Even if Trudeau won’t take his head out of the oilsands, the fact remains, rapid oilsands growth is unsupportable.
No 2423 Posted by fw, January 26, 2019
“Effectively, there are two serious economic issues Canadians need to be aware of as the NEB’s Reconsideration Review draws to a close. The first is that Trudeau’s oilsands rapid supply growth outlook is not attainable without serious, and ongoing, taxpayer funded subsidies to motivate oil producers to invest in major projects. … The second issue is that the industry outlook scenario—the scenario that is likely unless Trudeau heavily subsidizes oilsands growth—means there are no economic benefits from Trans Mountain’s expansion, only significant economic costs and unused pipeline infrastructure. This is because Enbridge Line 3 and other capacity enhancements Enbridge has recently announced are more than sufficient to meet export demand well beyond the time required for a safe transition to a carbon contained economy. … It is madness pretending that Trans Mountain’s expansion is financially or economically viable. A return to sanity begins with getting realistic about the supply of heavy oil in a world that knows — even if Trudeau won’t take his head out of the oilsands — that neither the economic system nor the ecosystem can, or will, support rapid oilsands growth.” —Robyn Allan, National Observer
Robyn Allan is an economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. In her article she reveals the gaping holes in Trudeau’s oilsands supply outlook, which reflects a future that doesn’t exist.
Below is my abridged and slightly edited repost of Robyn Allan’s article, featuring my added subheadings and text highlighting. Alternatively, read her complete piece on National Observer’s website by clicking on the following linked title.
Trudeau uses outdated outlook oil supply figures to re-approve Trans Mountain’s expansion
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is relying on an aggressive and outdated Western Canadian crude oil supply outlook to re-approve Trans Mountain’s expansion. Trudeau’s outlook seriously contradicts the supply forecast oilsands producers support as commercially viable.
He’s clinging to figures prepared by the Harper regime in early 2015
The outlook Trudeau is clinging to was prepared in early 2015 when Stephen Harper was still prime minister. It predicts that by 2035 there will be an increase in oilsands supply of more than two million barrels a day from its current level of three million barrels a day, taking total oilsands supply to five million barrels a day.
Trudeau projects 70% oilsands increase in a future that no longer exists
Trudeau expects an increase in oilsands supply of almost 70 per cent in little more than 15 years. This is a future that no longer exists.
He willfully ignores that major multinationals have sold off their oilsands holdings
Ottawa seems not to have noticed that major multinationals have pulled out of the oilsands selling to mainly Canadian-based producers whose debt loads are too high to satisfy investors that it’s financially prudent for them to expand. Overpaying for reserves that are threatened to become stranded assets makes sophisticated investors skittish.
By 2022 when Trans Mountain is operational, oilsands supply will have begun to decline
So, what’s left? Oilsands producers may say a lot of things about their future expansion plans, but what matters is a final investment decision. What they are saying through those decisions is that only about 250,000 barrels a day of additional supply will become available in the foreseeable future. By 2022—which is the earliest date Trans Mountain could become operational—supply is expected to begin a gradual decline as oilsands extraction projects become depleted.
Political spin will not drive market outlook
This market driven outlook is based on operating, under construction and new projects green-lit by corporate boards, not political spin.
Climate change will also impact oil industry’s outlook
Industry’s outlook is also consistent with a view of the future scientists say is necessary if the rate of increase in the planet’s temperature is to be contained.
The graph below illustrates the difference in the two oil supply outlooks. The blue line reflects Trudeau’s politically-motivated scenario as compared with the red line which reflects investment decisions of industry. The gap between the two lines is the oilsands supply that requires billions in new investment that market conditions and global warming realities tell us will not occur without significant direct and indirect taxpayer funded subsidies.
Given Trudeau’s rhetoric on the need for meaningful action against climate change, you would think he would leap at the chance to embrace an environmentally responsible forecast consistent with an industry-driven supply outlook as reflected in the red line on the graph. He hasn’t.
Ottawa confirmed last month that the blue line is Trudeau’s supply outlook in response to a request I made to the Prime Minister’s Office. Natural Resources Canada spokesperson Vanessa Adams explained in an email December 14, 2018: “As part of the initial review of the TMX project submitted documents to the National Energy Board showed that Western Canadian heavy crude oil is anticipated to grow in the coming years.”
Outdated picture of oilsands future
The supply outlook Ottawa submitted to the NEB is an outdated 2015 one, not the updated 2018 forecast
There is only one supply outlook document that was submitted to the NEB and that is the one prepared by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) in early 2015. Almost half the major companies surveyed by CAPP for that outlook are no longer around.
But the NEB, in its Reconsideration Review, will only use Trans Mountain economic benefit figures, not CAPP’s
The NEB doesn’t care that CAPP’s rosy picture of future supply is questionable or that it is seriously outdated. During its Reconsideration Review the NEB ruled it will only consider economic benefit documents submitted by Trans Mountain during its earlier review.
But Trans Mountain’s earlier review was seriously flawed, arriving at exaggerated benefits
And the NEB won’t check the validity of the Trans Mountain inflated figures
Everyone knows that when supply increases, prices fall. It’s not just economic theory that tells us this, but market reality. But, as I learned as an Intervenor during the initial Trans Mountain review, the NEB has no intention of testing whether the methodology underlying the benefit figures make sense, so Trans Mountain can easily get away with a contrived and industry biased assessment.
So, the NEB will use rigged benefits to recommend to Cabinet the Trans Mountain project proceed
The NEB is relying on a supply outlook based on oil producers’ intentions in early 2015 and will use this scenario and the discredited benefits that come with it, to recommend to Cabinet—in 2019—whether the project’s benefits outweigh the environmental burdens from the expansion. Rigging the weighting of benefits to burdens in this manner will make it easy for the Board to assert economic benefits outweigh environmental burdens and thus recommend the project proceed.
And Trudeau will continue to rely on inflated supply data to re-approve Trans Mountain’s expansion
In turn, as Ottawa has confirmed, Trudeau and his cabinet will continue to rely on this delusional supply scenario when it re-approves Trans Mountain’s expansion.
Two serious economic issues Canadians should pay attention to —
Effectively, there are two serious economic issues Canadians need to be aware of as the NEB’s Reconsideration Review draws to a close.
First, to achieve oilsands supply growth goals, huge taxpayer funded subsidies will be required
The first is that Trudeau’s oilsands rapid supply growth outlook is not attainable without serious, and ongoing, taxpayer funded subsidies to motivate oil producers to invest in major projects.
Overpaying for Trans Mountain, covering the costs of the Oceans Protection Plan when oil producers said in 2012 they would pay, subsidizing toll rates, and forcing taxpayers to pick up a hefty part of the expansion’s capital costs isn’t going to be enough. Oilsands producers are going to have to receive huge giveaways in order to underwrite expanded oilsands supply.
Canada will be unable to meet its Paris commitments
Trudeau’s supply scenario also means Canada will be unable to meet commitments made in Paris in 2015, bringing into play another layer of huge public expense as the economic fallout from not addressing climate change continues to mount.
Second, there will be no economic benefits from Trans Mountain’s expansion, only significant economic costs and unused pipeline infrastructure
The second issue is that the industry outlook scenario—the scenario that is likely unless Trudeau heavily subsidizes oilsands growth—means there are no economic benefits from Trans Mountain’s expansion, only significant economic costs and unused pipeline infrastructure. This is because Enbridge Line 3 and other capacity enhancements Enbridge has recently announced are more than sufficient to meet export demand well beyond the time required for a safe transition to a carbon contained economy.
In late December, Enbridge explained to its investors that by the second half of 2019, “Line 3 will then add 370,000 barrels per day, but the additional Mainline optimizations that are there total about 450,000 a day.” Enbridge is able to bring on more than 800,000 barrels a day of capacity before Trans Mountain could ever be built, while the industry is only planning to produce an additional 250,000 barrels a day.
Serious excess capacity is on the horizon, particularly since Keystone XL is now underway and will add another 830,000 barrels a day of pipeline space before Trans Mountain’s expansion is expected to come on line. Last week, the NEB approved TransCanada’s pre-construction work for the North Spread winter clearing activities along the Canadian portion of the route. Keystone XL still faces hurdles, but none that will be nearly as difficult to clear as Trans Mountain’s.
It is madness pretending that Trans Mountain’s expansion is financially or economically viable. A return to sanity begins with getting realistic about the supply of heavy oil in a world that knows — even if Trudeau won’t take his head out of the oilsands — that neither the economic system nor the ecosystem can, or will, support rapid oilsands growth.
ALSO BY ROBYN ALLAN
Kinder Morgan expected Trudeau to break his promise to redo NEB’s review of pipeline project : Trudeau lies to voters; Kinder Morgan lies to the NEB and Canadians. Will BC’s NDP government protect the integrity of our democracy? Posted August 22, 1017
Liberals fail to demonstrate commitment to First Nations and climate change concerns : Trudeau says one thing and then does another and Canadians are not being fooled. Posted October 5, 2016
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