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Presumably, This is the Kind of Thing Jack Mintz Was Talking About

In a recent column in the Pipeline Observer University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz wrote about how many so-called "economic" analyses of oilsands-related projects suffer from a severely-limited grasp on economics. Accordingly the results -- favouring one side of the other -- are highly questionable.

Mintz talks specifically about would-be economists overlooking such things as supply costs, or overestimating the effects of multipliers. Pretty technocratic stuff, but still important.

But as it turns out, sometimes would-be economists miss things a lot more basic than that: simple, verifiable facts.

For example, a recent report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative -- a pro-"green" energy think tank -- has suggested that the oilsands are unprobitable at any oil price of less than $150 per barrel.

There's one obvious problem with that: in March 2014, record oilsands production drove Suncor's profits into the $450 million range. At the time the price of oil was $102.90. During the same period of time Syncrude's profits dropped despite increased production from their own oilsands projects, but not because of it: deferred taxes came due, and foreign exchange woes eroded profits.

So while the anti-oilsands movement has welcomed the Carbon Tracker Initiative's conclusions, it turns out that the CTI itself just hasn't been paying attention. Moreover, they've falsely assumed that oil prices trend in only one direction -- even if oil prices drop today (they in fact increased today, by 0.5%) the continuing flux in production and exploration can quite easily reverse that tomorrow.

The CTI's report is just another case of the questionable economics that infest the oilsands debate.