I remember growing up in Calgary in the early 90s when happy meals were five bucks and gasoline was just above 40 cents per litre. Back then I was a young child and my parents paid for it all anyways… ah, the good ol’ days when maintaining a job wasn’t even a fathomable thought.
I remember when my pops decided to get a new SUV and trade in his station wagon. The bill at the gas station pump almost doubled. How could my parents even afford this!? It seemed like so much money at the time. Oh, that’s right… my parents were both engineers and had good jobs. Growing up and advancing through the grades I began to learn about different career paths and admired my parents for what they were. They inspired me to follow the same road, so I did!
I also remember when the appeal of becoming an engineer in a province home to the world’s third largest recoverable oil reserves was too good an opportunity to overlook. The job market in the oil and gas industry was booming. Unlike my distant memories of cheap gas, happy meals and inspirational parents, this was during much more recent times.
Luckily for me, I graduated from the University of Calgary and got off to a good start a few years before the economy crashed in 2014 and have been able to maintain my job ever since. Other aspiring engineering students, fresh graduates and even industry professionals I know haven’t been so lucky as of late.
Alberta – the Have, Have Not Province
Just recently, a student I know at the University of Calgary told me that the oil and gas engineering program was put on hold a few years ago due to a lack of demand. Considering that 2016 was a rough time for the oil and gas industry in Alberta, it’s no surprise that this happened the same time availability of new jobs for graduates from this program was virtually non-existent.
Once again, for a province with the world’s third largest oil reserves, it made me sad that certain jobs became so scarce one of Canada’s leading universities actually shut down its oil and gas engineering program all together. It also made me upset because this awful occurrence didn’t happen at just any university.
U of C is THE place to go to if you wanted to learn from some of the best professors and researchers there are in the Canadian oil and gas industry to earn a Bsc. in oil and gas engineering. It still is one of the top in Canada when it comes to a chemical engineering degree. Take a look for yourself at the accomplishments of the chemical and petroleum engineering faculty professors.
There’s also this.
I have many friends and even family members who have lost their jobs in the energy sector over the past three to four years. It’s been a battle for them to say the least, and that’s being kind. Some are now employed once again while most others are still on the search for any job available in their previous field. It’s upsetting to hear the struggles of people I care about immensely.
Pipelines Elsewhere = Too Many to Count
It’s also upsetting that this is happening to people in Alberta due to pipelines, or the lack thereof I should say. While several other major pipeline projects like the Atlantic Sunrise expansion from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast are under construction and going full steam ahead, Canada can’t even get any new major pipeline infrastructure in any respect. This is just one of many pipelines – there’s actually too many underway in certain states south of the border to count.
It’s insane to see how much pipeline is currently being built, extended or replaced in Texas alone. According to The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) spreadsheet titled New Pipeline Construction Reports – Calendar Year 2017, a total of 5644.22 miles (9083.49 kilometres) of pipeline permits were filed with the RRC throughout 2017. If you look at the “start” column for these projects, many begin just a month after the permit filing because it requires at least 30 days before construction commences to do so. There’s also speedy expansion of energy infrastructure in the Middle East happening right now to allow OPEC producers to sell more oil to the world.
And all the while pipelines are not built in Alberta global demand for oil and natural gas is going up. Other countries like the United States are happy to meet increasing global demand while Canada is left in the dust – along with all those Albertans who worked in the energy industry and still can’t find a job.
When Will Canadians Wake Up?
I am upset by the fact that while Canada diddles in the courts aiming to get a single pipeline like the Trans Mountain expansion built - which has been shown to be of a HUGE economic benefit to our nation – that there are several other major pipelines underway around the world with streamlined approval processes and construction timelines which will help meet increasing global demand for years to come.
I am upset by the fact that Canada is going to lose a major opportunity if we can’t get pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion built. Actually, we already are on a daily basis as we sell our oil to our only accessible market (the USA) at a massive discount. Canada currently loses tens of millions of dollars in revenues from sold petroleum every day which could be used to pay for things like schools, hospitals and police stations and the personnel that staff them. Building the Trans Mountain would open up our supply and allow Canadian producers to access international markets in Asia and other continents. It would also allow them to fetch a higher price for their oil and gas, meaning more tax revenues being paid into government coffers and private investment by industry back into the Canadian economy.
I am upset that the benefits of building pipelines to meet growing global demand seems to make sense to every other country around the world but us. Canada produces its crude oil and natural gas to the highest environmental and human rights standards in the world and we should be proud of that fact. We should want to supply as much of the world’s demand for petroleum as we can because Canadian-produced oil and gas is a win for the global environment – and a win for our national prosperity!
I am upset and concerned for Canada’s future generations who will have to deal with the consequences of today. While many other top-producing oil and gas nations of the world prosper from the revenues generated by meeting global demand, Canada will be left straggling behind always wondering if a pipeline can finally get built so that it can have a piece of the social and economic benefits that stem from such projects.
But most of all, I am upset for those students, graduates and professionals – many of whom are my friends and family - who have chosen to pursue a career in an energy-related field and don’t currently have the chance to do so in a province with 166 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. It’s so ludicrous that I can’t even begin to explain my frustration! Constant attacks on the oil sands, pipelines and other major energy projects by environmentalists - who are often funded by foreign interests – have hit these people hard by reducing their opportunities for employment and standard of living as a result.
It’s asinine that there’s so much oil and gas in Canada and we refuse to get infrastructure built that will allow us to sell it to world markets for full price while reaping the economic benefits. Doing so would help the woes of many jobless oil and gas workers and those in other industries which are stimulated by activity in the oil sands.
Something Needs to Change...
As Canadians, it’s time we stand up and take action for Canada’s future generations and prosperity! We need pipelines to get built – show your support for those you know around you that are going through a hard time because of a lack of international market access for our oil and gas resources and the consequences that brings. Enough is enough!
Author: A concerned associate, friend, family member and engineer working in Canada.