As I stood at the local card lock
fuelling station recently, a sign on the pump cautioned me that it
would cut out when I’d loaded 300 litres, everyone’s daily quota of
diesel fuel these days. A couple of weeks ago someone had crossed out
the previous 500 litre amount on the sign and wrote in the new, lower
limit. Sadly, these notices have been around for a while; and
although the overall situation has improved, things still aren’t back
Standing there it occurred to me there’s a
disconnect in the Canadian petroleum industry these days. While
Saskatchewan farmers and truckers resigned themselves to daily fuel
rationing over the past few weeks, the main topic on the news has
been the Canadian government and petroleum industry expressing their
joint disappointment over the failure of the Keystone XL pipeline to
get U.S. approval; it would have carried billions of litres of
Alberta crude to Texas refineries at a discount compared to the world
price for oil.
Something is wrong with this picture.
As Canadians, western farmers are co-owners of all the oil sands
crude that so many want to see end up in U.S. fuel tanks, yet we
currently can’t fill our own. Everyone from the Prime Minister to
CEOs of banks have been lamenting the pipeline delay and possible
cancellation, but there’s been barely a peep from them about yet
another western Canada diesel fuel shortage.
Yes, yet another. The topic has been on
the radar for a few years now. For example, industry insiders suggest
that had the harvest season two years ago not been slowed by wet
weather, there was a risk some combines could have been sidelined
with dry tanks.
I know that the cause of our latest
fuel shortage may not be a lack of available crude oil to refine, but
the optics of the whole situation makes the industry players and the
government seem as though their attention is elsewhere. What if this
situation was reversed and it was U.S. farmers and truckers who were
going short while oil companies talked of nothing but boosting
Could you image the ruckus? The public
backlash would be enormous, and politicians would be lining up to
publicly jump on oil companies. Here, not so much. Our politicians
We diesel fuel consumers have been politely accepting the
deprivation. I’m not sure why. This recurring problem has the
potential to cause some serious financial harm. In fact, it already
has, especially for trucking companies.
I think it’s time for the industry and
our elected representatives to address the problem. If those two
groups want to profit from exporting Canada’s natural resources—that
means cash for oil companies and gaining the reputation governments
seek as economic visionaries—the least they can do is guarantee
there is enough refined product to meet local needs first.