Among the supporters of Mitt Romney for president is Harold Hamm, the 66-year-old multibillionaire who is the chief executive of Continental Resources, the leading exploration company in the booming Bakken Formation, which stretches across Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. His 68 percent stake in the company is currently worth $7.7 billion, and Forbes recently ranked him the world’s 76th-richest person.

 

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is promoting his energy policy today, hailing the prospects of “North American energy independence.” The “North” part is important, because the United States — even with surprising new production in places like North Dakota — can’t come close to achieving oil independence on its own.

The key to getting to “North American energy independence” is Canadian oil from Canada’s controversial, greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands — and the pipelines to bring that to the United States.

In his white paper issued Thursday,  Romney reiterated that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Unfortunately, President Obama has chosen to turn his back on America’s neighbors,” the white paper says. “He rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have dramatically increased the supply of Canadian oil to the U.S. market, and now Canada plans to send that oil to China instead. Today, America still imports more oil from OPEC than it does from Canada and Mexico.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States imports 3 million barrels a day from Canada and 1 million barrels a day from Mexico. The United States imports 4.7 million barrels a day from OPEC members, with the three largest being Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iraq. The OPEC list also includes west African nations of Angola and Nigeria.

The Keystone XL pipeline would ultimately add about 730,000 barrels a day to Canada’s total. (Another 100,000 barrels a day would be picked up from North Dakota and Montana). Nearly all of Canada’s energy exports — including natural gas and hydropower — go to the United States.

Although Canada’s Prime Minister Harper has talked about turning to Asia, any plan to export oil to China faces huge obstacles in Canada, including financing and opposition from environmental groups, west coast provincial governments and Canadian Indian tribes.