Canada: Never mind. We'll just ship our energy to China

When we’ve discussed our energy partnership with Canada in the past, realists have tended to note how our cooperative relationship has produced jobs, lower gas and oil prices and an improved national security position. And why would the Canadians want to do business anywhere else when they have a ready partner with massive refinery capacity and global leading technology resources? But opponents have fought expansions to this partnership, particularly when it comes to new pipelines or expanding the types of fossil fuel products we work together to process. They also seem to want to keep us from opening up foreign markets by lifting US export bans on crude oil and liquefied natural gas. (LNG)

In the past, I have expressed concerns of my own on these pages, one of them being that if we became too intractable with the Canadians, they may just take their toys and play elsewhere. One possible example could be opening up their western seaboard and exporting energy products all over the world themselves, including to China. Opponents responded by scoffing, assuming we would work out something with the Canadians. Besides… if you wanted to drive a pipeline from the rich oil and gas fields of northern British Columbia to some processing facility and port on that nation’s rugged northwestern coast, you would have to blast your way through a stretch of some of the most inhospitable peaks of the Canadian Rockies imaginable. I mean, you’d have to be insane just to consider the project. Insane, I tell ya!

Boy howdee… those crazy Canadians.

TransCanada Corp said on Friday it expects to start construction this year on natural gas pipeline to British Columbia’s Pacific Coast worth at least C$5 billion ($4.1 billion) following a conditional go-ahead by a Petronas-led consortium for what could be Canada’s first LNG export terminal.

The Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line will connect the prolific Montney gas field near Fort St. John in northeastern British Columbia to the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal, which is planned for Lelu Island on the North Pacific Coast near the port of Prince Rupert.

The conditional go-ahead for the liquefied natural gas terminal is a rare win for TransCanada, which has struggled in recent years to rally support for its crude oil pipeline projects, including the long-delayed Keystone XL line to move oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Calgary-based pipeline company has bet big on Canada’s nascent LNG industry, with deals to build more than C$13 billion in natural gas pipelines to serve proposed export projects on the country’s West Coast.

Depressing thoughts about lost opportunities aside, you have to give them credit for taking on a project of this scale. Check out this Google map which shows a pin on Lelu Island. Then look to the East and slightly North until you cross the Rockies and get to Fort. St. John. If you hit the button in the bottom left of the screen marked “Earth” you’ll get a satellite view of the span they’re going to have to drive that pipeline across. But once they finish it and get a processing center constructed on the island (which seems to have a very nice deep water bay) the world will essentially be their oyster. LNG and other products will eventually be able to go straight to tankers and across the globe to whoever is willing to pay them.

Meanwhile, back at home, the feds keep pounding on ExxonMobil for the biggest fines they can manage, yet another Democrat is taking a run at shutting down fracking through a misinterpretation of the Clean Water Act and our restrictions on exports have led to our companies saturating the market to the point where we’re now laying off oil field workers. What a country, baby.

So, good for you, Canada. I can’t really blame you. It’s a big world and a big energy market and there’s no reason you should have to sit on the sidelines waiting for a bunch of bureaucrats to stop sitting on their hands. And on the plus side, if anybody in the US gets seriously tired of living here, there should be a ton of jobs available up there. (Assuming you can manage to not freeze to death in the mountains.)