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A Response To: An Open Letter To Canadians From Oil And Gas Workers

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Update –  April 13th 2020: View Eavor Technologies CEO – John Redfern’s response here

A letter in response to this:

https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/an-open-letter-to-canadians-from-oil-and-gas-workers

 

 

Dear Albertan oil executives,

 

Canada’s oil and gas workers need your help. For decades, we have been asking you to diversify our economy and look for ways to avoid the boom and bust cycle. We are now in a perfect storm with oil prices falling and workers in isolation from a deadly virus. We need your leadership more than ever. 

 

Unfortunately for us, you’ve chosen the least imaginative path possible: stay the course. In your April 6th Op-Ed in the Financial Post, you argued that the fossil fuel industry needs federal support in order to maintain a skilled workforce. For a province that prides itself on hard work and innovation, don’t you think we can do better? 

 

The underlying assumption that you have made is that oil prices will return to a level that’s profitable for Alberta. But the historical trend doesn’t support your argument. 

 

When you look at the historical price of WTI, Alberta’s golden years came from a bubble. In 2008 analysts all over the province were claiming oil would climb to $200 and Alberta would become the crown jewel of Canada. That turned out to be wishful thinking.  You have dusted off that same playbook, claiming that oil will keep going up in price. The more likely scenario is that prices will return to their historical average. 

 

We cannot rely on high oil prices for our economic survival. 

(The picture was taken from https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/crude-oil But any 30-year graph will do. )

 

I agree with you that we need to ensure that we can maintain our workforce. It’s essential that Alberta has skilled people working in our province so that we can develop our resources. Canada as a whole needs to maintain our skilled labour force and keep our economy functioning so that we can rebound once the pandemic is over.


But putting those 200,000 people back to work into fossil fuels is a terrible idea.

 

So what do we do with hundreds of thousands of unemployed people and billions of dollars of idle equipment? 

 

My suggestion is we find markets outside of oil and gas that require very similar skill sets. We leverage our existing infrastructure, supply chains, and experience to build new industries here in Alberta.

I’ve got three examples. 

 

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy needs the same drilling rigs that the oil service industry has sitting idle. You can use your existing geologists, roughnecks, pipefitters, and welders to drill geothermal wells instead of oil wells. The end result is clean baseload power that can replace coal in this province and all over the world. The added benefit of developing geothermal is that we repurpose orphan wells into sources of heat and electricity. Companies like Eavor and DEEP have already started. 

Battery Manufacturing

As we move to cleaner energy sources, batteries will become more important to the sustainability of our economy. Batteries need a lot of material to be manufactured and companies like E3 Metals are developing extraction techniques to create a lithium industry here in Alberta. There are plenty of technicians, engineers, and fabricators in our energy community that are entirely capable of working on projects like this. 

Nuclear Power

While we are brainstorming ideas, let’s think big. If we are serious about providing clean, low carbon, environmentally friendly energy we have to look at nuclear. The folks at Terrestial Energy have designed a modular reactor that’s small, safe, and could absolutely be manufactured here in Alberta. I bet the mod yards would be jumping at the chance to have a backlog of work. 

 

I agree with you that we absolutely need to support our workforce. However, I don’t think keeping our oil industry limping along can be the full answer for our skilled and versatile workforce. Our talented population needs options.

 

Please stop looking in the rearview mirror and start building for the future.

 

Update – April 13th 2020: View Eavor Technologies CEO – John Redfern’s response here

This article was originally published on April 8, 2020.

Business

Federal government should tackle Canada’s productivity crisis in upcoming budget

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From the Fraser Institute

By Jock Finlayson

In late-2014, per-person gross domestic product (GDP), a common indicator of living standards, stood at $58,162 (adjusted for inflation). By the end of 2023 it was actually slightly lower. This means Canadian living standards haven’t increased in a decade.

In a recent speech, the Bank of Canada’s senior deputy governor highlighted the risk posed by chronically sluggish productivity growth to the country’s living standards. She also noted that stalled productivity makes it harder to reduce inflation and keep it at (or close to) the Bank’s 2 per cent target.

Productivity is conventionally defined as the value of economic output per hour of work. Over time, it’s the most important determinant of overall economic growth. In a mainly market-based economy such as Canada’s, particular attention should be paid to the productivity performance of the business sector.

Unfortunately, here the news isn’t good.

Business sector productivity has flatlined in Canada, with the level of output per hour worked essentially unchanged from seven years ago. This pattern of productivity stagnation, in turn, is the principal reason why the value of economic output per person has stalled in Canada. In late-2014, per-person gross domestic product (GDP), a common indicator of living standards, stood at $58,162 (adjusted for inflation). By the end of 2023 it was actually slightly lower. This means Canadian living standards haven’t increased in a decade. That’s not a picture any Canadian citizen or policymaker should be happy about.

For many people, GDP is an abstract concept that doesn’t easily map to their lived experience. But the level and rate of growth of GDP clearly matter to the wellbeing of citizens. Academic studies confirm that worker wages are based in part on the productivity level of their employers. Put simply, the most productive businesses generally pay higher wages, salaries and benefits.

Moreover, over time individual and household incomes can only grow if the economy itself generates more output per hour of work and per person. When per-person GDP increases by 2 per cent a year (after inflation), average income doubles within 35 years. With 1 per cent annual growth in per-person GDP, it takes 70 years. At 0.5 per cent growth in per-person GDP, 139 years must pass before the average income will double. In Canada, per-person GDP has been declining outright, an alarming and unusual trend.

Addressing Canada’s productivity crisis should be job one for the federal government’s 2024 budget, which the Trudeau government will table on April 16. In the early 1980s, Canada was roughly 88 per cent as productive as the United States, measured by the value of output per hour of work across the economy. By 2022, that figure had dropped to 71 per cent, and it’s continued to decline since then.

What can be done? So far, the Trudeau government has relied on population growth fuelled by high levels of immigration to drive economic growth. That strategy has manifestly failed, as the government itself recently (if sheepishly) acknowledged by dialing back the numbers of non-permanent immigrants who will be admitted to the country.

A smarter approach is to boost investment in the things that make businesses and workers more productive—machinery, equipment, digital tools and technologies, intellectual property, up-to-date transportation and communications infrastructure, and research and development focused on bringing innovative products and ideas to market, rather than keeping them in the lab or in academic institutions. Canada’s record is poor in most of these areas, as evidenced by the fact we trail far behind the U.S. and many European countries in the level of business investment per employee.

That will need to change if we hope to up our game on productivity and lay the foundations for a more prosperous Canada.

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Business

Decarbonization deal opens new chapter in Alberta-Japan relationship

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From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

Agreement represents a homecoming for JAPEX, which first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978

new agreement that will see Japan Petroleum Exploration Company (JAPEX) invest in decarbonization opportunities in Alberta made history while also being rooted in the past, in the eyes of Gary Mar. 

JAPEX is seeking to develop projects in carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and bioenergy. It’s part of the company’s JAPEX2050 strategy toward carbon neutrality. 

“This new endeavour is a great opportunity that demonstrates the world is changing but the relationships endure,” says Mar, the province’s former trade envoy to Asia and the current CEO of the Canada West Foundation 

“Alberta’s very first international office was opened in Tokyo in 1981. And we have built a tremendous soft infrastructure that includes partnerships between a dozen Alberta and Japanese universities.” 

For JAPEX, the agreement represents something of a homecoming for the company that first started work in the Alberta oil sands in 1978 and operated one of the first in situ (or drilled) oil projects for nearly two decades before selling its stake in 2018. 

We are now aiming to come back to Alberta and contribute to its decarbonization,” JAPEX president of overseas business Tomomi Yamada said in a statement.  

Mar says the memorandum of understanding signed this March between JAPEX and the crown corporation Invest Alberta stems from a strong relationship built over decades.  

“You cant be considered a reliable partner for a new venture if you havent been a reliable partner for decades in the past,” says Mar.  

Economies change and worlds needs change but strong relationships are important factor in whom you do business with.” 

Alberta’s established CCS infrastructure has already attracted new investment, including Air Products’ $1.6-billion net zero hydrogen complex and Dow Chemicals’ $8.8-billion net zero petrochemical complex 

Mar sees JAPEX’s deal with Invest Alberta opening a whole new market of potential carbon neutral investors in the Pacific Rim. 

“When other countries who are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) see JAPEX invest in this decarbonization opportunities and net zero projects in Alberta, it will send a very clear signal to others in the TPP about the potential,” Mar says.  

“This deal may come from the decades-long relationship between Alberta and Japan but can also serve as a signpost for decades to come.” 

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