We’ve let our energy industry go all to pot
Yahoo. Today you can take your legal pick: three grams of delightful dope or a big barrel of lovely Alberta crude.
It’s a decision that will cost you a tad more than 30 Canadian dollars either way, which sums up how we’ve managed to disparage and diminish our most valuable economic asset — and no, that isn’t marijuana.
Currently, Alberta producers are getting about US$26 a barrel for the heavy crude shipped to the United States, even though the North American headline price on West Texas Intermediate sits snugly around $70.
That not only makes for tough sledding for Alberta oil companies but is also a nasty kick in the cumulative royalty and tax revenue baskets for both the province and Ottawa. Imagine the hospital beds, classrooms and seniors homes that could be staffed and opened with those billions of government revenues that have slipped away — our province alone is losing an estimated $7 billion a year.
Yet, in this bizarre, it-could-only-happen-in-Canada manner, our energy industry is easily the most important driver of GDP growth. No, it isn’t windmills or solar panels and it certainly isn’t the ticket revenue generated from the world lecture tour featuring the University of Alberta’s environmental science professors.
Where else does a country, through inaction and downright stupidity, allow its No. 1 economic strength to be ground down and degraded to such a degree that a few grams of legal marijuana can actually be counted of reasonably equal value? Heck, even Venezuela gets more for its heavy oil than Alberta and that country’s an international pariah, with many of its poorer citizens on the verge of starvation.
And why is that? Maybe because Venezuela sits beside an ocean so its oil can merrily sail off to points across the world that belly up to the bar and pay a decent, global price.
Oh, but hang on. Canada isn’t just sitting alongside one ocean. Nope, we stretch to three of those geographical watery beasts.
Maybe if, as in today’s Caracas, there were more empty bellies across this country amongst those who have waged a relentless hearts-and-minds campaign against the evils of the Canadian energy industry we might have avoided this current US$26-a-barrel fiasco.
Yet those protesters who invaded the National Energy Board’s hearings into the Energy East proposed pipeline in Montreal didn’t look as if they’d missed many meals, nor did the ardent B.C. folk vowing “we shall not be moved” in protest of the Trans Mountain expansion.
That’s the problem. When you keep getting cake regardless, then you can enjoy all the moral superiority you can eat. Ask our First Nations’ chiefs to explain the finer points of that little equation.
It would be nice to simply hoist all the blame upon our current prime minister with perhaps a side dish for the NDP government here in Alberta. But, honestly, this is a situation decades in the making.
This pandering to special interest groups, along with a lack of foresight regarding how a bottleneck in getting your major export to market might eventually cause chaos, has been widespread, due to lazy, kick-the-can-downthe-road politics involving every party in power.
So now we have the hurry-up offence on the field. The latest environmental reviews and court-mandated consultations about the Trans Mountain project being pushed through at a blistering pace (well, to have a final NEB report by Feb. 22 is blistering in governmental terms).
The penny has dropped. Oops, we don’t have pennies any more.
OK, those multibillions in lost governmental revenue have dropped.
It should never have come to this. But it has. The Titanic has somehow avoided the iceberg and has slowly set its sights on a new course. That vessel is our ship of state and the crew is suddenly awake.
Yes, we might now get pipelines built. In the meantime, feel free and legal to chill out: hey, it only costs a barrel of oil.
So now we have the hurry-up offence on the field.