Oil sands to be economic driver for Canada

Nov. 16, 2012 at 12:27 PM
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EDMONTON, Alberta, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Canada's oil sands will drive the country's economic engine for the next 25 to 30 years, a new report says.

The report, "Gaining Ground in the Sands 2013" by Deloitte Canada said the country's oil sands reserves are crucial to the country's prosperity and the sector needs more pipelines, more collaboration and dialogue that does not fuel "a climate of antagonism."

Canada's oil sands, the second largest reserve of oil after Saudi Arabia, are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen that is extracted mostly via open-pit mining.

Critics say the production of oil from oil sands -- also called tar sands -- creates more greenhouse gas emissions and is more toxic to the environment than conventional crude oil.

"Proponents of development argue in favor of the economic benefits while opponents argue those benefits aren't worth the environmental risk," said the Deloitte report. "From our perspective, growth of oil sands is key to continued growth in Canadian prosperity."

Marc Joiner, a partner at Deloitte in Toronto, told the Edmonton Journal that many people who are against oil sands development are forming their opinions based on second-hand knowledge that isn't accurate.

"We have to find a way to engage the dissidents, because with facts, opinions can be changed or at least moderated," Joiner said.

Furthermore, the public doesn't understand that that environmental impacts are not being ignored by industry, he said.

Noting that oil sands will be the economic engine for Canada for the next 25 to 30 years, Joiner likened the controversy over their development to the dissent in the 1880s over the money to be spent in building the national railway.

While most of Canada's oil sands are located in northern Alberta, the report says benefits to the Canadian economy from planned expansion over the next couple of decades include: $2.1 trillion in economic activity, approximately 905,000 new jobs by 2035 and about $5 billion annually in supplies and services spent outside of Alberta, mostly in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

"Canadians must understand that the oil sands are an indispensable economic asset that should be bringing the country together, not driving it apart," Geoff Hill, who heads Deloitte's national oil and gas practice, said in a statement.

"And more than anything, that's going to take a bit of compromise among the provinces as well as other competing interests to ensure we all reap the rewards."

The United States government's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline as well as struggles in gaining approvals for the Northern Gateway pipeline underscore the need for Canada's provinces and the oil sands sector to pursue a more integrated approach to energy policy in Canada, the report says.

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