The controversial Keystone XL Pipeline was very much on the agenda at today’s FT Global Investment Series: Focus on Canada event held in New York City, with government officials and business leaders using strong language to underline the importance of US – Canadian trade relations with regard to the pipeline.

“For the record, I would note that is no small irritant to some in Canada that our American friends focus on the current and future emissions from the oil sands while, here in the United States, a far greater environmental impact is caused by hundreds of coal-fired plants that remain in operation,” said Jim Prentice, Senior Executive Vice President and Vice Chairman at CIBC.

Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, Ed Fast, said that Keystone XL represents greater energy security for both nations and that 25% of the crude oil transported via Keystone XL would be Bakken crude produced in the US. The minister said the ultimate decision on Keystone approval should be “based on science.”

Both speakers shared the opinion that Keystone pipeline refusal would not reduce US heavy oil demand and force the country to obtain greater volumes of heavy oil from “countries that are less democratic, and which do not have modern environmental standards and which have no regime whatsoever for GHG emissions,” as stated by Prentice.

Minister Fast reminded the audience that that 79% of the world’s proven oil reserves are owned by national oil companies and he raised the question of whether the US would prefer doing business with a stable democracy such as Canada’s or with states where American values may not be shared.

“I would argue that both industry and government in Canada need to be forceful in promoting what we as a country already do well from an environmental perspective – and the innovation that’s helping to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands.

I would note that Canada’s Natural Resources minister did just that last week, during speeches in Chicago and Huston. I share his frustration that some policy makers and pundits in the United States and elsewhere, portray the oil sands as a singular environmental menace in the face of facts to the contrary,” said Prentice.