In a report released Oct 24, The Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) has quantified the economic benefit of Canada’s oilsands activity and the data that was gathered may have a profound effect on how the rest of the country perceives one of our most lucrative resources. Based on the results of their study, the think tank estimates that up to a third of all revenue generated by the massive energy projects will be enjoyed by provinces beyond Alberta, primarily in neighboring BC and in the manufacturing heartland of Ontario. Although those two regions will feel the greatest impact, the report outlined how Alberta’s oilsands operations will create industrial activity in every other province, as well. This is no chump change they are talking about, either, as the board is anticipating no less than $364 billion worth of industry emanating from the economic powerhouse over the next twenty-five years. The federal government, too, will be a major monetary winner; expected to reap almost $80 billion in tax revenues from corporate and personal taxes as a result of the operations.
The information gleaned from the CBoC’s research is not some public relations gambit supported by interest groups from either the energy sector or the environmental lobby, it must be noted. The CCoB is a not-for-profit, politically independent applied research organization. They are not a lobby group or an arm of the government. All their funding comes from fees charged to access their data and for other organizational services they offer. In other words, the information released by the group can be trusted as objective and free of political agendas or special interests.
The report entitled “Fuel for Thought: The Economic Benefit of Oil Sands Investment for Canada’s Regions,” was released in Edmonton last week, at The National Buyer/Seller Forum. The information contained in the study made immediate shockwaves throughout the country as it called into question a number of negative beliefs about the oilsands that are being pushed by environmental lobbyists, manufacturing sectors in other provinces and politicians such as Thomas Mulcair. The NDP leader has accused oilsands activity of artificially inflating our dollar, making Ontario manufacturing concerns less competitive on the world market with no compensation. In contrast, the CCB findings show that Ontario manufacturing will be the recipient of almost 15% of the economic wealth generated. This amounts to a healthy $54.6 billion dollars of productivity, or over $2 billion per year over the 25 year forecast.
The report follows another independent think tank’s study in 2009 examining the environmental impacts of oilsands operations, which was published by the well-regarded, US-based IHF group called “IHF CERA”.
This study tackled the environmental impacts of the oilsands which, although obviously not quite a clean as the benchmark West Texas crude, was found to be in the middle of the pack as far as producing a carbon footprint and was much less damaging, from a greenhouse gas (GHG) perspective than Venezuelan partially upgraded, Nigerian light crude or even the US’s own heavy oil upgrader products. The American operation situated, ironically, in ecologically-conscious California, produces twice the carbon emissions of its Canadian counterpart. In fact, the carbon footprint of the Alberta oilsands is only a couple of decimal points off of the average of all eight American oil-based major energy sources, according the CERA study.
Slowly but surely, even as Canadian oilsands companies find better, and more environmentally sensitive technologies to release the massive pool of energy that is estimated to be the third largest oil reserve in the world, attitudes are beginning to change. People are starting to see that the industry isn’t peopled by money-grubbing oil barons but by Albertans of every age, religion, and political stripe; our friends, relatives and often ourselves. 140,000 of us, in fact, work at jobs directly involved in the oil extraction business, which spawn further economic spinoffs when we spend our hard-earned paycheques. Due to reports such as the CBoC’s, the IHF’s and a number of others coming to light within the last five years, the public relations tide is turning. People are beginning to accept that the oilpatch isn’t evil and that many of those opposed to the development often have their own agendas not related to environmental concerns or national economics.
For Albertans buffeted by the harsh winds of ignorance-based public opinion, CBoC’s figures are the calm within the storm.