New boss of energy lobby group unfazed by steep drop in crude oil prices

CALGARY – If the new boss of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is losing sleep over the steep decline in oil prices, he isn’t letting it show.

In a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Tim McMillan said that when he took the job two and a half months ago, oil was at US$90 and the mood in the oilpatch was optimistic.

He quipped that he didn’t want his arrival at the major energy industry lobby group to be linked to oil’s drop to five-year lows below US$64 a barrel.

“I think that certainly is something that everybody’s watching closely. We are an industry that has come from far lower prices in the past,” the former Saskatchewan cabinet minister told reporters.

While there will likely be some short-term belt-tightening, McMillan said “CAPP looks at the longer view.”

A CAPP forecast in June — before oil’s downward slide — predicted Canada’s oil production would grow to 4.9 million barrels per day by the end of the decade, up from 3.5 million last year.

Cheap oil is just one challenge the industry faces. For instance, opposition is mounting to pipelines that would help connect oilsands crude to lucrative global markets. And construction costs have been flagged as a major concern for companies planning to build liquefied natural gas export terminals on the west coast.

But McMillan struck an optimistic tone in his speech.

“I think Canada is very well positioned with the resources we have to be a great long-term supplier to the world,” he said. “We have the stability that investors look for. We have the quality of resources. So, in the long-term view, we need to ensure that Canada is competitive, we have infrastructure.”

McMillan appealed to the audience’s patriotic side in encouraging them to speak out in favour of the industry to counterbalance some of the criticism.

“I think energy is something like hockey and beer that we can all be very proud of. It’s something that touches us almost every day in a very positive way,” he said.

“And I’ve been convinced that Canada can be a true leader in developing the energy that the world needs, safely. We have that opportunity and I think we have that responsibility.”