Some dozen businesses in Langley supply the Alberta oil sands, some of the more than 320 in B.C. that rely on the oil producing region.
The oil sands and their economic impact reach into every Canadian community, said Don Thompson, the executive advisor for sustainability and oil sands outreach with Canadian Oil Sands Limited, based on Fort McMurray, Alta.
The guest speaker at the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce meeting Jan. 15 touched on the oil sands which he called "Canada's treasure", economics, world energy issues, and the environment for the business crowd.
"Every region of this country is rich in energy resources," he said.
B.C. has hydro, coal, and gas, for instance.
"We are the envy of the world," said the oil and gas expert with 33 years in the industry.
Thompson added that the world is going to have to look at all potential energy sources because of growing population and energy needs.
"Canada grows by 300,000 new people per year," he said.
The U.S. population grows by three million people annually and globally the figure is 75 million.
By 2035, the world will need 150 per cent of the energy it uses today.
"There is no greater challenge for humanity," Thompson said.
He said the world will need a "mosaic" of energy sources.
"The only way we're going to finance the changes [needed to meet the challenge] is to have an economy that's firing on all cylinders," he stressed.
A key factor is being able to find the workers, suppliers and technical expertise. Thompson noted that a great deal of the engineering work for the oil sands is done in the Lower Mainland.
Over the next 25 years, the oil sands represent $28 million in GDP for B.C. alone and about 32,100 jobs for B.C. residents.
He added that the oil sands are forecast to result in 905,000 jobs over the next 25 years.
"Labour availability is one of the key constraints," he noted.
He said the world is now beating a path to "Fort McWhere" because there are few commercially available sources of oil and gas. Some 80 per cent of the world supply is from countries with significant social, human rights and political stability issues, such as the Middle East.
Of the 20 per cent accessible to industry and business, half of that is in Canada, he said.
Thompson also touched on the improving environmental record of the oil sands. Since 1990, the greenhouse gas emissions per barrel from the oil sands has dropped 26 per cent, he said.
As well, the companies working in the oil sands are coming up with ways to reduce GHGs and carbon more, including extraction using electricity and heated air, methods which can leave up to half the carbon emissions in the ground.
Thompson noted that the air-shed around the oil sands is one of the most heavily monitored in the world and is much cleaner than that of the Lower Mainland.
On the issue of pipelines and safety, he said pipelines currently transport about three million barrels per day and there's no way other methods - road and rail - could meet that demand.
He said because of the North Gateway pipeline proposal and the Kinder Morgan proposal, the debate has been hijacked by extremists.
"Every citizen ought to add their voice to the conversation," he said, providing the audience with oil and gas related websites where they can go.
ine he in During the question and answer session, Thompson was asked why Canada doesn't process the products to provide more economic benefit here. He said the clients won't pay for processed product.
"If the market wants a screw, you can't sell them a nut," Thompson said.