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As the U.S. State Department was preparing to release the results of yet another review into the Keystone XL pipeline last week, Alberta’s new energy minister, Diana McQueen, was speaking to a group of Japanese energy investors about the need to take the relationship to the next level.
“As you know, in Alberta we are blessed with abundant natural resources, including oil, oil sands, natural gas and coal,” Ms. McQueen said at a meeting in Calgary of the Japan Alberta Business Association, whose members include major Japanese companies keen to build infrastructure to move Alberta energy to Japan.
“New projects are being added every year, and oil production is expected to increase significantly over the next decades. You already know this, because you are active in various parts of the oil and gas value chain Canada. However, there is still a lot of room for our relationship to grow.” The speech was standard fare, but it illustrates how the most important energy job in the country has changed.
It used to be about cashing in on the province’s abundant resource endowment, when it was necessary to protect it from incursions by other governments, at times trying to get a bigger slice from industry.
Today it’s all about forging alliances and build a positive national story to find new consumers outside the continent, away from the volatility of U.S. politics.
A petite, 52-year old mother of four girls, and grandmother of a five-year-old boy, the new minister said she plans to pull out all the stops to strengthen Alberta’s position in what could be a make-or-break year for many projects. Big decisions are coming up on KXL in the U.S., oil pipelines to the West Coast and to the East Coast. Liquefied natural gas projects on the British Columbia Coast could help lift natural gas activity and prices in Alberta if they move forward.
“I am a team builder and a relationship builder,” she said in an interview. “I work very hard. I like to get things done, but I like to do them right.”
Ms. McQueen was appointed to lead Alberta’s highest profile portfolio by Alberta Premier Alison Redford in a surprise cabinet shuffle in December. Loyal and measured in her words, she moved to energy from environment, becoming only the second woman in Alberta to hold the top energy job.
She believes her understanding of the environmental challenges of energy development will help her see her new portfolio with a fuller perspective and defend it more knowledgeably in the face of continuing global criticism of Alberta’s oil sands industry.
“I really believe that having the background of the environment ministry and learning how we develop resources in a responsible manner … really helps me in my role as energy minister,” she said. “Albertans certainly expect it.”
For the rest of this column, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/02/05/albertas-new-energy-minister-diana-mcqueen-looking-outside-north-america-for-oilpatch-alliances/?__lsa=1635-4e4c