America's policy when it comes to the oil sands is not hijacked by groups who are trying to shut down fossil fuel production. Regardless of their motives we need fossil fuels for decades to come and our sources are defined.

That's why the trip is so important. And I would challenge anybody who has got concerns to come up here. Don't believe me. See it for yourself.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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