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Alberta should focus on innovation to attract U.S. investment: Washington envoy

The provincial flag atop the Alberta legislature on Friday, February 26, 2016. Dave Carels, Global News

Alberta must position itself as a clean energy leader to move forward in the aftermath of the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation, Alberta’s trade envoy to Washington said Friday.

“We can make a very strong argument for further investment in the entire energy spectrum in Alberta,” James Rajotte said in an interview. “Any kind of energy (U.S. investors) would want to invest in, we would have in Alberta.”

Rajotte, who gave a virtual address to the Canadian-American Business Council and economic development group Edmonton Global on Friday, said U.S. President Joe Biden’s aggressive stance on climate change presents a challenge for Alberta’s oil and gas industry. He said some Democrats in Congress have a negative view of the Canadian oilsands and its emissions record.

READ MORE: Alberta finance minister defends $1.3B loss on Keystone XL pipeline as ‘calculated decision’ 

But Alberta’s energy sector can still attract major capital investment from the U.S. if it focuses on innovations like carbon capture and storage and methane reduction, Rajotte said.

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He added the province should also play up new green power projects companies have under way, such as the 450 MW Travers Solar facility that began construction this week as well as a plan announced earlier this month by Air Products Canada to build a $1.3-billion hydrogen plant in Alberta.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about hydrogen.

“Alberta is really at the forefront of so much of this,” Rajotte said. “I tell companies, if you are doing something innovative . . . I want to know about it. That’s something for us to highlight.”

Alberta’s energy sector suffered a blow in January, when President Biden revoked the permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline project shortly after his inauguration. The company formally cancelled the project earlier this month, taking a $2.2-billion writedown.

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Keystone’s demise was the conclusion to a decade-plus battle that pitted the energy industry against environmentalists as oilsands producers sought to export Canadian crude. The death of the project also left the Alberta government, which had invested in the pipeline under Premier Jason Kenney in an effort to advance construction, on the hook for about $1.3 billion in costs.

Read more: Keystone XL pipeline is officially dead. What does this mean for Canada?

The Trans Mountain pipeline project, which was purchased from Kinder Morgan Canada by the Canadian government in 2018, has also faced years of regulatory delay and opposition from environmental and Indigenous groups.

Despite those setbacks, Alberta Economy Minister Doug Schweitzer said energy companies have reason to be optimistic about the future, not the least of which is rising oil prices. The U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate near-month contract price ended the day Friday at $74 per barrel after starting the year at $49.

In an interview Friday, Schweitzer said he believes companies have a growing understanding of what they need to do to access investment capital in a world that is increasingly concerned about climate change. He pointed to a plan announced earlier this month by Canada’s five biggest oilsands producers to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

READ MORE: Several Canadian oilsands operators commit to become net zero emitters by 2050 

Schweitzer, who began a cross-Canada speaking tour in June in an effort to promote Alberta as an investment destination, said the province must work to gain more recognition in the areas of clean tech and environmental, social and governance factors (ESG).

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Calgary-based TC Energy formally cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project earlier this month after President Biden revoked the project’s permit in January.

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