Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hunter Royalty Review Reaction Shows Some in the Oil Patch Just Don't Get It!

What is it that some oil executives and certain investments brokers in the oil patch do not understand about the natural resources belonging to Albertans? Based on media reported comments in the past two days, since the release of the Hunter Royalty Review Report, it appears that some of them don't understand anything around that reality.

The Hunter Royalty Review Report evidence indicates oil industry types seem to think that they are the one who control and dictate the provincial energy resource policies...from top to bottom. From some of the Hunter Royalty Review Report findings, it looks like that has essentially been the way things have been operating in the oil patch with the Klein government apparently just going along with it. I hope the former Premier and his Ministers of Energy will be able to prove to Albertans that this is not - and has not - been the case.

Someone in the Calgary-centric energy investment community is also reported as saying in an
E-mail to clients entitled “Caracas on the Bow River” that if the Hunter Royalty Review Report "is enacted investment decision will be impacted." Duh! Isn't that is what this is all about? The impact is about the appropriate rents and rates Albertans should get from granting a social licence to oil companies to operate in OUR resource base and who is most appropriate to be trusted to develop those resources. This broker claims the Hunter Royalty Review Report “…reads a bit like a Chavez-style manifesto.” Boy is this attitude off base and out of touch with reality.

Then we have news reports of some energy CEOs meeting in London calling for a new National Energy Program demanding an increased federal role in their industry. Interesting timing in the face of a royalty review don't you think?

It was the NEP that killed the Liberals in Alberta 25 years ago and the myths remain. If that were to ever be seen as a possibility then Peter Lougheed’s predictions of a constitutional crisis that would make the old NEP look like a picnic would actually come to pass. Harper needs to win Quebec and not lose Alberta in the process. It is not going to be smart politics for Harper to be revisiting the NEP of Trudeau times especially since he is an old-style Reformer at heart. Stranger things have happened. Harper has flip-flopped before - think Income Trusts!

The oil and gas industry, the Alberta Department of Energy and past Energy Ministers since 1995 have a lot of explaining to do about how they calculated, accounted for and ensured the right royalties have been paid. That reassurance is something that needs to be done in addition to settling the question of how the rates should change and how much they should increase.

Perhaps the Auditor General Report on Royalties due in mid October will shed some more light on this or at worst point to more clouded mystery of perpetually poor accountability that needs to be fixed.

In any event this situation will either lead to Stelmach's finest hour as Premier or his final hour as Premier. Everything is at stake. Stepping up to the plate and hoping to hit a single will not cut it.

Stelmach has to step up to the plate and point to the fence and then swing for a home run. Nothing less will do. Hunter has given him a perfect pitch with this report. Over to you Ed - and here is a tip - keep you eye on the ball!

All eyes in Alberta are soon going to be watching the Premier. They ready to cheer or boo - depending on how well he deals with this. No pressure is just about good government and appropriate politics.