Canada a new fuel center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 27, 2003

Canada, a country laden with many valuable resources that affect our every day lives and a country possessed of a very peculiar form of government.

It was my pleasure to spend this past week in the province of Alberta, Canada where I participated in a National Energy Council meeting.

During the few days I was there several significant things took place.

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Canada's new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, was sworn into office, ending a 10-year reign by Jean Chretien, the local stock market recorded an 18 month high, and the government publicly debated their concerns about Pres. Bush's attitude toward Canada with respect to securing rebuilding contracts in Iraq.

More personal to me was that two feet of snow fell on the city where I was staying and the temperature fell to 17 degrees below zero. This South Alabama senator is not used to such conditions but with a little help from "the

locals" I fared quite well.

The conference I attended focused on the delivery of oil and natural gas from Canada to the U.S..

Canada is a country blessed with more energy sources than any other place outside of Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. imports 15% of its natural gas from Canada and a significant percentage of its oil. The world's largest pipeline, the Alaskan Pipeline, crosses the country of Canada, and under construction is a second pipeline, McKenzie Pipeline, which, when completed will be strictly Canadian and almost as long and as large as the Alaskan Pipeline.

So, in a word, Canada is BIG in energy and is a major player in delivering the power needs of the U.S.

Our recent blackouts in the Northeast and earlier in California are indicative of the demand for energy that lies ahead for the U.S..

I could describe for you several interesting field trips I took while in Canada, but I will only mention one.

I took a field trip to Fort McMurray, a city of 49,000 residents, located in the northern section of the province of Alberta.

Fort McMurray is a city which is four and a half hours from the nearest next incorporated town.

That will give you some idea of how isolated this city was.

It was in Fort McMurray that I toured what is known as the Alberta oil sands.

Oil sands are naturally occurring mixtures of bitumen, water, sand, and clay that are found mainly in Alberta, Canada.

Two major companies in the Fort McMurray area mine the oil sands and separate the two, resulting in an incredible amount of oil produced from their unique process.

In other words, they essentially get oil from sand.

Their local publications

describe the oil sands as the largest new petroleum resource in the world.

I expect we will be hearing a lot more about this energy source in the years to come.

It was a very educational trip and also included some opportunities for enjoying Canada's outstanding cuisine.

We had a wonderful dinner at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise where we had a choice of Northwestern Territories Caribou or Atlantic Salmon or Chililean Sea Bass, all wonderful dishes, but I was ready to get back to Southern Fried Chicken.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.