By Mac Olsen
The day of January 20, 2017 can’t come fast enough for me.
My 50th birthday will be that month and the greatest present I will receive on that day, will be to see the end of President Barack Obama’s administration and the beginning of the next one.
Whoever is elected as the new President of the United States in November 2016, I hope they will be far more friendly to Alberta’s oil interests.
From the outset, Obama has never been favourable to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have run from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast. In early November, he publicly nixed the proposal outright, to the delight of environmentalists and their ‘climate change’ agenda.
Obama has cost both Alberta and the U.S. billions of dollars in revenue – as well as thousands of jobs – by nixing the pipeline proposal. It’s also ironic that he nixed a proposal that would have provided his union-backed supporters with jobs in the U.S., too.
But that’s the politics of pipelines and the petroleum industry for you.
So, where do we go from here? Where does Alberta go under Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government? And now with Justin Trudeau as our new Liberal Prime Minister, what kind of support will we get from the federal government? And what’s to become of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline?
Granted, the sky isn’t falling with the nixing of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Despite the recession in the oil patch – and I will use the ‘r’ word, even if it isn’t politically correct – there are still jobs and oil keeps pumping out of the ground in Alberta for markets elsewhere in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.
Moreover, regardless of the protests of environmentalists, pipelines and rail transport will be the continued method of getting Alberta’s oil to market. And our oil will still be in demand around the world, regardless of their insistence on shutting down the petroleum industry in this province permanently.
I’m not oblivious to the risks of the petroleum industry. A few months ago, I condemned the oil spill at a Nexen well site south of Fort McMurray. Thousands of litres of oil spilled into the environment. It was only an employee’s site inspection that stopped the spill because their automated equipment failed to sound the alert.
That’s the kind of disaster that has to be averted and the oil companies held accountable for when it happens.
Then there’s the risk of a catastrophe from rail cars. We have seen those in recent years, including in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, where dozens of people died from a railcar explosion in the community.
These are the factors that will have to be pondered in the equation of the politics of Alberta’s petroleum industry over the next few years.
Nonetheless, I will be very happy on January 20, 2017, when Barack Obama no longer has a role in that equation.