Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research), Memorial University, and president of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, has co-authored an op-ed in the Hill-Times with Dr. Clement W. Bowman, a leading authority on energy, petroleum and the oil sands in Canada.
In it, they assert that market forces should not dictate decisions on major investments in the petroleum industry. Instead, they see an opportunity for Canada to leverage its resources to undertake projects that build the country as a nation, similar in scale to the Canadian Pacific Railways or the St. Lawrence Seaway.
“Unfortunately, in the absence of national leadership or vision, Canada’s recent economic development has led to short-term wealth and a staples-based economy, maintaining our reputation as hewers of wood and drawers of water,” they wrote.
“Our world-leading piano industry disappeared a long time ago. We ship out logs, but buy foreign-made furniture and chain saws. Our leading minerals processing and pulp and paper technology suppliers have largely disappeared. We can point to many other examples. We should not let this happen for the oil sands.”
While some incorrectly believe that bitumen is dirty residual tar, it is in fact a hydrocarbon that has many potential uses, from gasoline or jet fuel to high-value petrochemicals. It is transported in its raw form to the United States, where it is upgraded into value-added products. Drs. Marceau and Bowman believe this is a significant missed opportunity.
“Not building the capacity for upgrading bitumen in Canada, means giving up control of one of Canada’s largest energy sources, losing a large number of associated secondary industries, resulting in both lost jobs and economic wealth,” they stated.
They believe that massive visionary projects have the potential to change the economics and prosperity of Canada for all time, and that such projects cannot be based solely on market conditions.
Drs. Marceau and Bowman collaborated on Canada: Winning as a Sustainable Energy Superpower, a book that outlines the work of the Canadian Academy of Engineering Energy Pathways Task Force. An op-ed on the findings of that book – that the time is right for Canada to shift from being a world energy superstore to becoming a true world energy superpower – was published in the Hill-Times in September.