RE: Are the Tar Sands "Too Big to Fail"?

Contributed to The Vancouver Observer
Janet Annesley
Vice President of Communications
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
February 02, 2011


Given the obvious connection between oil sands and the economy, oil sands proponents do not spend a lot of time and effort "selling" an oil sands/jobs message. For the past year, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' entire communications focus has been on environmental performance, talking to Canadians about the people and technology reducing environment impact of development.

Oil sands industry achievements include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 39 per cent per barrel since 1990, making oil sands crude five to 15 per cent more GHG-intensive than the average U.S. barrel used today. That said, we're still glad to be one of the world's only oil sources to reduce CO2 and head in the right direction.

On the economic side, oil sands development is expected to contribute over $1.7 trillion to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years - that's about $68 billion per year. That's a lot of jobs - technology jobs, professional jobs, skilled jobs, union jobs and yes, First Nations' jobs. It's also a fair amount of taxes and royalties which support the schools, hospitals, social programs and infrastructure we all use.

Do oil sands emit greenhouse gases? Yes, but we are one part of the economy that's actually become more efficient per barrel, and therefore per unit of GDP, while others have become less. Is oil sands production growing? Yes, but not because oil sands has made us all want or need more oil. It probably makes us want less oil generally. It certainly reduces the need for foreign oil, which is a good thing for lots of reasons.

Canada's oil sands producers work hard to produce energy, reduce GHG emissions and deliver economic benefits to the communities where we operate, and to Canada on the whole. And we work very hard to be responsible toward the environment. While we will never win over critics like Saxifrage, we do agree with his call on his website, Auntie Carbon, for consumers to use fossil fuel products wisely while we continue to develop other sources of energy.

We should have greater respect for our precious non-renewable resources. We should also be prouder for using domestic oil that is produced responsibly and benefits Canadians economically rather than purchasing more oil from other nations - the only commercial alternative right now.

The oil sands discussion is less a matter of who's right and who's wrong than what our real energy choices are. As long as we continue to use oil, we need much of it from Canada's oil sands. Esteemed groups like the Royal Society of Canada have recently done much to debunk environmental myths about the oil sands and to describe fairly the challenges ahead. Just as the oil sands are not the environmental disaster of biblical proportions some activists make it out to be, it's not an economic silver bullet either. It's reality.

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Janet Annesley
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Calgary, Alberta