Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

S Dakota: "Some Canadians protest oil pipeline"

Some Canadians protest oil pipeline
They don't want to give up refinery jobs
By Peter Harriman
August 11, 2007

In South Dakota, Trans-Canada's Keystone pipeline project is drawing attention for its potential effect on landowners.

But in Alberta, Canada, where the pipeline will draw its proposed 500,000 barrels per day from northern oil sands, people see South Dakota and other states benefitting from their country's labor drain.

As pipes head south into the U.S., so do potential high paying refinery jobs, some say.

"All the efforts are invested in extraction. There is very little in value-added processing," said Steven Shrybman, lawyer for the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers union. "When construction is over, the party ends abruptly."

Keystone is a component of a red hot energy boom that has so dominated the province, it is causing some in Alberta to take a hard look at the future.

Alberta is attracting concern from environmental groups for its degrading effect on northern Alberta's water and air. And it is drawing criticism from labor organizations and researchers who say the development of energy resources is short-sighted and cannot be sustained, and potential high paying refinery jobs are heading to the U.S.

David Sands, spokesman for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said Stelmach is committed to building refining capacity and other processes in the province. Alberta is pursuing nine such projects, Sands said.

At the same time, "The marketplace is ultimately going to determine what gets exported and what gets kept here."

That's exactly the problem, according to Shrybman. Canada needs a plan, he said.

"It doesn't have a plan, since it has abandoned all of this to the market," he said.

"We work in this industry," Shrybman said of his union. "We're in favor of the oil sands development. We're in favor of serving U.S. markets. But it has to happen in a way that promotes economic development in Canada that is sustainable and that doesn't put at risk Canadian energy security. And all this has to happen in respect to Canada's obligations to Kyoto," the international treaty seeking to slow global warming.

"The realities of climate change are realities. Someone needs to be thinking about how (the Alberta oil industry) fits into that problem before pulling out the rubber stamp and saying yes to everything," Shrybman said.

18,000 jobs lost
Diana Gibson, research director of the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute, in an op-ed piece this year claimed Keystone would result in 18,000 potential jobs in Canada being lost to the U.S.

However, in an economy where production of bitumen - the thick, product from which the crude oil is extracted - is up nearly 20 percent from 2005, where Alberta's gross domestic product is projected to grow between 3 and 5 percent annually through 2016, and where unemployment hovers at 3 percent, the rubber stamp is as smoking hot as everything else.

In a province enjoying nearly full employment, the argument about job loss "is not getting a lot of traction with the people of Canada, Alberta and the government," said Robert Jones, TransCanada vice president in charge of the Keystone project.

"There's no doubt the union that represents refinery workers would like to see more refineries in Alberta and Canada, and so they should. That's what the union mandate is," Jones said. But the real problem is "there is no way to get this product to market," he said. That is why the Canadian National Energy Board is moving quickly to approve Keystone and other pipelines that would move unrefined bitumen to U.S. refineries.

Who benefits?

Shrybman counters that the National Energy Board is refusing to look at massive environmental damage resulting from bitumen mining, and it is not calculating whether pipelines such as Keystone that terminate in the U.S. are really in the Canadian public's interest.

Echoing that, the Parkland Institute's Gibson in a June study said not enough of Alberta's oil revenue is going to the middle class, and a disproportionate share is being captured by oil industry corporations and the heads of those companies.

"The strong GDP growth Alberta has been experiencing is trickling up, not down," she wrote. "Only Alberta's richest 10 percent of families saw their incomes rise significantly."

Most of those corporations, she also points out, are foreign-owned. That does not apply to TransCanada.

Pay no attention to where corporations are headquartered, said Sands, the premier's spokesman.

"The reality is, in the corporate world today, companies don't have borders," he said. "It has not been an issue for us. The overriding rule is not where you are based, your home country, but that when you are a player in the Oil Patch in Alberta, you play by our rules."

It sounds good. But even such a beneficiary of Alberta's energy policy as Keystone's Jones treads carefully, mindful of provincial history, with oil production dating to World War II.

"We don't like to use the word 'boom,' " he said. "I've lived here long enough to have been through this before. When you say that word, there's usually a crash after."

Oilsandstruth.org is not associated with any other web site or organization. Please contact us regarding the use of any materials on this site.

Tar Sands Photo Albums by Project

Discussion Points on a Moratorium

User login


Syndicate content