Published In

Security and Defense Studies Review

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2003


Petroleum industry and trade, Oil sands industry -- Economic aspects -- Canada


Energy analysts have given renewed attention to Canada's position in the North American energy market since the September 11th attacks, because of fear that conflict might interrupt the flow of oil from the Middle East. There are currently $30 billion (U.S.) in projects to develop the Alberta oil sands, in addition to new petroleum projects in Newfoundland, and major natural gas finds off the Atlantic coast. While Canada is already the single major oil exporter to the United States (ahead of both Saudi Arabia and Venezuela), its production could double by 2010. Canada’s rapidly increasing energy production has major implications both for hemispheric relations and for the United States’ strategic position.

In the aftermath of September 11th energy security has become a key concern for the United States. After the attacks many commentators argued that the United States relied too heavily on Middle Eastern sources of supply, and that this factor not only limited U.S. actions, but also obliged the U.S. to engage with regimes that it found to be distasteful if not dangerous. Newspaper columnists decried America’s reliance on Saudi Arabia for energy, and some called for the United States to increase its energy self-sufficiency by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to drilling. Richard Holbrook, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stated that Americans' "greatest single failure over the last twenty five years was our failure to reduce our dependence on foreign oil . . . which would have reduced the leverage of Saudi Arabia." Yet in fact the United States' energy position is now stronger than it appears, and there is reason to believe that it will improve in the future, because of the growing importance of Canada as a source of petroleum.


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