1989 Imperial Oil Speech: Canada and Its Energy Opportunities Waiting to Happen

This 1989 document from Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, is an address given by Imperial CEO Arden Haynes to The Empire Club of Canada. The presentation, given just a year before Canada’s “Green Plan” was published, provides insight into Imperial’s thinking about its role in environmental issues. It is of interest that this 1989 speech by the CEO of Imperial fails to mention climate change at all, despite the acknowledgement of the relationship between fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect by Imperial’s parent company, Exxon, the year before. 

In his address, Haynes states that he hopes “to put to rest some of the misconceptions that seem to abound in energy-related discussions in this country. Frankly, I can think of few issues on which so much misinformation is handed out to the public.” 

The presentation centers around addressing the state of Canadian energy production, particularly crude oil and natural gas. Haynes acknowledges that “while production of conventional oil from western Canada is generally flat to declining, new areas are coming into play or at least waiting in the wings.” He emphasizes the potential of the Canadian oil sands, which he refers to as the “real crude-oil ace in the hole,” theorizing that “few Canadians realize just how big our oil-sands deposits are” while admitting that “the oil sands, as well as our frontier reserves of conventional oil, are and will be very expensive to develop and produce.” 

Haynes also warns against “attempts to set national energy policies that try to isolate one country’s crude oil from world market forces,” arguing that such policies are “doomed to failure.” He applauds the 1987 adoption of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, and emphasizes that “it’s tremendously important for Canada that future governments continue the present public policy stance of viewing Canada’s energy in a world-market context.”

More Imperial Oil documents can be found in our full Climate Files collection

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