The head of commodities research at one of the U.S.’s largest banks is counting Canadian oil as American oil, for all intents and purposes, and his argument raises questions about Canada’s debate over building new pipelines and finding new export markets for the country’s burgeoning oil sands exports.

In an interview on CNBC Friday, Ed Morse, the head of commodities research at Citibank, was asked if the U.S. would ever again become a net exporter of oil (the country was a net oil products exporter last year, thanks to booming shale oil production).

The U.S. alone is “unlikely to become a net exporter,” Morse said, “but between the U.S. and Canada, we will be an exporter. And I say between ourselves and Canada because the Canadians can’t export their oil anywhere other than to the U.S. and their production is going up steadily every year.”

Morse said Canada essentially has no choice but to sell to the U.S. because “their pipeline politics are worse than ours, they can’t build one to either the west coast or the east coast.”

PHOTOS: WHERE CANADA RANKS AMONG WORLD'S TOP POLLUTERS

That Canada is a “captive seller” of oil to the U.S. is becoming clear, as growing capacity in the oil sands has pushed down the price of Canadian oil exports to a roughly 30-per-cent discount compared to West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil prices. Without new markets, and with booming production coming from alternative extraction methods being put into place in the U.S., Canadian exporters have been unable to maintain market rates for their oil.

But Morse’s assertion that Canada will be unable to build pipelines to either coast because of political controversy is debatable. While British Columbia’s politicians and public are expressing serious concerns about Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project, new proposals that would see western Canadian oil shipped to central and eastern Canada are getting more positive reviews.

While the opposition New Democratic Party has largely been opposed to the Northern Gateway, raising concerns about Enbridge’s safety record, party leader Tom Mulcair recently came out in favour of building a pipeline east. His words have been echoed by politicians of all stripes from Atlantic Canada.

In one of the first concrete steps to ship oil east, Enbridge has announced plans to reverse the flow of a pipeline that runs from the Hamilton, Ontario area to Montreal. While the pipeline currently ships imported oil to the Toronto area, Enbridge is proposing to reverse it and have it ship western Canadian oil east.

Following the Obama administration’s decision to delay a final call on the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year, the Harper government turned its attention to finding new markets for Canadian oil — particularly China. But without the ability to ship crude to deep water ports, efforts at opening trade with China will not be enough.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Northern Gateway and the Keystone XL — which would allow large volumes of oil to move from Canadian oil fields to a massive oil storage hub in Cushing, Okla. — it seems increasingly likely that some sort of pipeline network will be put into place to carry more Canadian crude to the U.S.

At least two other energy companies are planning to augment their U.S. pipeline networks to help carry Canadian oil south, the Wall Street Journal reports.

That’s unlikely to make environmental activists happy, as they seek to minimize demand for Canadian oil sands product, which they describe as the dirtiest fuel source in the world.

A recent analysis from business information company IHS suggested oil sands product is more emissions-heavy than previously thought. The company estimated that Canadian oil emits nine per cent more carbon than oil from U.S. sources, on average.

A recent poll found that Canadians put little faith in the country’s oil industry, considering oil companies to be about as trustworthy as used car salesmen.

WHERE CANADA RANKS AMONG WORLD'S TOP POLLUTERS

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  • Top 10 Most Polluting Countries

    We look at which 10 countries have the most CO2 emissions. Figure are preliminary 2010 numbers from the U.S. government's <a href="http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/perlim_2009_2010_estimates.html" target="_hplink">Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. </a> (Photo Getty Images)

  • #10 - Saudia Arabia

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 493,726 (Photo MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #9 - Canada

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 518,475 (Photo MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #8 - Korea

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 563,126 (Photo CHOI JAE-KU/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #7 - Iran

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 574,667 (Photo FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #6 - Germany

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 762,543 (Photo JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #5 - Japan

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 1,138,432 (Photo YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #4 - Russia

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 1,688,688 (Photo KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #3 - India

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 2,069,738 (Photo ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • #2 - USA

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 5,492,170 (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • #1 - China

    Estimated CO2 Emissions in 2010 (in thousands of metric tonnes): 8,240,958 (Photo PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)


Also on HuffPost:

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  • Tailings are a waste byproduct from the oilsands extraction processes used in mining operations.Tailings consist of a mix of water, sand, silt, clay, contaminants and unrecovered hydrocarbons and are toxic. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Syncrude's Tailings Dam near Fort McMurray, Alberta is one of the largest dam in the world.

  • Duck Deaths

    There have been at least 2,150 deaths of ducks related to tailings ponds in Alberta.

  • There are currently more than 170 square kilometres of tailings ponds in Alberta. Even when tailings ponds covered 50 square kilometers they were big enough to be seen from space. Source: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/tailings.html and Pembina Institute

  • Tailings management remains one of the most difficult environmental challenges for the oil sands mining sector. Source: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/tailings.html

  • Tailings are stored indefinitely in open lakes that cover an area approximately 50 per cent larger than the city of Vancouver. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes increase in volume at a rate that would fill the Toronto Skydome on a daily basis. Source: Pembina Institute

  • Tailings lakes seep. The exact amount of seepage is either not known or has not been made public. Source: Pembina Institute


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  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    A bitumen leak was reported at a Canadian Natural Resources oilsands operation in the weapons range part of the RCAF base in June 2013.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Company officials said the leak - at what it calls its Primrose operation - was caused by faulty machinery at one of the wells, affected an area of approximately 13.5 hectares and released as much as 3,200 litres of bitumen each day.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Preliminary tallies put the death toll from the leak at 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians. Dozen were rescued and taken to an Edmonton centre for rehabilitation.

  • CFB Cold Lake

    As of early August 2013, more than 1.1 million litres of bitumen had been pulled from marshlands, bushes and waterways.

  • CFB Cold Lake, CNRL

    Although CNRL could not say when the leak may finally be stopped, it estimates it will likely cost more than $40 million to clean up.

  • <em>Click through for other recent spill in Alberta</em>

  • Plains Midstream

    Little Buffalo band member Melina Laboucan-Massimo scoops up July 13, 2012 what appears to oil from the pond shoreline near the site of a 4.5 million-litre Plains Midstream pipeline leak detected April 29, 2011. Photos taken at the site and released by Greenpeace of Alberta's second-worst pipeline spill suggest at least part of the site remains heavily contaminated despite company suggestions that the cleanup is complete.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boat passes by a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Debris pushes up against a boom as it stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A photographer snaps a boom stretching out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A worker slows traffic while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the Gleniffer reservoir near Innisfail, Alta., Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    A no swimming sign along the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir while a boom stretches out to contain a pipeline leak on the lake near Innisfail, Alta., Friday, June 12, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of sour crude near Sundre, Alberta, on June 7 and flowed downstream in the Red Deer river to the reservoir.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Plains Midstream Canada

    Tracks pass through oil on the banks of the Gleniffer reservoir after a pipeline leak near Sundre, Alta., on Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipelines leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil.

  • Enbrige's Athabasca pipeline

    Approximately 1,450 barrels of oil spilled from a pumping station along Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline in June 2012. The spill occurred approximately 24 kilometres from Elk Point, Alta., a village located 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill is seen lining the shore of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    White absorbent boom is seen lining the shores of Lake Wabamun, Alberta, as the clean-up effort from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill continues on Monday, August 8, 2005.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Wreckage and black oil from the August 3rd train derailment and subsequent oil spill are seen lining the shore and waters of Lake Wabamun on Monday, August 8, 2005, as clean-up continues. Lake Wabamun was severely polluted when a train carrying heavy oil derailed on August 3, 2005, spilling much of it's load into the lake.

  • Lake Wabamun

    Rail cars leak bunker fuel oil, meters from summer homes bordering Lake Wabamun, after a freight train derailed, in this August 3, 2005 file photo, near the town of Wabamun, Alta. Canadian National Railway faces an environmental charge stemming from the train derailment and oil spill at a popular Alberta lake last summer.