Political patience running on empty

by Roger McKnight

I don’t know about you, but I fill up my tank, or begin to squint with nervous suspicion, when the fuel gauge says it’s only a quarter full.

The only indication we have of where the prices of gasoline and diesel will be in the near future, or the future’s future, is dependent on information supplied by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a subset of the U.S. Department of Energy. The data provided is used by traders, analysts, and speculators worldwide. Without this weekly information, price projections would be more accurate if they were prepared by a professional dart player.

Key components in the weekly EIA reports are inventory and demand levels, as well as refinery runs. The extensive and comprehensive data contained in these reports is mandated by the U.S. government and released a day after the American Petroleum Institute (API) publish its data, which is voluntarily provided by the oil industry and is looked on with suspicion by traders, as the data may be, from time to time, looked at as self-fulfilling prophesies.

We criticize the U.S. for all manner of what we superiorly judge as indiscretions, but when it comes to energy data provision and energy project planning and implementation, they are beyond any form of second-guessing.

Canada, on the other hand, is a second-stringer in the energy game. Sure, we have the third largest proven crude oil reserves in the world or, so we are told. But getting it out of the country is another question for yet another day, and the day after that, and so on, only to be answered by the politicians – or the bevy of environmental evangelists.

Unlike the U.S., neither the Canadian government or Canadian version of the oil industry provide consumers in the private or commercial
sectors with any information on domestic inventories of crude or refined products.

In the U.S., if a refinery or pipeline goes down, state and federal authorities must be informed as to the reason for the incident, how it will affect consumer supply, and when service will be restored. In Canada there are no such rules in place. If a station runs out of gas, all you have to do is call a newspaper or radio station and try to get an answer. Forget calling an oil company or your local MP for enlightenment.

Back in the U.S., there are 143 refineries — and the government just tells them if they want to keep on refining and selling their gasoline and diesel then send us your supply and demand statistics. Here in Canada, we have all but 13 refineries which, if Husky and Shell have their way, will soon be reduced to 11.

How hard can it be for the Trudeau government to order the oil companies to provide the same information?

I don’t know about you, but the political patience level on my tank is just about on empty. I’ll fill up at the next polling station.

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