Last Wednesday Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP ventured into the heart of oil sands country – Fort McMurray.
There he met with some oil companies, the local municipality and first nations in the area to find out what their positions were and let them know what his concerns were.
Cullen said he had talked to them about the need to upgrade the bitumen to “stop this madness of sending things out raw.”
That sentiment was echoed by the municipality and even some of the oil companies, he added.
“Things are going guns ablazing here, there is more work than they possibly know what to do with,” Cullen said.
But while people were buoyant about the local economy, they were also asking when did it become too much.
Cullen said he didn’t get the feeling from the community or some oil companies that there was a burning desire to open up even more lands.
“It’s more than enough as it’s shaping up right now.”
Cullen was asked by the Northern Sentinel if he had got any explanation as to why new upgraders or even a refinery were not being built in Alberta.
He said one factor is that if there is any refining capacity available elsewhere around the globe, the multi-national companies involved in the oil sands want to ship the crude there.
And “if there’s an upgrader somewhere else they can use, they’ll do it.”
In the same vein, if they can build an upgrader cheaper somewhere else, that is also what they will do.
Cullen said the main barrier was expense, pointing out that building an upgrader would cost in the area of $3-4 billion.
“Can they make money at it? Absolutely. But can Shell or Exxon make more money out of sending it out raw? Probably.”
At the other end of the supply chain China’s primary interest was in energy and they wanted it in its rawest form.
That, he said, was because China would rather add value (upgrading or refining) in its own country because the cost was lower.
Cullen said the whole issue of crude exports begged the question, just what or who is the Conservative federal government standing up for?
Answering his own question, he said “This government has never met an oil company they didn’t think was perfect or brilliant in every kind of way.”