EDMONTON, Alberta, April 29 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc, Canada's largest oil producer, criticized U.S. government delays in approving new cross-border pipeline projects on Tuesday, warning that the U.S. dream of energy independence is unachievable without Canadian oil.
CEO Steve Williams said the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to deliver crude from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, is not critical to Suncor's plans to get crude to market and that the delays are not hampering the company's production.
But he said the hold-up in approving the pipeline, which is stoutly opposed by green groups, has damaged sentiment toward the Canadian oil sands industry, in which Suncor plays a major role.
TransCanada Corp's proposed 830,000 barrel per day Keystone XL project is mired in its sixth year of waiting for a U.S. presidential permit. Environmentalists oppose the project because they believe it will encourage further development of the oil sands, where production is carbon intensive, as well as endanger U.S. water resources.
Earlier this month the Obama administration signaled further delays to the regulatory process, meaning no decision is likely before the U.S. midterm elections in November.
"There has definitely been an overhang on oil sands companies because of the perceived restrictions on access to market," Williams said at Suncor's annual general meeting in Edmonton, Alberta.
"It's crazy for Canada's future to be dependent on one customer and we have not been particularly impressed with the way the Americans have been handling this in the last few years."
Williams said he did not think the United States would achieve energy independence, given how quickly the tight oil plays that have swelled the country's reserves in the past few years deplete. He said the North American continent could be energy independent, however.
To ensure market access, regardless of the final U.S. decision on Keystone XL, Suncor has invested in rail capacity and secured space on other pipelines, including TransCanada's Gulf Coast project and Enbridge Inc's Line 9 to Montreal. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Peter Galloway)