Canada’s natural resources minister said natural gas would help make the country a “global energy superpower,” emphasizing that the resource can be produced and delivered in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

Joe Oliver’s comments Wednesday before the Economic Club of Canada (ECC) in Ottawa come shortly after he derided critics of the federal government’s energy plans as “extremists.”

“On the world stage, Canada is increasingly being recognized for the strength and dynamism of our economy,” Oliver told the ECC. “A major part of Canada’s advantage is its resource sector, of which the energy sector accounts for nearly 7% of our GDP.”

Oliver said Canada is the world’s third-largest producer of natural gas, and more than half of all Canadian homes are heated by natural gas. He added that natural gas utilities in Canada have invested more than C$450 million in conservation and efficiency efforts, strategies that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 16 million tons.

“We recognize that natural gas can and must be a key ingredient in Canada’s energy mix for many years into the future,” Oliver said. “This industry will continue to be a central partner in maintaining and enhancing Canada’s status as a global energy superpower.”

Hundreds of people demonstrated against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline at a protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday. Various media reports indicated that between 100 and 200 protesters were at the event, many of whom were arrested after crossing a police barricade.

In an interview Monday with the Ottawa Citizen, Oliver blasted the Keystone XL protesters and their New Democratic Party (NDP) supporters. Officials with the NDP — the official opposition party in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of Canada — have criticized hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as well (see Shale Daily, June 22).

“I certainly take the view that the NDP should stop taking the side of extremists who want to kill Canadian jobs,” Oliver told the newspaper. “I’m not saying everyone who’s protesting is [an extremist]. And everyone who’s protesting has a democratic right to get out there and express their view in the public square. This is Canada. I don’t have any quarrel with that at all.”

Southwestern Resources Canada, a Southwestern Energy Co. subsidiary, decided to temporarily halt seismic testing in New Brunswick to protect its workers after a wave of thefts, vandalism and protests in the province by fracking opponents (see Shale Daily, Aug. 25).

Last week the Conservative government announced it would launch two separate studies on fracking, addressing the science behind the practice and its potential impact on the environment. Ottawa had hinted in June that it would enter the debate over fracking if it thought provincial and territorial governments across Canada weren’t doing enough to safely regulate the procedure (see Shale Daily, Sept. 27).

TransCanada Corp. wants to expand the Keystone Pipeline system by increasing the pipeline’s diameter and building the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline extension, a project estimated to cost US$7 billion. If approved by the Canadian and U.S. governments, the extension would transport about 700,000 b/d of crude oil from the Alberta oilsands to facilities on the Gulf Coast for processing.

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