General Electric Co. chairman and chief executive officer Jeff Immelt is just what Canada needs to develop its oil sands — an American leader with stature in Washington, on Wall Street, in the oil patch and in Silicon Valley.
He said this week that GE will help companies clean up the oil sands so that the deposits — the largest in the safest jurisdiction in the world — can continue to be tapped. His remarks are a welcome relief from Ottawa’s and Edmonton’s “our-oil-sands-are-not-dirty” mantra that threatens to strand the deposits not just in Canada, but in Alberta.
The problem is not Keystone XL, other pipelines, President Obama or Al Gore. It’s oil sands emissions and other environmental challenges. Fix those, says Immelt, and more oil sands exports will get the green light. He’s right, and Immelt is proposing that industry collaborate and voluntarily establish lower emissions targets in order to remove the political opposition to Keystone XL as well as that faced by Premier Christy Clark in British Columbia.
By contrast, oil sands proponents and Ottawa have had a tin ear, defending the status quo for years, which is not an option.
Worse yet, Republicans have made Keystone XL an issue and published polls that allege a majority of Americans favor Keystone. But polls are biased, most respondents don’t know what Keystone is and public opinion among Democrats, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the media and academia has turned against the oil sands in particular and Canada in general.
These influencers are not always right, but they are never wrong. They don’t want our oil sands oil because of its emissions and by ignoring their message, Canada now wears a “baby seal hunt” image again. This is why Immelt must be heeded and supported.
So far, Canada’s largest corporation, and biggest oil sands player, Suncor Energy Inc., with revenues of US$35.5-billion and a few other companies are supporting Immelt’s strategy. But all the big boys must also join his initiative, and governments should, too.
Like it or not, the environmentalists have convinced the influencers and stopped the pipelines. They are vigorously attacking railway shipments, attacking oil sands customers and suing those who refuse to ban the stuff. Some U.S. states have joined with bans.
Blaming Obama is off topic. Blaming the greens is, too. Immelt is correct: Without a promise to provide cleaner energy, all bets are off.