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Norwegian Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe at the University of Ottawa, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011.

Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail

Norway's Energy Minister is backing Canada in its fight with the European Union over a fuel-quality directive that discourages the use of oil sands bitumen, saying the world needs more Canadian crude production.

Ola Borten Moe is visiting Canada this week, and will travel to Fort McMurray, Alta., to see the oil sands for himself, saying he doesn't believe the environmental movement is presenting an accurate view of oil sands development.

The minister – who represents the minority Centre Party in a Labour-led coalition government – has battled Norway's green movement since taking over his portfolio in March. And he is sure to provoke more anger with his support for Canada's oil sands and Statoil ASA 's investment in Alberta fields, which have become a key target of environmental activists in North America and Europe.

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Statoil is two-thirds owned by the Norwegian government and has faced criticism in the country for its activity in the oil sands.

But Mr. Moe said that the world's growing population will continue to depend on reasonably priced oil to maintain living standards, even if countries can agree to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Canada's oil sands represents a vast and secure supply that can be developed at today's prices, he said in an interview following a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

"It is impossible to not see a future where these resources will play an increasing role in the world's need for energy and security of supply," he said.

Mr. Moe noted that access to conventional oil reserves is declining around the world, meaning the industry is forced to turn to frontiers like deep water and the Arctic, or unconventional sources such as the oil sands.

In the interview, Mr. Moe slammed the European Union's proposed fuel-quality directive, saying it is neither scientific nor transparent. He said some conventional sources of crude used by the Europeans may result in nearly as much greenhouse gas emissions as the oil sands, but there is no transparency for African and Middle Eastern producers.

While Norway is not in the EU, it is a member of the European economic area and the fuel directive will apply there as well. Backed by countries like the United Kingdom, Canada has succeeded in delaying final consideration of the fuel-quality regulation until December.

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Norway is the world's seventh-largest oil exporter and is raising concern among environmentalists there as it opens up Arctic waters of the Barents Sea to oil exploration in a response to declining production.

The country recently announced major discoveries in the North Sea off its southern coast – two interconnected fields estimated to contain more than 2 billion barrels of crude.

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