OTTAWA—Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney says if elected he would bring Canada into a plan to boost oil production and fast-track north-south pipelines in a bid to achieve North American energy self-sufficiency by 2020.
“I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence on this continent,” Romney said Thursday in New Mexico.
“We need to work together with these guys (Canada and Mexico), work collaboratively, and we need to have a fast-track process to make sure that infrastructure projects are approved.”
Romney also repeated his vow to immediately approve the delayed Keystone XL pipeline project — which would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to Texas — if elected president so Americans can “take advantage” of Canada’s resources.
His energy strategy focused mainly on ways to increase production of carbon-based resources — oil, natural gas and coal. Like Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, Romney promised if elected to streamline government approval of energy projects.
He would also open up areas off the U.S. east coast to oil exploration, and in particular would reverse U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to suspend development off the coast of Virginia following the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Romney’s plan sparked immediate alarm among environmentalists in Canada, who saw it is an attempt to rope Canada into an oil industry-dominated strategy that pays little attention to climate change or the need to develop alternative energy.
“It’s clear that the oil industry is getting the policy they paid for by way of campaign contributions,” said Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Keith Stewart.
“The really sad part of this platform is there’s no talk about reducing energy demand, no talk about moving off of fossil fuels — it’s all drill, baby, drill and burn, baby, burn,” Stewart said.
“And we just can’t keep going that way.”
Maryam Adrangi, climate and energy campaigner at the Ottawa-based Council of Canadians, said Romney’s remarks may be pleasing to the Harper government “because this would really help its agenda of increasing oil exports, expanding fossil fuel production and expanding the extractive industries.”
But she said Canadians “who are actually going to be facing the brunt of these policies” will continue to oppose them.
In the U.S., the Obama campaign put out a statement by Federico Pena, a secretary of energy in former president Bill Clinton’s administration, knocking Romney’s focus on oil drilling as the main energy solution.
“We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage,” Pena said.
Romney has long promised to reverse Obama’s decision last winter in the face of environmental opposition to delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. This prompted Harper to step up efforts to open the way for increased Canadian oil exports to Asia, including expressing support for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta to the northern British Columbia coast for shipment by supertankers.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Canadians value energy trade with the Americans but suggested that Canada is still determined not to be too dependent on one market.
“The Canada-U.S. energy relationship remains the single most important bilateral energy relationship in the world and we will continue to work with the U.S. to further strengthen energy security for both our nations,” Oliver said Thursday. “However, we remain committed to the diversification of our markets to other trading partners, particularly the Asia-Pacific region.”
Canada is already the largest crude oil exporter to the U.S., with 2.2 million barrels a day flowing south of the border in 2011.