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The Alberta Oil Sands – A National Resource?


I like the new Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford. Having lived in Canmore, Alberta for the past five years and, after being deeply immersed in Ontario politics for over fifteen years, she is a breath of fresh air.
The oil sands in Alberta represent the second largest proven energy resource in the world outside of Saudi Arabia. In the past three years the oil sands have been the subject of attack from environmental factions around the world. Even in Canada, Premier Dalton McGuinty in Ontario and, to a lesser degree, Jean Charest in Quebec have failed to whole-heartedly support the development of this resource.
Now Premier Redford is calling them out. She is in the USA this week promoting Alberta, promoting the oil sands and rejecting the efforts of the radical environmental elements who have been working to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. In her statement, We in Alberta have a resource that matters to the rest of the country, Redford is calling for the Premier of Ontario to step up and be counted. At a time when Ontario is grappling with the Drummond report on its dismal financial outlook, she makes some compelling arguments.
The Globe and Mail reports that, while Alberta will enjoy the majority of the benefits from the oil sands development, between 2010 and 2035 it is projected that Ontario alone will see up to $63 billion in economic spin-offs and could create over 65,000 oil related jobs. All other provinces have a similar upside.
On the issue of global warming which appears to be the primary focus of the environmental lobby, the oil sands received a couple of good news announcements in the past week. First, an independent research paper, released by University of Victoria scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Stewart, reported that even in the unlikely event that every barrel of oil available from the oil sands is extracted (a total of 1.8 trillion barrels, which would be seven times the current reserves in Saudi Arabia) their scientific study reported that it would only raise the global temperatures by ONE THIRD OF ONE DEGREE !!!!
The scientists compared this temperature elevation to the impact of burning all of the world’s coal reserves; an event which would raise the global temperature by FIFTEEN DEGREES.
In another positive move, the Federal Government of Steven Harper was successful in fending off a vote by the European Union that would have targeted the oil sands and Alberta as serious emission-intensive sources of crude oil. I have been maintaining for several years that we need to fight back against the sensationalized rhetoric generated by these environmental groups. The Redford and Harper governments are doing just that and should be applauded for taking the gloves off. The independent study by Weaver and Stewart validates many of these efforts.
There is another important factor few want to talk about. The renewable energy industry is crashing around the world. Dalton McGuinty’s green energy initiative, while commendable in intent, is a disaster. Countries around the world are eliminating subsidies, reducing their commitments to extremely expensive capital projects and, in today’s economic world, cannot afford to risk their future on energy solutions that are not cost effective in their own right. Recently, In the USA, the government failed to renew a tax credit for the wind farms. The industry is predicting massive layoffs and stalled or abandoned projects as a result.
So, back to the oil sands being a national resource. The last time I looked around we all lived in a country called Canada. Yes, we have separate provinces and territories that make up this awesome country and they all have their own separate challenges and separate political agendas to protect. However, the reality is that the west will drive the economic agenda in this country for the next ten to twenty years. Alberta and Saskatchewan will lead the way.
Partnership is a great word, however, much too often it is given lip service and nothing really happens. The world is changing and we have major economic and environmental challenges facing us in the future. Yes, the oil sands of Alberta represent a national resource in terms of energy efficiency for the world, and economic growth for years to come. It’s time for everyone to work in partnership for the best interest of Canada.
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