Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time and tide of energy markets wait for no nation

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It is a basic principle of business that the ability to sell product to customers is crucial to the success of an organization. So it shouldn't come as a revelation that in order for Canada to thrive, we need to get our products to the markets that want and need them.

Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain or reversing Line 9 are the big-name infrastructure projects that look to connect Canadian energy with thirsty markets in Asia, Europe, the U.S. or Eastern Canada.

Each of these projects has been met with environmental criticisms and protestor backlash and been delayed as a result. Public consultations and rigorous review of project proposals are fundamentally important to maintain our environmental integrity; however, we cannot afford to indefinitely delay projects so important to the economic prosperity of our country.

We need to thoroughly review projects in a timely manner and reject the ones that don't work for Canada so we can move on to the ones that do.

While Keystone and Northern Gateway make headlines across the country, we hear very little about what the rest of the world is doing to secure the same markets we need.

As other energy-producing countries move into markets, failure to act means Canadians lose potential tax revenue, job opportunities and spin-off benefits for our national economy.

Energy infrastructure projects being undertaken across Europe such as the South Stream Pipeline, the Trans-Balkan Pipeline or the Nord Stream Pipeline aim to connect E.U. countries with Russian oil and gas to achieve continental energy security, and make it easier for Europe to turn away Canadian oil.

Additionally, Russia's proximity and existing trade relationship with China and the discovery of shale oil in Australia increases the urgency for Canada to secure access to this growing and strategically important Asian market.

This urgency does not mean that Canada should rush through important energy infrastructure at the cost of the environment. We need to remember, however, the world will not wait for Canada and without a defined strategy for how we will manage our energy resources we run the risk of losing billions of dollars in lost opportunities and severely limiting our future potential.

The world is changing, powers are shifting and our way of life requires an increasingly diverse array of energy resources. We are blessed to have an abundance of these resources at our disposal but it is imperative we arrive at a strategy for responsibly developing our energy portfolio in a way that ensures long-term benefits for every Canadian before it's too late.

It is decision time. If Canada does not take smart, responsible and immediate action, our competitors will capitalize on opportunities to get their product to market and we will be left behind.

Dan Gagnier is president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, which is comprised of a full spectrum of energy producers, consumers and leading Canadian businesses and energy experts.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2013 A11

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