Having spent seven years in my early career as an on-site executive of Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor) – Canada’s pioneer developer and first successful extractor of oil from this massive all-Canadian resource – I feel compelled to comment on the increasing tendency by many to criticize this economic crown jewel.
Not one Canadian province, nor individual citizen, fails to benefit from the existence of our oil sands industry.
According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), this sector currently accounts for 75,000 direct jobs across Canada; this number is expected to grow to 900,000 over the next 25 years.
Canada’s oil sands is the world’s third-largest proven crude oil reserve. The industry produces almost 2 million barrels of crude oil every day; this is forecast to double in the next 15 years.
Few critics of our oil sands seem aware that Alberta, from this rich natural resource, contributes almost 20 billion dollars more to federal coffers, than it benefits annually from federal spending.
Without this resource, every Canadian’s standard of living would be negatively affected; income taxes would be higher, and services more constrained.
Recent vacillation by the U.S. in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline to its Texas refineries, Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, and the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – all designed to handle the increasing export of Alberta heavy oils to international markets – have spotlighted our Oil Sands sector – much of it resulting in negative, and often poorly-informed, commentary.
Some cast aspersions at this valuable resource, and its need for increased pipeline capacity to efficiently move oil sands product to markets. Why not instead embrace our good national fortune, and deploy our collective energies to forge constructive solutions which employ the latest environmental, pipeline, and shipping technologies, in order that all Canadians may continue to share in these ever-increasing benefits?
As Canadians, we should be proud of the technological innovation which has made oil sands development not only possible, but also such a significant contributor to our GDP. Rather than oppose further progress, let’s instead find positive solutions that allow this industry to continue to contribute to our national welfare.
Peter Dolezal is a retired corporate executive, now an independent Financial Consultant.