We need to get the pipeline economics right
By Robyn Allan http://www.robynallan.com/
Achorus is singing the praises of the oil industry's economic benefit, from the boardrooms of Alberta to the Prime Minister's Office.
They advocate the rapid export of Alberta's crude as a panacea for our economic future. They cite big numbers from studies prepared by industry-funded research institutes and consulting firms.
But what if the studies are more marketing tools than reliable research? What if more B.C. jobs are lost with Northern Gateway than without it - jobs that actually exist and sustain our diversified economy? What if a stand against the pipeline actually means a healthier, more sustainable economic future for B.C.?
After extensive analysis of the Northern Gateway economic-benefit case prepared by Enbridge, it is clear the study is bogus. It suffers from erroneous assumptions, calculation errors and inappropriate use of an input/output model. The study assumes the Canadian dollar depreciates to 85 cents US by 2016, and stays there for 30 years.
Enbridge's economic case is not only unreliable, but unusable. The benefits don't exist - not for B.C. and not for most of Canada. Northern Gateway will benefit a handful of large oil companies, including Sinopec, China National Offshore Oil Company and PetroChina, all owned by the Communist Party of China.
Northern Gateway has been presented as a way for oil producers to get higher prices in Asia. What we aren't told is these price increases apply to every barrel sold in Canada, and these price increases are passed onto Canadians.
When I filed my report with the National Energy Board, Enbridge confirmed the intent of their pipeline - higher oil prices in Canada with Northern Gateway than without it, on every barrel, every year for 30 years.
Canada is a net exporter of oil, so pipeline proponents claim higher prices outweigh the cost to the rest of us. What is not widely known - and excluded from the Enbridge analysis - is Canada is a major importer of crude oil.
Quebec and the Atlantic provinces are almost completely dependent on foreign crude oil imports from volatile and uncertain markets such as the Middle East, the same markets China is trying to protect itself from by importing our crude. Be careful of spin masquerading as substance. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Northern Gateway is in the national interest, it may not be Canada's.
As long as Canada depends on foreign markets for almost half of its crude-oil needs, Canadian economic security and stability is threatened. Exporting raw crude also means loss of value-added potential in upgrading and refining, and the jobs that go with it.
Harper promised he would not let this happen when running for re-election in 2008. A Times Colonist editorial on May 4, 2012, suggested the "construction of the pipeline will create 60,000 jobs over five years, most of them in our province."
Not really. Those "jobs" are person-years of employment and the analysis was conducted on expenditures made from 2009-2017. Enbridge allocates 57 per cent to B.C.
Person-years of employment are erroneously interchanged with jobs, but they are not jobs. They represent the full-time equivalent of one year of employment. If we want to discuss jobs, divide by 9 years.
Total on-site B.C. construction employment according to Enbridge is 455 jobs. But recent statements made by Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel suggest even those jobs may not benefit B.C. workers.
China's state-owned PetroChina - which owns oil-producing rights in Alberta, a fleet of tankers, refineries in China and builds many of China's pipelines - has expressed an interest in bidding on the construction contract for Northern Gateway.
With millions of workers and lower labour rates, it's likely PetroChina could deliver a competitive bid, all the more easily facilitated by the Harper government's recently introduced Temporary Foreign Worker Policy.
Northern Gateway means almost an oil tanker a day transiting Douglas Channel. This traffic crowds out local economic activity. As "super natural" British Columbia becomes a super-oil-tanker terminal for Alberta, we put at risk B.C. jobs in tourism, fishing and related activities, as well as First Nations' rights and way of life, all for no measurable economic benefit.
This is even before we talk about oil-spill risk. Why would we even contemplate this project going through?
Robyn Allan has had a lengthy professional career in senior executive positions in the public and private sector, with an emphasis on insurance, finance and real estate.
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