Barack Obama and his people are getting well acquainted with the Canadian prairies these days. Premiers Alison Redford of Alberta, Brad Wall of Saskatchewan and Greg Selinger of Manitoba have all visited DC, and it wasn’t to watch the Capitals play.
Selinger was trying to promote the sale of Hydro power, while his two colleagues to the west are anxious to get the wheels turning on the XL pipeline. That’s the one that will carry bitumen from the Tar Sands to refineries on the Gulf coast. It is hugely important for Canada and Alberta’s economic future, but the case for the pipeline seems to be getting weaker, not stronger.
David Hughes is one of Canada’s top energy analysts. He has just turned out a report that seriously questions the now popular notion that the United States could become energy independent in a decade or less. Supporters of that notion, including President Obama, seem convinced that unconventional sources of oil and gas, like shale and tar sands, and the Bakken play which is shared by Saskatchewan and North Dakota, can successfully replace conventional supplies and there won’t be a crisis.
Hughes argues that these sources all require costly and controversial technology like fracking, and the economic returns will never be what they were in the good old days. He goes on to say that America’s best hope for energy self-sufficiency probably lies in a combination of measures, with strong emphasis on conservation.
It make things very difficult when it comes to planning the economic future on the Canadian prairies. Oil prices have softened creating huge budget headaches for both Mr. Wall and Ms. Redford. And for Greg Selinger, the future for sales of Hydro across the border is equally uncertain.
Ah, the wonderful month of March, and the dismal science of economics.
I’m Roger Currie