Stephen Wuori, Enbridge’s president for Liquids Pipelines, last week issued a call to fight back against the “rumour, misinformation and myth” being circulated by opponents of the energy industry.
Wuori was speaking at last Wednesday’s Calgary Economic Development luncheon.
He began by giving some background on the company including that it operated the longest and most complex crude oil pipeline system in the world, had extensive natural gas operations and interests in about 850 megawatts of renewable energy in both Canada and the United States.
“We strive to operate as efficiently, reliably and safely as possible and, in fact, have spent about $2.3 billion on system integrity across our enterprise since 2002 to meet this goal,” he said.
That said, the company had gone through “a very humbling experience” last year when a pipeline break in Michigan resulted in “the most significant environmental incident in our company’s history.”
However, Wuori said it was applying all it had learned from that spill “and have emerged a stronger company as a result.”
He then moved on to the Northern Gateway project “and the compelling argument for this important initiative.”
Wuori pointed out Canada’s crude exports were worth about $50 billion a year and 99 per cent of them went to the US.
While the US was a “great customer” of Canada’s, he warned there were threats to Canada’s share of the US market. They were:
• flat to dropping US demand;
• rising US domestic production which under law cannot be exported;
• the US ethanol mandate and other biofuels, which replace crude oil at a rate of 2 barrels for 1;
• no further US refinery conversions announced to run Canadian heavy crude;
• the possible conversion of the US heavy truck fleet to natural gas (NGV); and
• growing opposition to “tar sands” crude in the US.
“Those are significant factors and they don’t work in Canada’s favour,” he added.
Therefore, “We need to diversify our petroleum markets. Northern Gateway will do just that, connecting this country’s world-class, ethically developed crude oil reserves to the growing markets on the Pacific Rim which are clamouring for energy.”
Wuori conceded the proposed $5.5 billion project was controversial. “We have a great deal of work to do to get the facts about Northern Gateway out to stakeholders, decision-makers, media and the general public,” he said.
However, “There is no doubt that before it is approved, Northern Gateway will face the most rigourous and world-class regulatory review to determine that it can be built and operated safely and is in Canada’s best interest.”
Equally, there was no doubt that Northern Gateway, by diversifying the market, will be a game changer for Canada by making it a price maker rather than “a land-locked, single-customer price-taker.”
While most at the luncheon had probably heard of Northern Gateway, Wuori added, “Unfortunately, because of how public discussion often works today, I’m willing to bet that what you heard was alarmist, inaccurate and didn’t tell the whole story.”
Therefore he called on those present to action.
“When we read a newspaper story that gives credence and airtime to unfounded anti-business, anti-development rhetoric, let’s call the reporter, write a letter to the editor.
“When we see an activist using suspect facts, dubious figures, outrageous claims and old biases to draw a crowd or attract a donation; let’s speak out and correct the inaccuracies.
“When we know the truth is in jeopardy and the public discussion needs at least a little balance, let’s put a hand up and defend ourselves and our industries from unfounded and uninformed attacks.”
As examples of what he called “lop sided or just plain wrong stories”, he offered:
• Oil sands crude can’t be safely transported in pipelines;
• Oil sands development destroys/devastates the land;
• Tanker ban on Canada’s west coast.
Wuori emphasized there were times when the energy industry “doesn’t operate perfectly. There are also times when the critics are right.”
And the industry “should absolutely be held to account in those cases and always when it comes to our performance on issues important to the public, like the environment, safety, human rights, transparency and ethics.”
However, he added, “Let’s insist on being held to account against facts, our performance and our impact, not against rumour, misinformation and myth.