09/09/2011 02:11 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan premier wants to dispel dirty Canadian oil myths in pipeline debate

REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said it's time to push back against myths being perpetrated about Canadian oil and a controversial pipeline that would ship oilsands crude from Alberta to Texas.

Wall touched on the subject Friday in a speech on energy security and independence at the influential National Speakers Conference in Charleston, S.C. He told the crowd TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline is "the nexus of as much myth-making and interest group fiction as any conspiracy theory of the day."

The premier said that's hurting the country.

"Canada's brand and the trade relationship isn't being helped at all by some of the debate, which is just based on pure fiction if you're listening to some of what vice-president Al Gore says or some of the Hollywood glitterati that have weighed in," Wall told reporters after the speech.

More than 1,200 people — including Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah and Canadian author Naomi Klein — have been arrested at the White House gates protesting the $7-billion Keystone XL project. Nine winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, have also written a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to not approve the pipeline.

A Canadian rally is planned for Sept. 26 in Ottawa.

Opponents say Keystone XL is an environmental disaster waiting to happen and they also oppose Alberta's oilsands due to their high greenhouse-gas emissions.

Concerns have been raised in Nebraska, where the proposed Keystone XL route would cross the vast Ogallala aquifer. It supplies drinking and irrigation water to parts of several U.S. states.

TransCanada said in news release Friday that Nebraska State agencies, local officials and other stakeholders played a key role in helping to ensure the safest and most environmentally protective route was chosen.

"We have listened to Nebraskans and have utilized their input to ensure Keystone XL will be built to a safety level not seen before in a pipeline in the United States and that includes selecting the right route which has been done," said TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling.

Advocates, including Wall, argue the pipeline will create thousands of American jobs and help end U.S. dependence on Middle East oil.

Wall said Canadian oil is often cleaner from a carbon standpoint than oil from other countries.

"These people who protest the pipeline and call this dirty Canadian oil, first of all they're not dealing in truth when they say it's the dirtiest source of oil. Secondly, there obviously is never recognition for the fact that this country, the industry and the governments, are putting more into the CO2 issue on a per capita basis ... than in almost any other country on Earth," he said.

The premier also charged that pipeline opponents appear to be silent on the denial of basic human rights in other oil-producing countries, like Saudi Arabia, and "it's time we start pushing back a little bit."

There are no commercial oilsands projects within Saskatchewan, but Wall said the province still has a lot at stake as an energy supplier to the U.S.

The U.S. State Department said late last month that the pipeline poses no major risks to the environment and will not spur further oilsands production in Alberta. The Obama administration now has 90 days to decide whether the project is in the national interest before granting it a presidential permit.

"America's going to have to make the decision, but I hope it's made with all the facts on the table and also made in the context of, if you want to be less reliant on the Middle East, we need to do a better job of transporting energy in North America," said Wall.