Canada: Clean, Green and Simply Cranking Out the Energy

America can learn a lesson from its friendly neighbor to the north – but will we see the light?

Calgary, Alberta: Some call it "Houston North." The analogy refers to the similarities between these two bustling energy cities, separated by almost 1,800 miles and the international border between the two. Minus a bit of the southern city's grime (I'm allowed to say that, having previously lived in Houston for 14 years), the two towns are a lot alike. And, as I began my holiday in Canada this week, I couldn't help but ponder the marked differences between energy policy here and the total absence of the same thing in the United States. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I had the perfect fodder for this week's lead editorial.

In between a few games of squash with my brother-in-law (he is absolutely pounding me), we tossed back and forth the price of gasoline and the ways in which the United States might begin to ease some of that pain – in the short and long term. According to U.S. government sources, five exporting countries accounted for 66 percent of United States crude oil imports in May while the top ten sources accounted for approximately 88 percent of all U.S. crude oil imports. The top sources of US crude oil imports for May of this year were Canada (1.840 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.579 million barrels per day), Mexico (1.116 million barrels per day), Venezuela (1.030 million barrels per day), and Nigeria (0.851 million barrels per day). That Canada remains the largest exporter of total petroleum to the United States is remarkable, if only because it is such a clean, pristine and ecologically sensitive place. For my money, no one else – including the United States – is even close.

The lesson to be learned here is simple: We can produce more energy; offshore, in ANWR and other places, too, and we can do it in an environmentally friendly manner. Without a doubt, any new exploration we begin in 2008 and beyond will leave an environmental footprint not even 10 percent of that which was experienced in the 1970's. And, I remind everyone that – with some exceptions – the energy producers in this country have a pretty good record for that sort of thing. But, in order for us to take care of business, the culture of doom in Washington has to be taken on, and defeated.

This week, bipartisan coalitions in Washington are teaming up and bypassing their leaders to push for more domestic drilling. Buoyed by a majority of Americans who want energy relief now, house and senate members are formulating legislation which would provide just that. And soon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) might just have to make the decision to allow a comprehensive drilling package to come to the floor, or risk losing her leadership role – or worse, perhaps her seat altogether. No, the latter scenario isn't likely but you can bet that other, less influential Democrats (especially those up for re-election) are weighing the consequences of opposing the first glimmer of a cogent energy policy in more than a decade. And, with good cause.

No doubt I'll upset a few people this week. I honestly don't care. There is absolutely no reason why Americans cannot duplicate what the Canadians have already shown can be done, and every reason to try. Energy production can and does come with adequate environmental safeguards. It happens every day up here and there's a pretty good chance that you drove to work this morning using gasoline that was refined either in Canada or was derived from Canadian feedstock.

Yes, I know that exploration started today probably won't yield significant energy production for at least five years. It doesn't matter. I don't like to make predications, but on this occasion, I'll break that rule: The mere introduction of energy policy on the floor on the U.S. House of Representatives that includes language with regard to ANWR and/or offshore drilling will almost immediately depress the worldwide price of crude oil. And, the effect will be significant. You see, all we have to do is show the markets the smallest indication of some intestinal fortitude. The rest is easy. Just ask my brother-in-law. – MarEx

Managing Editor Joseph Keefe is on holiday in Canada. He will be hiking in British Columbia next week and his column therefore will not return until 14 August. Beyond this, his wife threw his Blackberry out the window of a speeding car yesterday on the way to the Canadian Olympic Park in Calgary. Nevertheless, you can contact him at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com with comments or questions about this or any other piece in this e-newsletter.

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