Energy Security from West to East
When it comes to Canadian natural resources, the talk is often about the “need” to ship our crude oil and bitumen (the tar-like product of the oil sands) to China and Texas as fast as we can.
That may serve to maximize profits for multinational oil companies, but is it what’s best for Canada? This is more than just a question about environmental risks posed by tankers on the rugged coast of British Columbia or Rocky Mountain oil spills; it’s also one of dollars and common cents.
Without a pipeline to ship Alberta oil eastward, Eastern Canada is forced to import expensive foreign oil from across the Atlantic, at benchmark Brent Crude prices. At the same time, we now ship our Western oil and bitumen to foreign markets at much lower West Texas Intermediate prices.
You don’t have to be an economist to know that “buy high, sell low” is a dumb way to run an economy. This price difference cost us Canadians almost $20 billion dollars last year. Even Stephen Harper’s former Industry Minister Jim Prentice has criticized these costs and has spoken out in favour of a cross-Canada pipeline alternative.
The irony is that Canada produces 40 per cent more oil and bitumen annually than we consume: We should have a surplus, not a deficit of billions of dollars.
This isn’t just bad business. Canadian governments have never provided energy security for our citizens in case of a crisis. Since the 1973 oil shock, the United States has an emergency strategic supply of oil worth of over $64 billion. All of Canada’s major trading partners have national energy strategies in place, but our government apparently thinks we’re immune to any crisis that could occur in places that we import our oil from (like Venezuela or the Middle East).
It is time to start protecting our own interests.
A West-to-East pipeline would help protect Canadians from shortages and oil price shocks, and it would also be a better environmental option.
The TransCanada gas pipeline has carried natural gas from Alberta across Manitoba, to Thunder Bay-Superior North and as far as Montreal for many years. Laying another pipe along this existing route to carry bitumen to Eastern Canada would be a cost-effective and far more environmentally friendly alternative than crossing the Rockies.
Using Canadian resources to supply Canada’s needs first would certainly be better than seeing super-tankers risk disaster on the rugged North Coast of British Columbia.
A refinery in Thunder Bay could supply high quality, lower cost gasoline and heating oil to Eastern Canada and Europe.
Finally, a cross-Canada pipeline could help ease political tensions between East and West. The Western provinces, led by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, have recently agreed to consider a strategy to ship Alberta oil across the country.
Eastern Canadians are tired of overpaying for foreign oil. As former Liberal premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna has pointed out, all parts of Canada have important roles to play in our country’s energy future.
It is ridiculous that, as a potential “energy superpower” we don’t even have such a pipeline to let us use our own resources. I have raised the idea in the House of Commons repeatedly, and it is steadily gaining support – across all party lines.
Harper claims that the economic climate is not right for a cross-Canada pipeline. He may have a free market philosophy, but he cannot continue to ignore Canada’s strategic interests or simple economics.
The federal government must be proactive in encouraging - or even mandating - the kind of investment that would enable such a pipeline to be built. This would be an important step on the path to real long-term jobs and prosperity for Canadians...rather than for Communist China.
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