Canada PM vows to ensure key oil pipeline is built

Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:15am EST
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By David Ljunggren

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - Canada's prime minister on Friday made his strongest comments yet in support of a proposed pipeline from oil-rich Alberta to the Pacific coast, saying his government was committed to ensuring the controversial project went ahead.

Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline, which is strongly opposed by green groups and some aboriginal bands, would allow Canada to send tankers of crude to China and reduce reliance on the U.S. market.

An independent energy regulator -- which could in theory reject the project -- last month started two years of hearings into the pipeline.

In remarks that appeared to cast some doubt on the regulator's eventual findings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it had become "increasingly clear that it is in Canada's national interest to diversify our energy markets".

He continued: "To this end, our government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the infrastructure necessary to move our energy resources to those diversified markets."

Harper stepped up talk of oil sales to China in the wake of a U.S. decision last month to block TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Virtually all of Canada's energy exports go to the United States, where a glut of supplies means some Canadian crude is sold at sometimes heavy discounts.

"We have abundant supplies of virtually every form of energy. And you know, we want to sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy -- it's that simple," Harper told a business dinner in Guangzhou.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen wave while boarding their plane in Beijing February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>