Canada swipes at Venezuela in push for U.S. approval of Keystone

Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:49pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canada is playing up its record as a reliable oil supplier to the United States compared to politically volatile Venezuela, as it seeks to win favor in Washington for the contentious Keystone XL pipeline to Texas refineries.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday that the United States, already Canada's largest oil market by far, can expect far better service than it has received from the South American OPEC member that currently feeds a large chunk of oil demand in the Gulf Coast region.

"Venezuela may be a major supplier of heavy crude to the U.S., but it has also threatened to cut supplies five times in as many years," Oliver said in a speech to business people and academics in Calgary.

"That's not a reliable partner. That's not a stable source of oil. And that's not how Canada will ever treat the United States."

Despite frequent threats, Venezuela has not shut off exports to the United States, but Oliver's remarks underline how high the stakes have become for Canada as a U.S. decision on Keystone XL looms.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government and Alberta Premier Alison Redford have aggressively lobbied U.S. politicians ahead of the Obama administration's decision, likely this summer, whether to approve the $5.3 billion TransCanada Corp proposal.

Oliver is scheduled to travel to Washington and New York next week to meet with Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as the media.

Canada and its oil industry say the project will bring energy security, jobs and growth to both countries as oil sands-derived crude flows to the largest refining market in the United States.   Continued...

Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie