Is Canada leading the world in cancelled energy projects?

May 19: The FT says more than a third of delayed projects world-wide are in Canada. Plus, the battle for water, and employer snooping.

Content image

MORNING-PLAYBOOK-STORYWhen it comes to feeling the impact of the oil rout, it’s becoming increasingly clear: the oil sands are first in line.

Financial Times analysis of cancelled and delayed projects shows Canada has a very big lead. More on that below – as well as water battles in California, snooping employers, and the pop-culture legacy of a Coke ad.

This morning, markets will open again in Canada after the long weekend. So far this morning, world markets are near record levels: the FTSE All-World index is sitting near a new high, and U.S. shares are ticking upwards, as last week’s bond rally – where bond prices suddenly began to fall – has reversed, as the European Central Bank has indicated they’ll be purchasing more bonds in May and June and pushing up demand.

In Canada, the federal environmental regulator will resume a review of an LNG project in northwest B.C. backed by the Malaysian state energy company, after the Lax Kw’aalams rejected a $1-billion deal for Aboriginal consent last week. This afternoon, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz will speak in Charlottetown, while in the U.S. we’ll see housing starts and building permits for April. In the eurozone, today brings both inflation numbers for April and details of the trade surplus for March. We also have April inflation details from the U.K. so far this morning, and they came in at 0.2 per cent for last month, but for the year, it was deflation territory: coming in at -0.1 per cent. It’s also a busy day for retail reporting today, with Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and the online retailer Etsy reporting profits.

When it comes to cancelled projects, look to the oil sands. As oil prices have fallen, big projects have suddenly been frozen, or even axed, and Alberta is seeing more projects cut than any other region in the world, according to one study. A report created for the Financial Times mapped the distribution of $100 billion worth of project cuts around the world. Out of 26 delayed or cancelled major projects, 10 were in Canada – and nine of those were in the oil sands. Canadian cuts dwarfed those in any other country, with the runner-up, Norway, seeing just three projects cut. Each of the projects was worth at least $1 billion, with three of the projects run by Cenovus, and another two each by Husky and Shell (Husky’s White Rose Extension deepwater project was the single project that wasn’t in the oil sands). Outside of Canada, deepwater in Norway and LNG (liquefied natural gas) in Australia have also felt the impact of low oil prices.

The bottled water battles. As California’s drought rages on – the fourth year the state has experienced drought as climate change worsens – the spotlight is turning on companies including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, who are bottling water even as Californians face mandatory water restrictions. The state has more than 100 bottling plants, CBC reports, but access to water is still governed in many ways by a first-come-first-served regulatory system, with some companies holding on to historic water rights that date back even decades. In response to complaints about bottling water and selling it back to Californians, Mother Jones recently reported that Starbucks said it would move their bottling plant to Pennsylvania, and Nestlé is facing protests at its plant. Bottling freshwater (and even tap water) as the state faces unprecedented drought certainly looks bad, but even the critics say bottled water represents a small fraction of the state’s water use compared to agriculture, which uses up to 80 per cent of the state’s developed water and is not subject to the same water restrictions. In the cities, bottled water is just one flashpoint among many for class divisions over water use. The New York Times has this story about families conserving water and restricting baths in Compton, as homeowners in high-end suburbs keep up luxurious lawns, gardens and pools.

Your employer is watching. A woman in California is suing her former employer after the company fired her for deleting a tracking app on her work smartphone that monitored her movements outside her working hours, she says. Using some tracking functions or computer monitoring software has long been common – oil rig workers might have trackers, for example, as do delivery vans. But it’s the extent of the tracking, which continued 24/7, that the employee is suing over, and where such tracking previously required expensive equipment, now an app is all that’s required. Whether or not a Canadian company could legally track employees outside of work hours seems to be something of a grey area, according to CBC. During work hours, with a reasonable justification connected to business and as long as employees are informed of the extent of the monitoring, it is permissible, according to one data and privacy expert.

The story behind that Coke ad. As Mad Men has come to a close, blogs and reviewers are all talking about the famous Coke ad that ends the series, where a group of bright-eyed, multinational, 1970s-era young folks stand on a hillside rapturously singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” Bill Backer, the former ad man who was behind the 1971 ad, insists he’s nothing like Don Draper (he stopped watching the series in the second season), and rather than a California retreat, he got the idea during an emergency stopover in Ireland on a flight to the U.K, where he saw multinational passengers sharing bottles of Coke. It might be Coca-Cola itself who was the big winner here, though: the company apparently didn’t pay a penny for the commercial to appear on the show.

Need to know:
TSX: 15,108.12 (+80), Friday
Loonie: 83.18 (+0.16), Friday
Oil (WTI): $59.03, Tuesday (5 a.m.)