Although oil sand development is not yet underway in Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has recently been posturing as though it is simply a matter of time.
When Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, came to Canada earlier this year to discuss Canada’s energy industry and to discuss the planned joint expansion of Canada and the United States’ resource partnership, Pelosi warned the premier and the media of the growing environmental concern that an oil sands industry in Saskatchewan could have on their partnership.
Pelosi’s constituency in California is showing growing concern for the dirty oil provided from the Alberta tar sands.
Wall has publicly responded with rhetoric clearly aimed at the U.S. by stating, “I think the other message here, too — to America or anyone else — is we prize this relationship with America. But unlike any time in our history, the West, especially, has other options.” Wall later added, “There’s export markets for our oil other than America.”
Add Wall’s recent statements to the fact that exploration for oil sands in Saskatchewan has been underway for years, and it becomes clear that oil sand development is on the horizon.
Saskatchewan is documented to have about three billion barrels of oil-in-place running from the Alberta Cold Lake region. With the current market price of oil hovering around $80 a barrel, Saskatchewan could add billions of dollars to its budget each year from the royalty revenues that would be gained once production begins. With prices set to increase (as they always seem to do in the oil market), potential revenues will only rise.
The motivations driving Wall and the Saskatchewan government’s plan to develop the oil sands are clear: large royalties and an economic boost for the people of Saskatchewan.
Of course the reality is not as rosy, or as simple, as it seems. Environmental groups aggressively oppose any oil sand development in Saskatchewan and point to Alberta as an example of what such development could lead to: pollutant-laden tailings ponds that can be seen from space, boreal forests that have been clear-cut beyond recognition or repair, fish and wildlife born with gross deformities, fresh water being aggressively consumed, tremendous greenhouse gas emissions and Aboriginal communities with high rates of cancer and illness. And the list goes on.
The growing dissent towards the oil sands industry is not limited to environmental groups, nor should it be viewed as a “special interest” concern in the slightest. There is a growing concern at home — right here, in Saskatchewan — that the money gained from oil sands production would not be worth the negative impacts to the land and people of the province.
Unfortunately, Wall and the provincial government are poised to approve development of the oil sands industry in Saskatchewan.
I suppose you’d better get on board, if you aren’t already.