Love 'em or hate 'em, it's that time of year when listicles breed on every digital device we own. As December turns to January, we can't avoid listicles that feed us inconsequential niblets of knowledge like, "The 10 Best Coffee Beans for 2015," or doom-and-gloom assertions such as, "Five Reasons Why Oil Prices Will Go to $20."
But Christmas and New Year are supposed to be happy times. So, we'll join the fray by offering a positive listicle; how about, "The Top 10 Reasons to Invest in the Canadian Oil and Gas Industry."
1. Rule of law – Foreign companies invest here because they know a bang of the judge's gavel means law and order. They know that a deal is a deal, their employees can work safely, and that their assets are protected from expropriation.
2. Political stability – The fall of a minority government is about as shaky as it gets in Canada. If that scares you, try investing in Libya or Iraq.
3. Attractive fiscal regimes – Alberta's reconstituted New Royalty Framework, enacted in May, 2010, is globally competitive, especially because royalty rates slide when prices fall.
4. Sophisticated, open capital markets – The majority of the world's oil and gas production is buried underneath autocracy, corruption and state control. Canada's industry operates in a regulated free market. Big, global financial institutions in Calgary attract, manage and invest capital. And lots of it. This year a near record level of $25-billion was raised and invested.
5. Transparent and stringent regulatory oversight – The environment is a priority. Spill a bucket of oil and you'll be filling out forms and explaining your actions – in public. Canada's oil and gas industry is strictly regulated provincially and federally. Institutions like the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and the National Energy Board (NEB) have a long history of mandating safe and environmentally responsible operations.
6. Skilled and entrepreneurial labour pool – After 150 years of drilling wells, the DNA of the wildcatters is still in the industry's gene pool. Those who have taken "no" for an answer are no longer in business. The industry's people are its greatest asset.
7. A century of infrastructure – Over $1-trillion (2013 real dollars) has been invested by the Canadian oil and gas industry over the past 100 years. The established infrastructure gives a "plug and play" cost advantage.
8. World-scale resources – Scalability attracts capital. Canada is now the fifth-largest combined oil and gas producer in the world. Measure it on resources and it's third on the list.
9. Resilience to challenges – Canada pioneered the oil and gas industry 155 years ago. Companies, large and small, have witnessed many booms, busts, challenges, regulatory changes and periods of disruptive technologies. After each instance the industry has adapted, innovated and come out stronger.
10. Low corruption – Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as, "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain." The agency points out that countries with endemic corruption deplete their national wealth, corrode the social fabric of their society and ravage their environment. In TI's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Canada routinely ranks in the top 10 least corrupt countries in the world.
Your mind is probably thinking of negative exceptions, but none are allowed in this listicle. In fact, keep a barrel-half-full attitude and run your finger slowly down Table 1, a list of "The Top 20 Oil Producing Nations." How many of them can claim to have all of Canada's positives?
Libya and Iraq are plagued by a lawless civil war. Venezuela is an economic train wreck that has lost most of its technical staff. Most of Africa is plagued by corruption. In Nigeria, rebels are unravelling the country from the north, while the oil-producing south is an environmental nightmare. Russia has joined Iran in being sanctioned and belligerent. Saudi Arabia, like many of its oil-and-gas-producing neighbours is far from a free market or transparent. Norway is appealing, but not really open for business. The only country that has all of Canada's positive energy is the United States – our closest customer and fiercest competitor.
Commodity prices are a downer at the moment. But Canada is in the long game of the energy business and in that game almost none can boast all our positive attributes.
As always at this time of year, we thank our readers for their patronage and wish everyone a happy holiday season with best wishes for 2015.
Peter Tertzakian is chief energy economist at ARC Financial Corp. in Calgary and the author of two best-selling books, A Thousand Barrels a Second and The End of Energy Obesity.