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Energy interdependence between U.S., Canada will play major role in both countries’ future

by Ilene Grossman ~ Stateline Midwest »
Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the United States, providing 9 percent of this country’s energy needs — more than Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined. These statistics, and other information related to bilateral energy trade, were the focus of a joint meeting this summer of the MLC’s Energy and Midwest-Canada Relations committees.

Iowa Rep. Chuck Soderberg, co-chair of the Energy Committee, opened the session by noting the integrated nature of the U.S.-Canada energy relationship — with energy resources moving to and from each country (much more so from Canada to the U.S.).

This is especially true of the interconnected North American electricity grid, which delivers power to nearly all of Canada, the United States and part of Baja California in northern Mexico. (While Canada supplies just 1 percent of total U.S. electricity needs, the percentage is much higher in some states: 10 percent in Minnesota and 6 percent in Michigan, for example.)

In place of true energy independence — a goal many nations may find impossible to achieve due to the uneven distribution of natural resources around the globe — is the idea of energy interdependence.

Steve Brick, a senior fellow on energy and climate with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, noted that the U.S.-Canada interrelationship allows both countries to buy and sell energy to secure, democratic allies.
But Brick said energy interdependence also stresses the importance of energy choices and use on health and the environment — questions that have arisen lately over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would increase U.S. use of Canada’s oil sands.

The two types of oil sands recovery impact both land and water use, and also raise questions about global climate change.

Dale Eisler, an official with Natural Resources Canada, said oil from the sands has a greenhouse gas intensity that is between 5 percent and 15 percent higher than the average crude oil consumed in the United States. As a result, many environmental groups and some policymakers oppose increased U.S. use of this energy resource.

Looking toward the future, John Kerekes of the American Petroleum Institute told the committees that the United States will require 10 percent more energy in 2035 than it does now, and that oil and gas will likely make up more than half of the fuel mix (with coal, biomass and renewables, nuclear and hydroelectric making up the rest).

U.S. production of oil and gas can help meet those needs, he said, partly through technological advances that allow oil and gas from shale to be used.


Ilene Grossman serves as staff liaison to the Midwestern Legislative Conference Midwest-Canada Relations Committee. The committee’s co-chairs are Saskatchewan MLA Wayne Elhard and Kansas Sen. Ray Merrick.