LETTER: Don't overlook Canada as a good source for oil

Thursday, July 7, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

In this time of economic disparity, it is shocking that the federal government would hesitate to recognize an opportunity to create jobs, boost clean energy and energy independence, help secure the pensions of millions of Americans and generate revenues for struggling federal, state and local governments without raising taxes. With unemployment around 9 percent for the past two years and energy dependency from overseas at a historic high, why are we not tapping into our resources at home and those of our Canadian allies?

The reliable petroleum reserve in Canada, second only to Saudi Arabia's, is a resource that should not be overlooked. For years we have been dependent on oil that has to be shipped from thousands of miles away from countries that don’t necessarily like us, making it expensive and unreliable. I would prefer not to have energy costs go up every time there is a crisis in the Middle East. Not only would the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline help stabilize fuel costs, it would put Americans to work building and maintaining the pipeline, along with jobs associated with the processing of Canadian oil sands.

If we do not take advantage of this resource, others certainly will. Some are even in the process of doing so. China has invested in Canadian oil sands for their own energy needs for the future. Sending this resource to Asia, where environmental standards are substantially less than that of the United States or Canada, would be harmful to both the North American worker and to the environment.

Supporting the petroleum and natural gas industries would not just help job creation. By creating jobs and infrastructure, governments would be able to increase revenues without raising taxes. In effect, teachers, firefighters, police, etc. in areas surrounding the pipeline and beyond would not have to be laid off because of the economic crunch.

Looking to the future, beyond immediate jobs and energy production, the oil industry is important to the pensions of millions of Americans. Chances are that you are invested in “Evil Big Oil” in your mutual funds, 401(k) or company retirement plan. Higher taxes for them means less returns for you. Pensions have become a major issue, especially public pension plans, as governments struggle to pay them. Many pension plans, public and private, are invested in the petroleum industry. It would be irresponsible not to support petroleum and natural gas at home and put millions of U.S. citizens’ jobs and pensions at risk.

Todd Smith is the state director of the Missouri Energy Forum.

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Mark Foecking July 7, 2011 | 2:58 a.m.

The main problem with these ventures is the volatility of the oil market.

Companies wishing to exploit or expand unconventional oil resources have delayed or cancelled investment when oil prices have dropped. A pioneering shale oil facility in CO was shut down in 1980 when oil prices dropped, and expansion of Alberta tar sands production in 2008 was cancelled for the same reason.

Unconventional oil production can easily become the victim of its own success. If increased production causes world oil prices to drop, these investments will lose money and production will drop. These investments will have to be supported (by, e. g. a fuel tax) before they will attract much interest.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 7, 2011 | 7:38 a.m.

I agree fully with Mark Foecking, however I believe this needs to be expanded into a broader context.

Which of the three countries involved has most benefited from NAFTA? Canada!

When NAFTA was proposed, Canadians were skeptical. I recall a political cartoon in the "Globe & Mail" newspaper (which bills itself as Canada's national newspaper) showing a young country hick - labelled "Canada" - walking down the street. Leaning against a lamp post is a rather sleazy and provocatively dressed prostitute - labelled "USA" - who says, "Hey, handsome, why don't we go somewhere and talk about NAFTA." The cartoon wasn't far from describing the Canadian attitude at that time.

Canada has thrived from a combination of sound internal financial policies and trade that includes export of various forms of energy, including both electricity and liquid and gaseous fuels.

I agree with the letter writer that we definitely need to include Canada in determining our future energy requirements.

BTW while folks think of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia as homes to firms engaged in global mineral search, development and production, Canada is another worthy player. For example, a Canadian firm is presently employed in the development of a large copper mining operation in Panama. The copper is badly needed!

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