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Canada Views US Oil Boom As A Wakeup Call

ROB GILLIES

TORONTO (AP) â¿¿ Canada's natural resources minister said Tuesday a report that says the U.S. will become the world's largest oil producer by the end of the decade should serve as a wakeup call that illustrates the pressing need for Canada to diversify its energy exports.

The International Energy Agency reported this week the U.S. will become the world's largest oil producer by around 2020 as new exploration technologies help find more resources. The energy watchdog also predicted that greater oil and natural gas production, as well as more efficient use of energy, will allow the U.S. to become largely energy self-sufficient by 2035.

Canada is America's No. 1 source of foreign oil. Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said 98 percent of Canada's oil exports and 100 percent of its gas exports go to the U.S. He said the U.S. will need less and less of it.

Oliver said it's critically important to build pipelines to the Pacific Coast so Canada can export to Asia.

"Here is a respected international organization in very clear and stark terms indicating the fundamental shift in the energy future of the world," Oliver said in a phone interview. "It will help reinforce our message. Unless people are willfully blind they are going to have to accept the reality of a fundamental change in the energy picture."

A proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow Canadian oil to be shipped to Asia is undergoing an environmental review. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been a staunch supporter of the 1,177-kilometer (731-mile) Northern Gateway pipeline but there is fierce environmental and aboriginal opposition in the Pacific Coast province of British Columbia and there is no guarantee it will be built.

The province of neighboring Alberta has the world's third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela: more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025, which the oil industry sees as a pressing reason to build pipelines to the west coast.

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