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opinion

T. Boone Pickens is chairman and CEO of BP Capital and architect of the Pickens Plan, an energy plan for America.

A few years ago, I launched the Pickens Plan in order to help free North America of its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil dependence, a clear threat to our economic and national security interests. That dependence was, and remains, the greatest transfer of wealth in recent history. The plan is aimed at developing cleaner domestic energy sources – natural gas, wind and solar – in order to lessen that dependence, create new investment opportunities and jobs, and improve the environment.

The recent decline in oil prices is not something we can enjoy for the long term. Global oil supply has temporarily exceeded demand, largely in part due to increased North American oil production, but future economic growth will mean oil prices will increase again and, as a result, alternate energy sources remain critical.

I've been in the energy industry for 60 years, with great success in both the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, after watching the green-energy industry unfold in Ontario, not only has the province missed a great opportunity, but its treatment of investors has left a dark cloud over the province and should be a warning to other investors.

It's no secret that my organization, Mesa Power, has an active challenge, under the North American free-trade agreement, that involves Ontario because friends of the governing party were given special favour at the expense of investors such as Mesa. As an investor in Canada, my treatment by oil and gas industry regulators in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan far exceeds my treatment by Ontario energy regulators.

Businesses looking to invest depend on government having clear investment frameworks and fair criteria for choosing partners. That hasn't happened in Ontario. Decisions based on politics rather than good energy planning have clearly demonstrated to me that Ontario lacks both.

The regrettable result is that I believe the province's attempt to convert investment in the energy sector into jobs has suffered.

However, Ontario's missteps and their energy controversies do not diminish the opportunity for our countries and economies to benefit from continuing to grow Canada's domestic sources of energy, particularly natural gas and oil. These energy sources are still important.

Canada has a particular strategic advantage with its Western oil production capabilities and a willing buyer of Canadian oil to the south. Over the long term, the United States needs Canada's oil. That's why I think approval of pipelines, such as the Keystone XL project, remains essential for our countries' shared economic success and our mutual desire for greater national security.

Let's also look beyond oil. Like the United States, Canada has significant reserves of natural gas, which has enormous benefits in helping reduce North American dependence on foreign energy sources and meeting the public's increasing desire for quantifiable advances on the environmental front. Natural gas is the cheapest energy source in North America, and new technologies have made the reserves of domestic natural gas increase significantly in recent years, creating huge new opportunities. This is particularly true in the transportation industry. Natural gas is 30-per-cent cleaner-burning than oil, and a perfect substitute for diesel for the thousands of trucks on our roads. Encouraging the use of more natural gas is something we need to continue to make a priority.

If we are to succeed in achieving energy independence in North America, I strongly believe that co-operation between Canada and the United States is vital. We are the world's largest trading partners, share the world's longest undefended border and have the opportunity to benefit mutually through greater energy co-operation. If we include Mexico and Canada in a North American energy alliance, there is little chance we will fall back into the OPEC dependence trap any time in the near future.