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Canadian oil companies buy ads to pressure politicians ahead of election

Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Three Canadian oil producing companies are buying newspaper advertisements ahead of an autumn federal election to turn up pressure on the country's politicians to support the struggling industry.

Opposition from environmental and indigenous groups have stalled new pipeline projects in Canada and the United States that are needed to move Canadian crude to refineries. Congested pipelines forced the main oil-producing province of Alberta to curtail production this year to support prices.

Senior executives of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd , the country's biggest oil and gas producer, Cenovus Energy Inc and MEG Energy Corp signed a letter to Canadians that urges them to consider the 30% reduction in emission intensity from the oil sands during the past 20 years. The letter was expected to appear in Canadian newspapers on Thursday.

"We are asking you to join us in urging Canada's leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by supporting an innovative energy industry," the advertisement states, adding that limiting Canada's oil industry could result in greater use of more highly polluting fuels from other countries.

Alberta's oil sands have been a focal point of environmental groups' global efforts to stifle energy production from fossil fuels, saying they take an especially large toll on the environment.

"We are a part of the (climate change) solution, the global solution," MEG Chief Executive Derek Evans said in an interview. "The fact this is prime barbecue and picnic time for politicians, (the ads) encourage Canadians to get out there and talk about the role Canada could play in solving the global greenhouse emissions issue."

The ad does not identify specific actions it wants, but the oil industry has loudly opposed laws imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals that ban oil tankers in northern British Columbia and alter the regulatory process for resource projects.

The Liberals and Conservatives are running a close race ahead of the October election, according to polls.

Evans said other oil companies were approached to endorse the newspaper ads and while they supported the message, decided to communicate it on their own.

The previous Alberta New Democratic Party government, which was defeated this spring, tried a similar approach to convince Canadians of the merits of expanding the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Canadians' views on the oil industry vary widely by region, ranging from staunch support in Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces that are home to the world's third-largest crude reserves, to stiffer opposition in Quebec. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba Editing by Marguerita Choy)