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Canada can sell oil and be green at the same time

Opinion: Canada can sell oil and be green at the same time

By Robert Deane, July 27, 2013

My mother used to tell me only to worry about the things I could change. There are things in this world which are going to change whether I approve, disapprove; or, as is often the case, I have no opinion at all.

Recently, I was discussing the oil industry with a group of students and we collectively concluded that oil was probably going to be a centrepiece of our economic lives for the foreseeable future, regardless of our personal dispositions.

The nature of worldwide demand is unlikely to change. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot benefit from this future and, hopefully, maximize the opportunities that will undoubtedly exist.

As the world reaches, as many analysts believe, peak oil, we are driven to extract it in places that are increasingly more dangerous, difficult and expensive. Frequently, all of these conditions are present. This places an extra burden on all of us, as caretakers of this planet, to be diligent in our husbandry of this valuable resource.

This is why I feel strongly that this country, our country, should seek every opportunity to take advantage of the natural gifts we have been given, but in a responsible way. I have been following the developments of one of these opportunities, the Northern Gateway pipeline, for some time.

I feel this is one opportunity we can take advantage of; and control, to our collective advantage. If built, Northern Gateway will bestow economic benefits to all Canadians with manageable, minimal risk to the lands it will cross.

It will enable us to sell oil to the world rather than to one customer. It will provide us with leverage at the bargaining table, thousands of temporary and permanent jobs, and a lasting infrastructure we can exploit for decades.

Canada is a trading nation. Our lifestyle, which is the envy of many in the world, was forged by opening our borders to ideas, people and industry. By trading our commodities, value-added products and ideas with our trading partners, we created an economy which belies our small numbers.

The Northern Gateway Project is one of those ideas that will open our fuel market to Asia, the world’s largest potential customer and a market that Canadian businesspeople and their politicians are anxious to develop.

We have a chance to participate in this burgeoning eastern economy or to sit on the sidelines and watch others reap the substantial benefits. I would therefore exhort all stakeholders; government (federal and provincial), businesspeople across the country, opinion leaders, reasonable environmental stakeholders and native communities, to embrace this project and let their voices be heard.

This project is in the gestational stage and affords ample opportunity for all interested parties to have an impact on the eventual outcome. Some may say that their disapproval of such a project stems from a desire to see development of alternate sustainable energy choices such as wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal.

Like many, I look forward to the day when we can operate this planet relying only on “green” energy. However, as long as we are reliant on fossil fuels it is in our continuing interest to do so in a responsible and financially beneficial manner.

The ideas, funds and technology arising from development of our current resources will, if we are wise, finance the development of future energy choices. A long term strategic approach to our national energy future is the best guarantee of economic stability for all of us.

I believe that the Northern Gateway is an essential component of this strategic future. It is indeed, something we can control for our mutual and enduring benefit.


Professor Robert Deane teaches Business at King’s University College, Western University.

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