Jason Kenney makes a timely plea for Alberta oil to US senators. But will it work?


With gas prices soaring, Washington jostling for more oil and the U.S. midterm elections approaching, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s appearance before a U.S. Senate committee to present his province’s oil could not have come at a better time.

The Premier, who has championed his province as a reliable source of energy for the United States, will speak today before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He was invited by its chairman, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, a deciding vote in the equally divided Senate, who just over a month ago traveled to Alberta to visit the oil sands and meet with leaders and key players in the province’s oil industry. .

“It’s definitely a good time to try to get the message out to the United States,” said Andrew Campbell, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Energy Institute.

“It’s hard to know if he will be receptive.”

Its appearance comes as demand for oil exceeds supply, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted some Western countries to cut energy ties with Moscow, prompting the United States to consider seek alternative oil suppliers, including hostile regimes like Venezuela and Iran.

But it will take “years or decades” for a country like Venezuela to ramp up production, according to James Coleman, a professor of energy law at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a deciding vote in the equally divided Senate, recently traveled to Alberta to tour the oil sands and meet with executives and other key players in the province’s oil industry. (José Luis Magana/Associated Press)

“Well, how much better is Canada?”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that Biden administration officials are looking for ways to increase oil imports from Canada, but with one big caveat: They don’t want to resuscitate the Keystone pipeline. XL.

Shortly after being sworn in as president, Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise by signing an executive order scuttling the 1,897-kilometre pipeline expansion, part of the administration’s effort to fight change climatic.

“I think we’ve never been in such a shifting position on what exactly US energy policy is,” Coleman said. “Obviously we have an administration that came in and, at that time, the [Democrats] seemed to be reasonably unified in terms of restricting oil and gas production.

“The first step was obviously killing Keystone XL. It’s just a very different time now.”

The committee plays an important role in energy-related expenditures and bills.

A customer pumps gas at an Exxon gas station on May 10 in Miami. High gasoline and oil prices are expected to be a major concern for voters in the U.S. midterm elections this fall. (Marta Lavandier/Associated Press)

“It’s one of the most bipartisan committees and has been for a long time,” and so it’s often the source of successful omnibus energy bills, Campbell said.

“It’s the reputation of the committee. The two leaders on both sides tend to be at the center of their respective parties.”

The committee will also hear virtual testimony from the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson. Nathalie Camden, Quebec’s deputy minister of mines, and the president of Electricity Canada, Francis Bradley, are also scheduled to testify.

In terms of energy policy, “it’s no more influential” than the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council in Washington, which helps Alberta prepare this trip. to DC

“On top of all that, you have both the chairman of the committee and the ranking member [Wyoming Republican John Barrasso] …together are interested in hearing from the Canadian panel, including the prime minister,” she said.

Despite the committee’s bipartisan nature, Republican members expressed support for Keystone, while nearly all Democrats opposed it, with the exception of Manchin.

Indeed, the West Virginia senator, who thwarted Biden administration plans by defeating a key spending bill, said the pipeline cancellation was a mistake and thinking about rebranding in some form.

But high gas and oil prices are a “major concern for voters” ahead of this fall’s midterm elections which, so far, Republicans have been able to link with Democrats, said Christopher Sands, director of the Wilson Center Canada Institute.

Kenney’s DC speech is an “opportunity for Democrats to soften their anti-fossil stance and perhaps improve their odds,” Sands said in an email to CBC News.

And, unless the midterm elections shift the balance in the Senate, Biden and the Democrats must have Manchin’s support, he said.

“What will they concede to get it? That’s where Kenny’s visit could be an opportunity: if the Democrats see a favor to Canada and Alberta as not being the worst concession they could make …the hearing could be the start of constructive negotiations,” Sands said.