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Vol. 11, No. 14 Week of April 02, 2006
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Canadians have it too easy

Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel issues blunt call for long-term energy plan

Gary Park

For Petroleum News

Canadians have been dealt a good energy hand, but they’re doing a poor job of playing it, by failing to take advantage of a privileged position to develop a long-term energy plan that shifts consumption from hydrocarbons to renewable fuels, says Enbridge Chief Executive Officer Patrick Daniel.

“We tend not to be great visionaries in Canada,” he said before a speech in Toronto.

“Life has been a little too easy for us … we have not had to set great strategy directions in order to be successful.”

The challenge is to map a long-range course so that Canada can compete with countries, such as the United States, whose policies involve more central planning, Daniel said.

“It is hard for us to compete with such countries because they often have a roadmap for development and we just seem to end up wherever we end up and hope that’s where we wanted to be in the first place,” he said.

The consequences of doing nothing could be severe.

“If we don’t (tackle a plan whose goal is to seriously develop renewable energy), I’m afraid future winters are going to be long, cold and expensive for all of us.

“In the past we’ve ducked a few energy shortfall scares. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky in the future unless we act now.”

Current proposed projects need to be built

Daniel urged the Canadian government to lead the way, but said the pressure is on everyone to help develop a broad, two-pronged vision.

He said the first need is to get current proposed projects built to solve the urgent supply solutions that are needed in North America, ranging from liquefied natural gas projects to wind farms.

Although companies should not get carte blanche to go ahead with all projects, the “net effect is giving every stakeholder a veto means that we are going to undermine the public good and the public necessity,” Daniel warned.

“It’s almost impossible in our business now to propose any kind of project without strong public opposition from one group or another,” he said. “It really doesn’t work if we … object to all projects and then turn around and wonder why prices are up.

“In Canada we try to make everybody happy. We can’t do that. We have to look at the broad public good.”

He said the public opposition has posed a problem for the energy industry over many years and is getting worse, such as the “relatively small number of people” who are standing in the way of the Alaska and Mackenzie gas projects.

Daniel’s second prong requires an easing up on energy consumption while plans are developed to encourage the development of wind power and stationary fuel cells.

“Laying out where we think we want to be … 5 years, 10 years, 25 years down the road is very important,” he said.

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First Nations threaten Gateway pipeline

Patrick Daniel knows all too well the NIMBY, not in my backyard, syndrome that stands between so many energy projects and would-be consumers.

But he insisted his criticism of the widespread opposition that undermines the “public good and the public necessity” was not a direct attack on aboriginal groups who are threatening legal action to block Enbridge’s plans to build an oil sands pipeline from Alberta to the deepwater port of Kitimat on the British Columbia coast.

First Nations are raising concerns about the federal review of the C$4 billion Gateway pipeline, arguing they have not been properly consulted.

The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, representing seven First Nations whose land covers about one-third of the pipeline right of way across British Columbia, said it “may be required to bring legal action in federal court.”

Greg McDade, a Vancouver attorney representing the Carrier Sekani, said the National Energy Board is not in tune with the “new world of aboriginal empowerment.”

In several letters to the board and the Ministry of the Environment, lawyers said the tribal council had been ignored in its requests to be consulted in the preliminary stages of the project’s environmental assessment.

The board has recommended to federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose that the 700-mile pipeline and marine terminal should be referred to a joint panel review of the board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The Carrier Sekani wants First Nations representatives to sit on the panel and help shape the review process.

The board replied that it has yet to receive a formal application for the project and that the preliminary information it has received was intended only to help the federal agencies decide the most appropriate process.

Daniel said Enbridge is making every effort possible to work with all communities along the pipeline route “to ensure that we make them fully aware of what our plans are” as well as outlining the employment opportunities the project will offer.

—Gary Park