Fuel rationing continues
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 to normal.
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 exports.
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 seem to be staying well out of the picture, and can you blame them? 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.
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