TransCanada CEO: Oil sands will be developed with or without pipeline

Canada is the biggest supplier of oil to the United States.

Oil sands advocates have long argued that Canada will find buyers as production ramps up – one way or the other. Another pipeline company, Enbridge, is proposing a line that would carry oil sands to Canada’s west coast, making them more accessible to China and other countries.

Environmental groups say the Keystone project brings risks of oil spills and more generally oppose oil sands due to the greenhouse gas-intensive production process and damage to Alberta’s boreal forests.

Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council told E2 that it’s inaccurate to argue that oil sands will be shipped to other buyers if the Keystone pipeline isn’t approved.

Schmidt said there are a host of barriers in the way of proposals to build an oil sands pipeline west to the coast of British Columbia, noting opposition from Canadian indigenous groups (called “First Nations” there), and limits on tanker traffic off the B.C. coast.

“There are lots of political and legal objections to that make that less of a reality in practice,” said Schmidt, the group’s international climate policy director.