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Ukraine crisis highlights Canada’s role as stable energy source: Oliver

Canada's minister of natural resources Joe Oliver speaks about the future of Canadian crude oil and natural gas at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Houston.

Pat Sullivan/AP

The crisis in the Ukraine is highlighting the importance of energy in global geopolitics and the role Canada can play as a growing and stable source of supply, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday.

The minister travelled to America's energy capital to tout Canada's potential to supply not only oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast through the Keystone XL pipeline, but oil and natural gas to the world.

He said the North American resource boom has had geopolitical benefits, by making the U.S. and Canada – and indeed the world – less dependent on countries like Russia and Venezuela, where political crisis raise questions about security of supply.

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"Canada is emerging as a 21st century energy superpower – a premiere world supplier for decades to come," the minister told an annual conference organized by IHS CERA, leading U.S.-based consulting firm.

Mr. Oliver again urged the U.S. government to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL project, saying it is an important part of North America's drive for energy independence.

Without it, U.S. companies would continue to import heavy oil from Venezuela to feed their complex Gulf Coast refineries. Venezuela – which is undergoing political upheaval – "has no emissions regulations and [has] threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. five times," he said.

The crisis in the Ukraine also underscores the need for North America to boost its oil and gas production, not only for internal use but to supply the world, he told reporters.

"We know that the fact that Russia is such a big supplier of oil and gas to Europe is probably giving Europe some pause," he said.

"Energy is a big part of the geopolitical situation and it's evolving. So clearly the issue of energy security has to be top of mind in a lot of countries. Strategically, it makes sense to diversify sources of supply and that's where Canada's case is particularly strong. We are potentially a big source of energy and we are a stable and reliable player."

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