Alberta's premier is in Washington Wednesday to assure Americans that his province is a stable and secure source of oil for U.S. consumers and to defend the environmental sustainability of the oilsands.
Legislation passed by the United States last month forbids any U.S. federal agencies from buying vehicle fuel that comes from non-conventional sources, unless the life cycle of its greenhouse gas emissions is the same or less than conventional oil.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday before leaving for Washington, Stelmach defended his province's oil supply, saying cleaner oil imported from the Middle East has to travel greater distances, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Most of the oil in the oilsands is trapped in a mixture of sand, water and clay, and difficult and expensive to extract.
Stelmach will spend the morning touring the city's monuments before appearing before a Senate hearing to deliver a speech called Alberta: Leading the Way on North American Energy Security.
"Given there are a number of issues percolating, it's always good to be there, meet the decision-makers face to face across the table," said Stelmach.
Sending Stelmach, his wife, the ministers of agriculture and sustainable resources and three staff members to Washington will cost about $54,000, including a reception hosted by the province, said the premier's office.
An energy expert with the University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy said that while attitudes are evolving south of the border, Canadian companies are holding off making changes.
"We may find ourselves up here in the unfortunate position of being behind corporations in other parts of the world that make the change and invest in the capital ahead of the game and out-compete us in the short term," said Michael Moore.
Moore used to work as a senior economist for an energy lab in California, the birthplace of the movement toward cleaner fuel.
Melanie Nakagawa, a representative with the U.S.-based lobby group Natural Resource Defence Council, has spent the last two years working on an oilsands portfolio. Last week, the council sent letters to 15 airlines asking them to stop relying on the oilsands for fuel.
"This isn't just looking at what happens at your gas tank or in your car, but what happens at the very moment of the extraction of this fuel," she said.
Bob Page, who has been working on environmental and energy issues in Alberta for half a dozen years, said the province is ready to answer such questions.
"This is a serious new marketing problem for oilsands products which will have to be addressed by the Canadians, because I see it as a rising movement in the U.S.," said Page.