Alex Pourbaix, the president and chief executive officer at Cenovus Energy Inc., is in Washington, along with other major oil industry leaders, to make the case for Canadian oil’s ability to increase energy security and to highlight progress made on emissions reductions. 

“We really are the definition of energy security, but also [we are here] to remind politicians and legislators that we are not standing still on our environmental performance. The real focus is to bring people up to speed on the effort of the oil sands industry to really drive down emissions,” Pourbaix said Wednesday in an interview. 

He’s attempting to showcase Canadian oil as part of the answer to energy security issues that have been thrust into the spotlight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Canadian oil can act as a solution, Pourbaix said, due in part to improvements in takeaway capacity after the expansion of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and enhanced rail capacity. 

Developments in these areas has resulted in the ability to move about one million barrels out of the country each day, according to Pourbaix. 

“And on top of that, we have presently largely unutilized rail capacity. So our visit [to the U.S.] is not really about infrastructure, but rather the ability of the Canadian barrel to continue to reliably supply the U.S. and the world,” he said. 

Some of the executives in Washington with Pourbaix are ConocoPhillips Canada President Bijan Agarwal and Imperial Oil President and Chief Executive Officer Brad Corson. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is also visiting. 

The trip to meet with U.S. policymakers also comes at a time when government officials are under pressure to take action on the rising cost of living, including gasoline prices.

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to suspend the federal gasoline tax for a period of three months in response to U.S. gas prices hitting an average of US$5 per gallon.

The heart of the issue that’s driving pump prices higher, Pourbaix said, is supply and demand since industry lost a lot of production during the COVID-19 pandemic and now demand has come back stronger than ever.

“The first thing I would say is no one needs to worry about the motivation of the industry at US$100+ [crude]. Every single barrel that could possibly be scratched out or found is coming to market,” he said.