Canadian Oil Sands Key Component to North American Energy Independence

November 7, 2013

A new report authored by IHS CERA highlights the expansion of Canadian oil sands production in recent years and underscores the critical role of this fuel source in our pursuit of North American energy independence.

Innovation and new technologies have increased the efficiency of Alberta’s oil sands development in recent years, leading to a massive growth in output and an increase in U.S. Canadian crude imports. According to IHS Associate Director Kevin Birn, “Over the past decade the Canadian oil sands have moved from the fringe to become a key pillar of global oil supply… This growth has made oil sands the single largest source of U.S. oil imports and also a key source of global supply growth that could account for 16 percent of all new oil production by 2030. Today, the output of just Canadian oil sands - excluding all other Canadian oil production - is greater than the output of five out of the 12 members of OPEC.”

As oil sands developers have increased their efficiency they have also made progress to decrease the environmental impacts of production. The IHS report found that emissions from the oil sands “are on par with other sources of U.S. crude, including crudes from Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq and heavy oil production in the U.S.”

The Athabasca oil sands of Northern Alberta are a massive word-class resource and home to the third-largest oil reserves in the world. The advancement in extraction technologies essentially means a new Saudi Arabia has been discovered and placed on America’s northern doorstep. Canada’s oil sands expansion coupled with U.S. increases in shale production have put the goal of North American energy independence in reach.

But to fully realize North America’s energy potential, we must build the “Architecture of Abundance” to keep pace with the innovation and development. The Keystone XL pipeline and other cross-border energy infrastructure projects are needed to transport Canadian energy supplies to U.S. markets and vice-versa. Institute for Energy Research Senior Fellow Mary Hutzler testified last week, “These accomplishments can only come about if the United States maintains a well working energy system where markets are allowed to work and where we are allowed to trade with neighboring countries without artificial impediments. With Canada’s oil reserves at over 170 billion barrels, Canada can help the United States decrease its reliance on Persian Gulf oil, but it must be allowed to trade energy freely and transport it in a safe and reliable manner.”

The Northern Route Approval Act and the North American Energy Infrastructure Act are commonsense solutions that will reduce barriers to trade and enhance our energy relationship with Canada to help maximize the benefits of new North American energy production.

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