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U.S. Chamber of Commerce comes to Vancouver to strategize with oil industry

At a meeting last week of the Canadian Oil and Gas Export Summit in Vancouver, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a representative to huddle with industry. Here's a look at how the Republican Party is extending its influence into Canada.

This is the first of a special three-part series on what was said and heard at the Summit.

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As an example, he brought up the Massachusetts Cape Wind project, a federally approved offshore wind farm which which was first proposed in 2001 and remains in "regulatory purgatory", according to Guith, due to heavy opposition from environmental groups.

Lastly, he noted that public attitudes toward oil development are rapidly changing to become more accepting of oil – despite widespread warnings of climate change and the environmental damage caused by carbon emissions.

Gas prices, he said, have been rapidly rising in the past few years: Drawing on last year's research from the Oil Price Information Service, he said that American households have been steadily spending more of their income on gas. The figure, he said, rose from $173.80 in 2009 to $281. 06 in 2010, hitting $368.09 in 2011.

According to a Pew Research poll, support for offshore drilling is at a historic high – now at 65 per cent, compared to 44 per cent in June 2010. Attitudes toward oil are changing, he suggested, to be more favorable. Guith expressed his exasperation at "ugly" U.S. regulations that put around 86 per cent of U.S. offshore reserves off limits and expressed hope that his institute could convince the public and government to allow more oil drilling and exploration.  

The U.S. presidential election and Keystone XL

Guith repeatedly mentioned the rejection of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by President Obama, which took many in the oil industry by surprise.  

As Guith saw it, the major political problem with the Keystone XL pipeline was public ignorance of the project and its potential benefits for the country. 

Referring to another Pew Reserach Centre poll, he said that 63 per cent of Americans surveyed had heard about the Keystone XL pipeline. Of that 63 per cent, two thirds approved. However, 28 per cent of people did not even know what the project was about. It's hard to make the average person care about the pipeline, he said, but  it is possible to change this by educating people about its benefits for them. The benefits, he said, would be increased income and a higher standard of living.

Asked about the possibility of the Keystone XL pipeline being approved in the future, both Pugliaresi and Guith said they were uncertain. 

"You would have to be a moron not to approve [the Keystone XL pipeline] ...It's from Canada, they have carbon tax, universal health care...who would say no to this project?" Pugliaresi asked, shaking his head with bewilderment.

"We were all wrong on that," Guith agreed. "The group – Bill McKibben's organization – I have to give them credit. They were the ones who spent an entire month last year protesting at the White House, and turned it into a cause célèbre in the environment community."

Both said it was still possible to see the Keystone XL pipeline approved after the November election, but the outcome is uncertain. No one seemed to know which way Obama would swing on the Keystone project if he was re-elected. One thing both seemed certain about was that the Canadian government would be on board.

Neither could say for sure if all Canadians would be on board.

This article is part of a series. For more from the Canada Oil and Gas Export Summit, see "Pushing through Enbridge pipeline without First Nations consent?" and "BC Premier Christy Clark not working hard enough for LNG, energy expert says". 

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