A pipeline, a pipeline, my kingdom for a pipeline

by Felix von Geyer

Canada needs more pipelines to enable the country’s economy to export its land-locked energy resources and enable economic growth, Canada’s Finance Minister and former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told the annual Conference de Montreal/International Economic Forum of the Americas on Monday.

“We have much to be proud of but there are many challenges,” Oliver told the opening of the 20th International Econmomic Forum of the Americas as he highlighted that Canada’s resources comprise 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) with Alberta’s oil sands proving much of that driver, he said.

That is not enough. Canada’s oil and gas must be further developed within a landlocked country to enable it access to markets, notably South-East Asia, especially as looming US energy independence has started to stifle demand for Canada’s fossil fuels. On an economic scale, uncertain US economic growth and weak European growth remain risks to Canadian economic growth. Oliver took time to point to Canada’s two largest provinces Ontario and Quebec for not proving their economic potential, particularly in terms of job increases.

In a subsequent press conference, Oliver was adamant that a market for Canada’s oil and gas existed in countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the continuing threat to Ukraine’s remaining territorial sovereignty has also placed increased value on Canada’s potential as an oil and gas exporter, but now to Western Europe where countries are looking for energy independence from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

“Europeans knew they were excessively reliant on Russian oil and gas,” Oliver told Neworator.com, stating that six European countries had become reliant on Russian gas due to the initial low price.

“Canada is an obvious reliable source for oil and gas,” said Oliver, “but we need pipelines that would achieve that objective – not immediately – but in the near-term.”

Canada’s oil and gas resources remain controversial, especially as Environment Canada predicts the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to reach over 800 million tonnes by 2035 through increased oil sands production, leaving the country in a rogue position amid international action to combat man-made climate change. Former Environment Minister Peter Kent withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 to avoid the country being held to account for failing to reduce its emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. By 2035, the country is predicted to produce at least 33% more emission above 1990 levels.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, acknowledged Canada’s role as an energy-producing nation but asked for oil growth to be turned into green growth during her lunchtime talk at the Conference de Montreal. Her address included Oliver in the audience as well as former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Québec’s provincial Prime Minister Philippe Couillard. Growth needs to be balanced, she said and, while Canada’s energy potential could increase GDP by 2 percent if it developed the necessary transport infrastructure to unleash not only South-East Asian markets but also European ones; “attention is needed to take care of the environment,” she stated.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is scheduled to make a decison on the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline cross the country’s Rocky Mountain range and sensitive water resources to reach the port of Kitimat in northern British Columbia where tankers would transport Canada’s energy to South-East Asia.

Approval for the Keystone XL pipeline has been suspended pending a Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the proposed route. The pipeline would cross much of the United States’ largest water aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer. Republican Senators have recently introduced legislation to Congress to speed the approval of the pipeline that according to Congressman Ed Markey would only benefit the so-called Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, who own the export terminal in Alberta and the receiving refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur according to Markey is an enterprise zone meaning the refined petroleum products would be sent out for export, with no taxes being paid to federal or state governments in the US nor being sold to fill the gas tanks of US motorists.