By Stephen J. Wuori
President, Liquids Pipelines,
NO ONE in their right mind would ever build a business, let alone base an economy, on only one customer, no matter how good that customer is.
To put it another way, when it comes to Canada’s crude oil, right now all our eggs are in one basket – the US market.
That basket is not getting any bigger and some of the folks holding the basket are starting to complain about the chickens.
We need to diversify our petroleum markets. Northern Gateway will do just that, connecting this country’s world-class, ethically developed crude oil reserves to the growing markets on the Pacific Rim which are clamouring for energy.
There is no doubt that the project is controversial. We have a great deal of work to do to get the facts about Northern Gateway out to stakeholders, decision-makers, media and the general public.
There is no doubt that before it is approved, Northern Gateway will face the most rigourous and world-class regulatory review to determine that it can be built and operated safely and is in Canada’s best interest.
But there can also be no doubt that Northern Gateway will be a game changer for Canada as a whole.
I’ll give you one “no-doubt” observation about Northern Gateway. If Canada is to capture the opportunity presented by this project we can’t afford to dally.
ARC Financial’s Peter Tertzakian recently noted that Canada’s window of opportunity for diversifying into the Pacific Rim energy markets is not going to stay open indefinitely.
Northern Gateway will diversify Canada’s energy market options by connecting this country’s crude oil resources to important, emerging markets in Asia.
The project is a tangible, smart and achievable step that Canada can and must take if the country wants to become an energy superpower on the global stage.
It will link two of Canada’s most important competitive strengths: our tremendous petroleum reserves and our Pacific advantage – a coast that is close geographically, culturally and through existing business relationships – to the growing markets across the international dateline.
And it will demonstrate to Canadians and to the world that Canada is ready, willing and able to participate fully in the global marketplace, play to its strengths and strategic advantages, and to take its rightful place as an energy superpower.
I want to be clear here: There are obviously times when the energy industry doesn’t operate perfectly.
There are also times when the critics are right.
We should absolutely be held to account in those cases and always when it comes to our performance on issues important to the public, like the environment, safety, human rights, transparency and ethics.
But let’s insist on being held to account against facts, our performance and our impact, not against rumor, misinformation and myth.
Today it’s tougher than ever before to get energy projects approved and built.
There are more opponents who are more connected, more powerful and more mobilized.
And it’s easier to mobilize against something than for it.
Those of us in the energy business meet this challenge every day.
Our society exists because of abundant, inexpensive accessible energy.
The very people who are most vocally opposed to energy development are among those who use and benefit from it. To use an analogy, it’s like loving eggs and protesting against the existence of chickens.
Of course, opposition to business and development is, itself, big business, with professional protestors plying their trade and raising hundreds of millions of dollars.
As leaders we need to stand up, answer the tough questions, challenge misinformation and proudly defend the work we do.
The above is a shortened version of a presentation made at a luncheon hosted by the Calgary Economic Development organization on May 18, 2011.
Northern Gateway is to be examined via a federal review.