News Articles Featured | Edmonton Journal | June 22, 2011
EDMONTON – Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert said Tuesday the biggest threat to Alberta's energy industry is future access to markets.
The province needs two controversial pipelines to go ahead ‚Äî TransCanada's Keystone XL project that would link Alberta with refineries on the Gulf Coast and Enbridge's Northern Gateway to Kitimat where tankers would carry raw bitumen to Asia, Liepert said.
A decision on Keystone is expected from the U.S. State Department by the end of the year, while Ottawa will decide on Northern Gateway after a hearing starting in January.
The decisions on these projects are not Alberta's to make, but subject to lobbying by "environmental extremists" and foot-dragging by "bureaucrats," Liepert said.
"If we don't get moving on these projects, our greatest risk in Alberta is that by 2020 we will be landlocked in bitumen," he said in a speech at the "Oilsands: What's Really Going On" conference.
The event is sponsored by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Edmonton Economic Development Corp.
Liepert said China has invested more than $13 billion into developing crude oil and natural gas prospects in Western Canada, and that amount could triple in coming years.
"So on the one hand, you have the Chinese, as major investors in our resources, having difficulty understanding why we don't just plow a line to the West Coast and start shipping more products by tanker tomorrow.
"On the other hand, you have the foot-dragging U.S. administration delaying the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline."
Andrew Leach, an environmental economist and assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Business, said Alberta faces a future bottleneck as oilsands production is forecast to ramp up while North American consumption wanes.
"There's not enough domestic demand to soak up what the production potential is and not enough pipeline capacity to move it, so you'll be running up against a wall pretty quickly in the next eight or 10 years," Leach said.
In his speech, Liepert said the federal government needs to be reminded that all Canadians benefit from the development of Alberta's resources.
"In turn, we need access to get our product to new and growing markets, and we need to be treated fairly when it comes to environmental regulations."
Liepert called for a national energy strategy and later a continental one.
"It's important, because if we had such a strategy, some of the decisions I referred to earlier would either fit within that strategy or they wouldn't.
"These decisions wouldn't be at the whim of lobbying by environmental extremists and tied up in bureaucratic wrangling for years in Ottawa or Washington."
Janet Annesley, vice-president of communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry group wants governments to co-ordinate better with one another.
"Our industry's biggest concern is inefficient or redundant regulation," Annesley said.
We would like to see both the province and the federal government work together to provide clear regulation to the industry. We do like to have certainty. We don't like risk and any time there's levels of government acting independently of each other, it presents unpredictability and risk so we've been talking to both levels and urging them to work together."
The energy ministers of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan already signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on issues such as seeking new investment and markets and cutting "regulatory burdens, Liepert said.
He will also push for a national energy strategy next month when Alberta hosts federal, provincial and territorial energy and mines ministers for an annual conference.
"We cannot stand by and let commerce and job creation become secondary to the sensational images used by environmental groups to solicit emotional responses, especially because those images do not portray the reality of our industry," Liepert said.
"Let's not let bureaucrats in faraway places determine the future of our province."
Liepert's speech came a day after Premier Ed Stelmach and Canada's western premiers called for "timely approval" of major infrastructure projects such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The National Energy Board will begin hearings on the proposed pipeline in January.
Opposition parties, environmentalists and some aboriginal groups oppose the plan, saying the environmental risk is too great.