Investment in manufacturing vs oil sands

 A fascinating tidbit from today’s Statistics Canada release on human activity and the environment (climate change):

In 2008, oilsands producers intend to invest $19.7 billion, up 23% after a 31% hike in 2007. This exceeds the total investment plans of $19.6 billion by all manufacturing industries [Chart 1.6 on page 25]. Oilsands investment has surpassed manufacturing because of its rapid growth, not because manufacturing has been weak. Just a decade ago, oilsands investment was less than one-tenth capital outlays by manufacturers ($1.4 billion versus $21.6 billion in 1998).

One comment

  • Kind of makes sense, for private sector investors to invest preferentially in the oil sands doesn’t it, when the resource “owners” are giving it away the raw materials for next to nothing and the processed product’s price is driven up daily by the increasingly manifest scarcity of the traditional substitutes. Companies in the oil-from-coal and natural gas liquification businesses are also on a roll for similar reasons. If the real resource owners (the natural inhabitants of the boreal forest, and the local First Nations) were better organized politically and economically, they would be able to extract the available economic rent much more aggressively and efficiently, by slowing down the whole process of exploitation of what is still a finite resource, and one whose extraction has immense social and ecological costs. But instead, the legal “owner”, the Government of Alberta, dissipates the resource (and the rents) in an incredibly irresponsible manner, aided and abetted by a federal government that is almost as clueless as Alberta’s when it comes to the future value of natural capital assets. One has to hope the price of natural gas rises enough to dent the present business model a bit. But I certainly won’t hold my breath for the Government of Alberta to see greater sense. Politically, it is much more fun to have a party, and let the wildlife, First Nations and future generations of Albertans generally, look after themselves, as best they can.

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