Saturday, April 14, 2018

Canada's Energy Sector


Canada is in an economic quandary. Always an exporter of raw goods resulting from our great store of natural resources, we have tried to find salvation in the production of finished goods on the global market. Oops, China has more or less sewn that industrial performance up quite nicely, so blue-collar jobs have evaporated steadily, not only from Canada, Ontario in particular, but right across the Globe. Trade competition is fierce and the struggle to open avenues to free trade agreements does nothing to diminish the giant footstep of China as the world's trade Goliath.
An investment by the Alberta government would do nothing to quell the unwavering political opposition that has stalled construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, some experts say. (Trans Mountain)

Among the vast resources that Canada has in abundance is petroleum products. Canada's infrastructure, its refining capacity, shipping and pipelines simply don't match the potential product output. To be viable and bring back a return reflective of the value of the product, investments in reliable means of transporting natural gas and oil must proceed. The XL pipeline meant to go through the U.S. to refineries on the West Coast met hysterical resistance from U.S. environmental groups far less concerned about American fracturing and coal-fired furnaces than 'dirty' Athabasca 'tarsands'.

Former President Barack Obama also looked past the U.S. coal industry's carbon footprint and found fault with the Keystone XL pipeline, stringing Canada along in the wake of one successful environmental clearance after another to finally inform Prime Minister Justin Trudeau it could not proceed; overturned by President Trump, yet obstacles remain thanks to the vigor of environmentalist groups. Those same groups which have crossed the border into Canada to fund public relations ploys that succeeded in convincing British Columbia that no Alberta pipeline should sully B.C. territory.

So, where are we now? In a national debate over Canada's energy future. With Alberta and British Columbia at loggerheads; each with a New Democratic government viewing the situation from very different vantage points. British Columbia accepts Alberta oil for its own domestic purposes. Alberta oil is sold at a discount on the world market because it cannot expeditiously and economically move it to markets anxious to take advantage of it. Alberta's wealth as a 'have' province subsidizes 'have-not' provinces like Quebec yet Quebec too will not hear of a pipeline besmirching its geography.

All in the name of conservation, of environmental stewardship, of keeping a watchful eye on greenhouse gas and carbon emissions. "Coal production is a mainstay of the province's economy, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and supporting thousands of well-paid jobs", the website for the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources reads. Coal, yes coal, is the premier export commodity of the province.
Ships are loaded with coal at Westshore Terminals in Delta, B.C., on Wednesday February 19, 2014. The terminal is North America's largest single coal export facility.The Canadian Press

Vancouver may represent anti-pipeline central, but it also ranks as the largest single exporter of coal in all of North America, where Vancouver's coal facilities exported 36.8 million tonnes of coal in 2017. Vancouver ranks above Norfolk, Virginia -- the busiest coal port in the United States. In 2017, a massive spike in American coal exports saw 31.5 million tonnes of coal moving out of Norfolk.

Vancouver's coal ports accommodate a huge increase in exports of thermal coal, used in the production of electricity; almost all of this thermal coal emanates from the United States resulting from Washington and Oregon shutting down their coal ports due to environmental concerns. Thermal coal producers there now shunt their products through Canada. Much of Vancouver's own coal is metallurgical coal for the production of steel and exported to Asia.

Coal is moved at Neptune terminals, North Vancouver, April 28 2017. Gerry Kahrmann / Postmedia File

British Columbia's coal exports harm climate as much as any products that may be transported out of the TransMountain expansion which plans to move 215 million extra barrels of diluted bitumen per year; total product shipped through the expansion is projected to emit between 129 million and 158 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life cycle.

But the expansion won't be built if British Columbia continues to deny Kinder Morgan right-of-way to its vast investment. This is not a provincial jurisdiction but a federal one, something both British Columbia and the federal government appear to have trouble remembering; with the former intruding on the latter's bailiwick and the latter so engrossed in the tail wagging the dog that it's forgotten its bark.

"Under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the Liberal government has created a toxic environment for energy investment, which is why these projects keep getting cancelled or suspended."
"Not only has the prime minister failed to show any leadership on the inter-provincial Trans Mountain dispute, he is actually making matters worse for the Canadian energy sector by imposing harmful policies such as the carbon tax and new regulations that penalize Canadian oil exports."
Federal MP Matt Jeneroux

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