New figures released today by the Alberta Federation of Labour show that the percentage of oil-sands bitumen upgraded in the province will drop to 52 per cent by 2016 – a far cry from the 72 per cent that Premier Ed Stelmach previously identified as his target.
"The provincial government has quietly completed one of the most significant about-faces in Alberta history," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"During the last provincial election, Premier Stelmach said shipping raw bitumen to refineries in the U.S. instead of upgrading it here was like a farmer selling off his topsoil. He subsequently said his target was to be upgrading 72 per cent of bitumen within the province by 2016. But now, instead of promoting Alberta-based upgrading and value-added job creation, he and his ministers have spent the past year and a half promoting massive bitumen export projects, like the Keystone XL and Gateway pipelines."
"The results of this betrayal can be seen in the projections from the ERCB: Thousands of well-paying jobs that could have been created here in Alberta will instead be lost down the pipeline."
The figures on projected trends in bitumen upgrading were obtained from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) as a result of an inquiry from the AFL. The projections, which have not been made public in any ERCB documents, project that the percentage of bitumen upgraded in Alberta will decline from 61 per cent in 2011 to 52 per cent in 2016, hitting 50 per cent in 2017. This is a far cry from the two-thirds of bitumen that have traditionally been upgraded in the province.
"This happened on Ed Stelmach's watch, but the switch to a bitumen export as opposed to bitumen upgrading strategy was supported – against the wishes of a majority of Albertans – by a wide range of prominent conservatives, including current Energy Minister Ron Liepert, former Finance Minister Ted Morton and current leadership front-runner Gary Mar, in his capacity as Alberta envoy in Washington," says McGowan.
"This appears to be just the latest example of the Tories caving into pressure from big oil companies, many based in the U.S. When Albertans want to keep oil-sands jobs in the province and energy companies want to send them down the pipeline, guess who wins?"
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
Click here for accompanying table and graph