The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Chu: Canadian Comfort

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 1, 2011

Here's U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Canadian oil sands and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring synthetic crude from Alberta to U.S. refiners:

Deep down, the secretary is a scientist, but he's also a diplomat. Knowing the decision on the pipeline (and by proxy, oil sands) belongs to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chu refrained from directly answering the question. Still, he said a lot:

  • "Having Canada as a supplier of our oil is much more comforting that to have other countries supply our oil." Right! Better to build on our energy partnership with a neighbor and stable ally than some others, who are neither. With the right policies - including the Keystone XL and oil sands - 92 percent of our liquid fuel needs could be supplied domestically and from Canada by 2030. Comforting, indeed.
  • "Technologies that are used to extract tar sands oil ... are improving dramatically and so I think that can go forward," and "companies that are extracting oil sands are making great strides at improving the environmental impact ..." The secretary is right. Oil sands extraction - whether at a surface mine like the one operated by Suncor or via the drilling and steam-assisted gravity drainage techniques used at ConocoPhillips' Surmont site - emphasizes efficiency and minimal environmental impact, both closely regulated by provincial officials. Both companies have poured millions of dollars into reclamation and other environmental initiatives. Check out this video:

So, to answer the question posed to Secretary Chu, the one he deftly deflected: Is oil sands critical to the energy future of the United States: Yes.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.