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Attitudes toward Canada’s oil have shifted dramatically in the United States in recent years, as Americans increasingly view it as a key part of their own energy independence, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson says.
After four years in Ottawa, Mr. Jacobson steps down from his post next month with the fate of a key piece of cross-border energy politics, the Keystone XL pipeline, left hanging. In Washington, it is a charged and symbolic debate: For many environmentally-minded Americans, approving the pipeline amounts to approving more burning of Canada’s “dirty oil.”
But the outgoing U.S. envoy said Americans’ perception has changed in many ways – including the dawning realization that energy from north of the border, seen by many Americans as akin to domestic supply, is very important to the U.S.
“One of the ways it’s changed is that I think a lot more Americans understand how much of our energy comes from Canada,” Mr. Jacobson said in an interview at his Ottawa residence. “Clearly, there is an issue with respect to the oil sands, and I don’t want to diminish it. But I think another piece of the public perception in the United States is just how important a foreign supplier of energy Canada is.”
Mr. Jacobson made clear that his comments are not intended to hint at the Obama administration’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. That, he repeats, is winding its way through a regulatory process in the U.S. and it is Mr. Jacobson’s still-unnominated successor who will deal with the fallout from that pipeline decision, which is ultimately in the hands of President Barack Obama.
But Americans are belatedly waking to the impact of energy from Canada, which supplies 28 per cent of the foreign oil imported in the U.S.
“If you asked 10 Americans, ‘Who is our largest foreign supplier of oil? Ten of them would say Saudi Arabia. [But] Saudi Arabia is second at 12 per cent,” he said. “And I think more and more Americans are understanding just how much of our oil comes from Canada.”
“It’s almost like it’s not a foreign supplier of energy. It’s part of our regular flow of energy. And if there’s one thing that I think Americans understand and agree on, it is that in the whole world, if we have to import energy, there is not a safer and more secure source of foreign energy than Canada,” he said.
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