FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — David Jacobsen was sworn in just two weeks ago as the new U.S. ambassador to Canada and one of the first things on his agenda was to get a first-hand look at northern Alberta’s oilsands.
Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group, said it organized a tour for Jacobsen this week on behalf of the Alberta government.
“What we did was took an aerial tour of the region, flew over all the mining operations for the region,” he said. “We showed him an in situ operation and an open-pit mine … we wanted to make sure he understood the true nature of the industry.”
Jacobsen made stops at both Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada’s operations near Fort McMurray.
“It’s all part of the ambassador’s first step in learning more about the oilsands,” said Larua Lochman, consul general of the United States for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.
Lochman said she and Jacobson had discussions with both companies and the Alberta government, as well as with Fort McKay First Nations Chief Jim Boucher.
“It was important … to get the perspective from his people and how they’ve been involved with the development and what their concerns are,” she said.
Thompson said discussions included manufacturing links to the United States as well as the overall U.S.-Canada energy supply.
They also talked about the environment.
“Certainly we discussed the fact that the U.S. and Canada are working together to help develop new technologies that will reduce the environmental impact of energy development,” said Lochman.
U.S. President Barack Obama said during his campaign last year that he wanted to lessen his country’s dependence on “dirty oil” — a comment that was seen as a threat to oil exports from the oilsands.
But Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have since agreed to work together to reduce greenhouse gases and protect the environment.
Jacobson was sworn in Oct. 2. He visited Calgary earlier this week and has said his four priorities will be trade, energy, the environment and foreign policy.