Alberta Politics
The author’s favourite boots, handmade by the Alberta Boot Company of Calgary.

Alberta is not Texas North, Canada is not Kazakhstan, and Kinder Morgan’s big brains in Houston must’ve known it

Posted on April 23, 2018, 12:39 am
7 mins

There are a few Albertans who happily imagine this place is Texas North.

Alas for those who do, and notwithstanding the media stereotypists who encourage this nonsense, we are as Canadian around here as folks in any other Western province. Maybe more so, since so many people from other parts of Canada keep moving here.

The Alamo.

Sure, lots of us who would never actually get up on a horse own a nice pair of cowboy boots and maybe even a wear a ten gallon hat to work for a week in July, but that’s about the limit of this regional affectation.

As for knowing anything about this history of Texas, not to mention its current reality, that would be unusual, even among Albertans who think of themselves as texaphiles.

Never mind the Alamo and the details of the Texas Revolution, I suspect most Albertans would be shocked just to learn Texas has a population almost as big as all of Canada’s – closing in on 30 million at last count.

This road runs both ways, of course. I doubt most Texans have ever had a random thought about Alberta. If they do, they likely think of it as Oklahoma North – a slightly more apt comparison, to be fair. As for Canada, they’ll know about snow. And Mounties, if they’re particularly alert. Maybe they’re aware that the President is a young guy who wears nice blue suits with brown shoes.

Still, you have to wonder how the great minds of Kinder Morgan Inc., the Houston-based pipeline corporation that has given Canada until the end of May to provide the assurance it needs its Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project will generate huge profits in a timely manner, failed to notice Canada is a federation with a constitution, political parties, a democratic way of choosing governments, and an electorate that sometimes disagrees about stuff.

If Kinder Morgan hadn’t missed this – and one would have thought a corporation with revenue of $14 billion US could afford to hire people who would keep them au courant about this kind of thing – you have to wonder how its head office could have been surprised there might be some opposition in British Columbia to their plan to expand their pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.

Yet there was Kinder Morgan CEO Steven Kean a few days ago explaining the company’s April 8 decision to stop spending any money on the project thusly: “It’s become clear this particular investment may be untenable for a private party to undertake.”

The Lone Star Flag.

And they didn’t get this when they … you know … undertook it?

Mr. Kean’s pronouncement set off a major-league brouhaha in these parts that has been discussed at length here and, well … pretty much everywhere else.

Maybe Kinder Morgan’s strategic brain trust was just as aware of how things run in Canada as they are of other petroleum-jurisdictions like Kazakhstan and Nigeria. It’s always possible they simply assumed they could leave things up to the local strongman and be assured of results – Stephen Harper, what did you tell them?

Or maybe they just got Alberta mixed up with Oklahoma – they’re both on the route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after all – and thought we could leave any extra-jurisdictional trauma up to the White House.

In fairness, while the Trans Mountain Pipeline has been operating since 1953, Kinder Morgan only got its hooks into it 13 years ago. So maybe the company’s big brains in Houston hadn’t had time to figure out that we operate under the rule of law here in Canada. If they had, they’d know means there will be court cases, and inevitably delays, in getting controversial megaprojects done.

Or, to put that another way, maybe this huge and sophisticated international energy corporation’s business plan really was so lousy they couldn’t hold out for an entirely predictable delay while the plan’s legality was clearly established.

Then again, maybe there were other factors. Yes, things change over time. Perhaps Kinder Morgan’s leaders now understand the economics of the pipeline expansion plan don’t look nearly as good as they did a few years ago. You know, when renewable energy seemed like a pipedream, oil prices were higher, and everyone thought everything would stay that way.

Isn’t that the way business decisions based on an understanding of how the wonderful, magical market are supposed to work?

Or maybe like a predator they whiffed the scent of desperation on the wind – coming from a couple of governments facing electoral challenges. In which case that May 31 deadline really could be more about a shakedown, and not about the need for confidence at all.

Or perhaps they have a political agenda of their own, one that isn’t all that sympathetic to the current governments in either Edmonton  or Ottawa. Or some combination of such things.

Whatever, most of us here in Canada like Texas well enough, even with the guns and bluster. After all, Texans and Canadians do have one important thing in common: Both used to be citizens of countries that were independent of the United States! But just so you know, the boots and hats are an Alberta thing, not a Texas North thing.

Alberta is not Texas North, no matter what we wear. The rest of Canada isn’t Kazakhstan, no matter what Mr. Harper used to tell foreigners when he was prime minister. And Kinder Morgan’s big brains in Houston must have known that!

9 Comments to: Alberta is not Texas North, Canada is not Kazakhstan, and Kinder Morgan’s big brains in Houston must’ve known it

  1. Rocky

    April 23rd, 2018

    Nice boots. Is that a monogram I see stitched into the shafts?

    Reply
  2. Sam Gunsch

    April 23rd, 2018

    Pie-in-the-sky economic claims have been Kinder Morgan’s approach for a few years now.

    A retired energy executive used ‘wishful thinking’ to describe Kinder Morgan’s economic claims filed with the NEB.

    Excerpt: ‘Kinder Morgan’s submission to the National Energy Board was put together by a consultant based on the 2015 Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers volume forecast. That forecast was not based on any specific price forecast; it can be regarded as more wishful thinking than hard analysis, especially in this era of low oil prices.

    No, Kinder Morgan based its economic case for Trans Mountain on the prospect of the entire Edmonton market shifting due to the project’s ability to re-direct a forecast North American surplus of heavy crude to Asia — a surplus that now appears to be entirely imaginary, given how future oilsands investment is evaporating.;’

    https://ipolitics.ca/2017/06/07/when-facts-fail-you-trudeau-and-trans-mountain/

    Some speculate that KM may have announced a deadline to assist in their plan to sue Canada under NAFTA: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/nafta-tmx-kinder-morgan-oilsands-1.4611434

    Reply
  3. Farmer Brian

    April 23rd, 2018

    Kinder Morgan first announced it’s intention to expand the Transmountain pipeline in February of 2012. Then made the official application to the NEB in December of 2013. They are closing in on 41/2 years since the application process began with no real end in sight. They have invested over $1 billion dollars, still have no idea when construction will begin and you think they are over reacting by threatening to cut bait and run? I am surprised that Kinder Morgan has stayed in the game this long. My only hope is that after the next election in Alberta, in B.C. and the next federal election that the two premiers and the Prime Minister presently in charge are all voted out! Enjoy your day

    Reply
    • John

      April 23rd, 2018

      The details of a likely leak cleanup have not been adequately addressed or prepared for. That’s why it’s taking so long in large part. The other is the reality of the times we live in. Let them cut and run. We simply don’t need the thing and will not be profitable for those of us it’s supposedly going to.

      Reply
    • Simon Renouf

      April 24th, 2018

      Farmer Brian, You seem to be pretty well informed on oil patch economics, so I will ask you, or anyone else who knows, this question: Western Canada Select is currently selling for about C$66.20 (about US$51.50 ) per barrel at Hardisty Alberta.

      What will it sell for in Shanghai? If the price differential, (both today and projected in several years, after any hypothetical pipeline has been built) won’t cover the cost of dilution, pipeline charges, tanker charges, removal of dilution and delivery to refinery in China, why would Kinder Morgan, the governments of Alberta and Canada, or anyone else put a dime into this project?

      Just for a rough comparison, paving grade bitumen sells for about US$364 per metric tonne in Shanghai. Assuming bitumen has a specific gravity of 1, that would be US$43 per barrel. That doesn’t sound very attractive for Alberta producers, or infrastructure investors.

      Reply
  4. brian

    April 23rd, 2018

    Maybe Texas is Alberta South?

    Clearly with Jason Kenney’s leadership we will become the envy of that state!

    Reply
  5. Dave Olecko

    April 23rd, 2018

    Whose bed have your boots been under? Somebody should have asked Harper that question a long time ago.
    Apologies or accolades to Shania Twain.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 24th, 2018

      Those particular boots are kept in the closet. Don’t draw any conclusions from that, though. DJC

      Reply
  6. political ranger

    April 23rd, 2018

    nice boots David.

    Unfortunately, as the big boys down Texas way know, they look better when you wear long pants even though the fancy stitching on the top half gets covered up. Big boys wear pants in Texas. Big boys can stand the heat from your very well placed criticism as well.

    I wonder how the decision makers in Alberta and Ottawa would handle the same critique? Surely they have access to all the latest up-to-date data on our own resources. Surely they must have access to the latest social and cultural position of every different citizen group across the country.
    Senior gov’t official are assumed to be big boys, and girls. Might be time to start acting like it. Even if “the boots and hats are an Alberta thing” they look ridiculous in short pants.

    Reply

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