A train loaded with oil sits idle on tracks in Everett, Wash., on Sept. 2, 2014. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province plans to buy up to 7,000 rail cars to move Alberta oil.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Elaine Thompson

By GRAHAM HICKS

Welcome to Groundhog Day, 2019.

Remember the movie, where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day, over and over and over?

Getting oil out of Alberta is our Groundhog Day.

Since Hicks on Biz debuted in 2011, at least 20 columns have been about oil pipeline bottlenecks.

In 2011, there were warning signs, but nothing was done. By 2019, we’re in an oil-transportation crisis that’s grinding away at Alberta’s living standards. 

Edmonton housing prices have fallen for the third year running. New vehicle sales are declining. Need anybody wonder why? It’s the same-old, same-old, year-after-year.

No new pipelines get built! NOTHING happens!

Pipeline announced, pipeline approved, pipeline approval overturned, pipeline project abandoned: How do we get out of this vicious cycle?

Two fundamentals need no longer be debated.

“Clean” oil (i.e. the Canadian stuff, extracted and processed to strict environment standards) and natural gas are allies, not enemies, of fighting climate change. Global warming will not reverse until the world’s 1,600 coal-fired electricity plants convert to far-cleaner natural gas.

Global demand for oil and gas will not stop. Oil consumption hit 100 million barrels per day (MMBD) in 2018. World demand is expected to run up to 111 MMBD by 2040, even as renewable energy grows.

How to move on from Alberta’s Groundhog Day:

REGULATORY

  1. Persuade/force the federal Liberals to ditch energy regulatory Bill C-69, so complex and environmentally/socially onerous as to further kick the industry when it’s down.
  2. Persuade the feds to repeal Bill 48, banning mega-oil tankers from any west coast port.
  3. If persuasion doesn’t work — vote out the Trudeau Liberals. If that doesn’t work, put Alberta’s secession from Canada back on the table.

POLITICAL

  1. Give B.C. incentives to support an oil pipeline to Prince Rupert — a refinery along the B.C. portion of that pipeline. And/or some bribery to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built.
  2. Embrace those 200 First Nations bands in B.C. who are pro-pipeline. Back the Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings proposal for a First-Nations-owned pipeline corridor from Alberta to Prince Rupert.
  3. Resurrect the Energy East pipeline to New Brunswick’s oil ports. Do whatever it takes to get that pipeline across Quebec, by carrot or stick. If need be, turn off the taps. Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark, as we used to say.
  4. Bring leadership back to the oil patch. Former Syncrude CEO Eric Newell branded Syncrude as caring and sharing, open to First Nations’ involvement, bison grazing on former surface mines. Newell was instrumental in creating the royalty regime that kick-started the oilsands. But that was 16 years ago. No similar leader has since emerged from the oil sands.

PHYSICAL

  1. Explore oil pipeline routes once considered crazy: A pipeline northwest from Fort McMurray to cross into oil-friendly Alaska, plug into the Alaska pipeline and on to the oil port of Valdez, Alaska:  A pipeline to the northern port of Churchill, Manitoba — if oil tankers can use it in winter.
  2. Explore — as the NDP government says it is doing — more bitumen upgrading in Alberta to send a higher-value product — ‘synthetic’ upgraded oil, diesel, gasoline — down existing pipelines to American markets. Can Suncor’s mothballed Voyageur upgrader be resurrected? Phase II for the new Sturgeon Refinery?
  3. More shipping of oil by rail: An option now being implemented, but A) it’s far more expensive than pipelines and B) if owned by the government, as Premier Notley proposes, will be poorly run and C) will be a white elephant if and when export pipeline capacity catches up to production.
  4. Technological innovation: For instance, CN Rail likes its “pux” solution, processing raw bitumen into solid “pucks” for rail transport, enough to sink $50 million into a pilot plant.

Without forceful leadership, Groundhog Day Alberta-style  is just going to go on, year after year.

Are we going to let that happen?