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Holding up Keystone won't slow increase in oil to U.S: Ambassador Gary Doer

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EDMONTON - Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline won't stop an increasing amount of Alberta oil from getting to the Texas Gulf Coast, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said Friday.

Gary Doer said the amount of oil being shipped by rail south of the border has skyrocketed in the last two years with a resulting increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

"Oil by rail has gone up 48 per cent in 2012 and it's approaching 50 per cent in 2013," Doer said in his speech to the Canadian Club of Edmonton.

"If you choose not to build the pipeline and have oil by definition coming down by rail, you're going to have higher (greenhouse gas emissions) and higher risk," said Doer, citing last week's U.S. State Department report on the pipeline.

The $7-billion line would take crude from Alberta across the United States to refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast in Texas.

While The State Department report, released last week, notes that oilsands operations generate 17 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than crude derived the traditional way, it found Keystone XL wouldn't appreciably worsen carbon pollution.

But critics, including Hollywood celebrities such as Robert Redford and Daryl Hannah, are fiercely fighting the line.

They say the risk of a spill and environmental catastrophe outweigh the benefits.

They also contend that saying yes to the line further commits the U.S. to a resource that increases greenhouse gas emissions and the threat from climate change.

Doer said there is broad support in the U.S. for Keystone that can't be ignored.

"Everywhere in our backyard where this pipeline goes, it's supported," said Doer.

"North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas —everybody is supporting the pipeline," he said.

He reminded the crowd that a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, labour and business leaders, and veterans groups joined him at a news conference earlier this week to push U.S. President Barack Obama to approve the line, which has been proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP).

"I always believe that if people support (the line) where it's supposed to go, you shouldn't listen to people from Hollywood when you can listen to people from Helena, Montana," Doer said later to reporters.

Later Friday, Doer met with Premier Alison Redford to discuss Keystone and other ways to get more Alberta energy exports to U.S. markets.

Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach was among those who took in Doer's speech. He later told reporters that while moving oil by rail is crucial, it is also displacing other commodities and manufactured goods.

"There's only so much room through the pass and only so many locomotives to pull the cars," said Stelmach.

He predicted tougher times ahead for agriculture "because we just can't get our grain to market."

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