When the shovels hit the ground, my belief is there’s going to be an uprising in Burnaby
- by Jonny Wakefield | May 22, 2017
Expect an “uprising” in B.C.’s Lower Mainland over Trans Mountain to further complicate Justin Trudeau’s pipeline policy, an energy industry leader told an Edmonton oil-and-gas conference Friday.
“When the shovels hit the ground, my belief is there’s going to be an uprising in Burnaby, etcetera, and it’s going to be ugly,” said Bruce Robertson, an oil-and-gas industry veteran and chairman of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada. “And Trudeau et al. have got to make a decision (on) whether and how he flexes his muscle to get this thing approved.”
Pipeline politics, looming NAFTA renegotiations and Canada’s place in an increasingly uncertain energy world were among the topics discussed at Energy Visions, an annual conference organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) aimed at parsing trends in global energy markets.
Those markets are increasingly chaotic. After years of relatively stable energy geopolitics “now it feels hard to plan for the next two to three years with any certainty,” said PwC panel moderator Reynold Tetzlaff.
The fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would more than double capacity on an existing Edmonton to Burnaby route, is an open question after a B.C. election that has the pro-pipeline Liberals courting the upstart Greens in a bid to cling to power.
Robert Johnston, CEO of the Eurasia Group, said two of the proposed pipelines — including Trans Mountain, Energy East and Keystone XL — would satisfy demand for capacity.
He said that Trudeau jeopardized his party’s seats in B.C.’s Lower Mainland by approving TransMountain, making U.S. President Donald Trump’s Keystone approval an unlikely godsend for the Liberals.
“Trump moving forward with Keystone actually helps Trudeau avoid a very politically problematic move on Energy East in Quebec that could really split the Liberal party.”
If neither Keystone or TransMountain are built, Trudeau’s move to reform the National Energy Board is a “hedge” to shore up confidence in the regulatory process for Energy East.
“Trudeau feels like you’re going to need a very robust and transparent process, and probably a long one, if you ever want to get Energy East built,” he said.
If it ain’t broke…
The Trump administration’s move this week to trigger NAFTA negotiations could mean changes in how oil and gas flows across North America.
Or it could mean nothing.
Sarah Ladislaw, who specializes in energy and national security at the Center for Strategic & International Studies based in Washington, D.C., said the industry will be careful not to overplay its hand as negotiators open up the 1994 trade deal.
“I haven’t seen enough evidence that there’s going to be a lot of innovation on the energy portions of NAFTA,” she said. “I think that the strategy is not to do any harm.”
The industry might pursue an integrated model like the European Union, Johnston said, where “barrels and molecules can flow from Spain to Germany without too much restriction.”
“I think that could be an interesting discussion as we update NAFTA,” he said.
But Ladislaw said energy could be used as “trade bait” if negotiations start to go south in higher priority areas like agriculture.
“We want to leave (energy) out of other parts of the trade agreements that may be more problematic,” she said. “I think there’s still a reluctance to open up NAFTA too widely, because the question is can you put it back together again.”
Article written by originally posted in the Edmonton Sun on May 19, 2017