By MARSHALL KERN
The decision to do something – anything – about the Keystone XL pipeline is delayed. What is “Plan B”? It will probably be some alternate way to move bitumen from Alberta to someplace it can be upgraded. While there are stories of empty upgrader capacity in other parts of the US and calls to build an upgrader in Alberta, why can’t the bitumen be brought to Lambton County?
The focus on converting bitumen and heavy crude to high-value products should not be simply North and South, or simply Alberta to Texas. We need to turn the focus to West and East, from the Alberta heartland to the birthplace of oil exploration and refining. This gets the decision-making away from the backdrop of partisan American politics.
This isn’t just an emotional rant about what we once had, nor a political challenge to bring development opportunities here. Let’s look at the reality that we have the talent pool to make a legitimate case based on facts and history of performance, not just promises of doing well in the future. That appears to be the message that Warden Arnold and a delegation delivered in Alberta last spring.
No doubt the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership is busy with this. It can be hoped that industry leaders are also putting forward their “Plan B” positions to distant decision-makers.
What would the supply of bitumen and heavy crude from Alberta mean to Lambton County? For one thing, secure employment for many. There would be construction work, and demand for process operator graduates from Lambton College. The spin-offs would be beneficial too. Yes, there should be attention to environmental issues. And we have more history of monitoring and getting environmental performance right than pretty much any other community, so we should be able to get this right as well.
The first challenge is to make sure we are considered as “Plan B”.