The following is the text of a guest blog post written by AEG Vice President David MacLean as it appeared on the Edmonton Journal’s “Edmonton Commons” blog.
May 26, 2011
Prominent Edmonton social media gent and vice-president of the Alberta Enterprise Group, David MacLean, is leading a delegation to Washington this week. He reports from his hotel across the street from the White House.
For the past three nights, Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) delegates have unwound on the rooftop terrace at the historic W Hotel in Washington — usually with a cold beverage in hand. And they had really earned that drink. From that vantage point the immense U.S Treasury building was a stone’s throw away, and you could nearly peak into the windows of the White House.
It had a mesmerizing effect on people — symbolizing the massive scale and power of the United States The 50-strong delegation dutifully walked from building to building, meeting to meeting, in 30 degree heat and high humidity. It didn’t matter if it was a head honcho from Canada’s biggest pipeline company or the owner of a small fertilizer business, all were patient and polite.
Their purpose was to tell the Alberta story, to engage decision makers in conversations about prickly issues like border security, trade and pipelines to carry Canadian bitumen to thirsty U.S. refineries. And, without fail, the delegation was greeted by curious and polite Congressional leaders and administration bureaucrats.
Our message was straight forward: We’re your most natural ally and historic friend. The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is the most prosperous on Earth and we want to keep it that way. We care about our environment and our environmental performance is improving. The United States is a valued customer for Canadian products and services.
This is the second mission to Washington organized by the Alberta Enterprise Group. One of the first things we noticed was the level of oil sands literacy has improved tremendously over the three years since our last visit. Last time, politicians were fuzzy about the “tar sands” and only vaguely aware that Canada holds one of the largest proven energy reserves in the world. This time, everyone knew how big this operation is, the potential it has for meeting North American energy needs for decades to come, and the words “tar sands” have almost disappeared.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline was a dominant issue. Each of the five Congressmen and Senator Lisa Murkowski, who happens to be the ranking Member of the powerful Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, indicated support for the project. Murkowski also repeated a promise to visit the oil sands personally. There is a great deal of political support for the oil sands in Washington.
The issue for Keystone XL in the short term is not with the politicians, but with Hillary Clinton’s State Department. The State Department will ultimately decide whether or not to grant a permit for the pipeline, and whether or not to drag this out interminably.
Alberta can be a cornerstone of North American energy security, but it can’t be done without pipelines. Overall we heard Canada’s energy security argument is winning the day. Uncertainty over the political stability in the Middle East and high gas prices underline the point. Over a 48 hour period our delegation made contact with between 35-40 Capitol Hill staffers, six elected leaders, representatives of every branch of the U.S. military, business associations like the American Iron and Steel Institute and Association of Equipment Manufacturers and various luminaries, opinion leaders and Beltway insiders.
We’ve only just begun to process everything we have learned, but already there is talk about creating a coalition of “secure energy” proponents, to keep the message alive and further enhance U.S-Canada relations.