Alberta could open gas stations in U.S., report says

The provincial government should consider taking oilsands products directly to U.S. consumers, and perhaps set up its own line of gas stations south of the border, the Alberta Federation of Labour says.

"If the Alberta government is serious about moving up the value chain, they may have to consider building their own mechanisms for delivery," the federation said in a new report touted as a blueprint for developing the oilsands.

Besides calling for higher royalty rates, stricter environmental standards and a slower development pace, the document, entitled Black Gold, Clear Vision, suggests Alberta get more involved in upgrading and refining.

It criticizes the Conservatives for allowing raw bitumen to be shipped to the U.S. to be upgraded and refined into products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Bitumen should at least be upgraded to synthetic crude in Alberta, and the government should also aim to have more of the refining done at home, AFL president Gil McGowan said Friday.

Alberta could then send finished products to the U.S., keeping more jobs and profit in the province. If American companies resist the move, the province may have to sell the products itself, the document suggests.

"This might involve building dedicated, refined products pipelines. It might even involve looking for retail options in the U.S.," the report says. "The pre-Chavez government of Venezuela did exactly this when they successfully established the Citgo chain of gas stations in the U.S."

McGowan the report was released in the hopes of influencing voters before the provincial election. "The oilsands are so important that we simply can't afford to get it wrong," McGowan said. "While Albertans are being relegated to the lowest rung of the energy ladder, our leaders are asleep at the wheel. We're just afraid that by the time they wake up, the opportunity will have been lost."

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