By Brad Tennant
Canadians are now coming to grips with the sad reality that Trans Canada’s Energy East pipeline project – once hailed as a generational undertaking with great nation-building potential – is not going to be built.
Once the political dust settles on Trans Canada’s decision to cancel the project due to the lack of certainty in what seemed to be an ever-changing, non-stop regulatory process and un-ending delays, Energy East will be remembered as an extraordinary opportunity squandered.
It wasn’t just a pipeline to carry oil. It was a chance for Canada to rise above our regional and political differences and leave a legacy of prosperity and co-operation for future generations.
Here are six thoughts on what could have been with Energy East:
1. A proclamation of national unity. When Energy East was formally announced in August of 2013, it quickly earned the support of premiers and politicians of all stripes from coast to coast. It appeared as though Canada had found another national railroad type of project.
2. An invitation to invest. Energy East was a shovel-ready $15.7 billion-project that would have been 100% privately financed. It had already been subject to one of the most rigorous environmental assessments in the world and would have sent a message Canada was a wise investment opportunity.
3. A victory for Canadian energy. We live in a world that needs more Canada, and that includes Canadian energy. A recent poll done for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers found the world sees Canadian oil and natural gas as part of the energy future and Canada was the preferred source of energy internationally. With the Northern Gateway pipeline and major LNG projects officially cancelled and only one major pipeline approved (Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain), Canadian energy infrastructure is at an impasse. Energy East could have helped Canada turn that corner. Now it’s just another name on the list of projects that won’t get done.
4. A statement supporting made in Canada energy solutions. Approving Energy East would have sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the world that Canada is no longer content to support oppressive regimes by importing their oil. Energy East could have supplied the nation with clean, ethical, made-in-Canada oil and displaced oil from foreign countries. This in turn could have kept millions of dollars in our economy that is spent every day on foreign oil.
5. A win for the environment. It’s not as though Canada or the rest of the world will consume less energy now that Energy East won’t proceed. Demand for oil will remain on the same upward trajectory regardless of how many pipelines are built. It’s just that product will have to move via far more emissions-intensive methods like road, rail, and sea instead of pipeline. Energy East would have been an emissions-friendly alternative.
6. A huge economic windfall. Energy East would have created 14,000 jobs a year during construction and development from coast-to-coast. It would have sustained 900 full-time jobs during its first 20 years of operation, not counting the thousands of indirect jobs created along the route. The taxes and royalties generated from Energy East would have pumped $10 billion into federal and provincial coffers and added $55 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product. All at zero cost to the taxpayer.
At Canada’s Energy Citizens, we will keep telling the positive story about Canadian energy – no matter what. When you believe in something, you fight for it, and now is not the time to stop.
If anything, now is the time for Canada’s Energy Citizens to redouble our efforts to make sure an opportunity like Energy East is never squandered again.