Chinese energy companies are on the verge of striking ambitious deals in Canada in efforts to win access to some of the most prized oil reserves in North America.
The deals may create unease for the first time since the 1970's in the traditionally smooth energy relationship between the United States and Canada.
Canada, the largest source of imported oil for the United States, has historically sent almost all its exports of oil south by pipeline to help quench America's thirst for energy. But that arrangement may be about to change as China, which has surpassed Japan as the second-largest market for oil, flexes its muscle in attempts to secure oil, even in places like the cold boreal forests of northern Alberta, where the oil has to be sucked out of the sticky, sandy soil.
"The China outlet would change our dynamic," said Murray Smith, a former Alberta energy minister who was appointed this month to be the province's representative in Washington, a new position. Mr. Smith said he estimated that Canada could eventually export as many as one million barrels a day to China out of potential exports of more than three million barrels a day.
"Our main link would still be with the U.S. but this would give us multiple markets and competition for a prized resource," Mr. Smith said. Delegations of senior executives from China's largest oil companies have been making frequent appearances in recent weeks here in Calgary, Canada's bustling energy capital, for talks on ventures that would send oil extracted from the oil sands in the northern reaches of the energy-rich province of Alberta to new ports in western Canada and onward by tanker to China.
Chinese companies are also said to be considering direct investments in the oil sands, by buying into existing producers or acquiring companies with leases to produce oil in the region. In all, there are nearly half a dozen deals in consideration, initially valued at $2 billion and potentially much more, according to senior executives at energy companies here.
Oddly enough, many folks don't get the connection between US imperialism, and this oil issue.