Yager: Visit rural Alberta and learn first-hand where the necessities of life come from

Spurred by the recovery of oil and gas, a renewed spirit of opportunity is growing

By David Yager
Farm in the rocky mountain foothills of rural Alberta Canada. Getty Images photo

The old saying goes, “No news is good news.” 

But in the 21st century smartphone/internet era, it should read “Good news is no news.”  

Driven by today’s ultra-competitive media, headlines have increasingly become what has been coined “clickbait” –  capture eyeballs with something awful happening to somebody somewhere. 

That’s why you’ll never see, “7.9 Billion People Didn’t Die Yesterday,” or “95% Of Canadians Are Employed.” 

Political news is dominated by the official opposition declaring the governing party incompetent, and vice versa. Images of every forest fire, flood, hurricane or tornado on the planet appears on the world’s 6.3 billion smartphones in seconds. This helped teenager Greta Thunberg become famous when she told us all, “The world is on fire.” 

Several things are indeed going poorly. The pandemic, war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates, and the energy crisis in Europe. When you listen to or watch the news, you can’t help but be concerned, even fearful. 

So we spend increasingly less time counting our blessings. Long forgotten is U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s famous words from his 1961 inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” 

These thoughts crystallized during a road trip from Calgary to Lloydminster to participate in the 2022 edition of the Lloydminster Heavy Oil Show. I was a guest speaker at the kickoff banquet September 12.  

Six hours of windshield time is a great way to escape your smartphone. For personal safety, it’s actually essential. 

I’ve made dozens of trips to Lloydminster in my oilfield services career. “Lloyd” is the epicenter of a major heavy oil producing area dating back to the 1940s. The resource is huge, its production significant. 

While Google Maps suggests Calgary drivers take Highway 2 to Edmonton then 16 to Lloydminster, I prefer to go cross-country taking a wide selection of primary and secondary roads. They’re all paved and traffic is light. 

Six hours provides plenty of time to look out the window and truly appreciate where Alberta’s economic prosperity comes from. You see for yourself what makes this province a great place to live, things that don’t exist in a big city. 

Because it is ultimately bountiful resources, free enterprise, advanced technology, hard work and human ingenuity – not genius central planning – that drives our economy. 

Alberta exists in its current form because of massive raw and processed resource production and exports. Fuel. Food. Fertilizer. Petrochemicals. This underscores why market access remains such an important economic and political issue.  

But 58 per cent of Albertans live in four major urban centres: Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer. Too many don’t see enough of small-town Alberta, a big reason why rural and urban Albertans think and vote differently. 

There’s lots of road options to Lloyd. I always take a different route there and back. It can include bigger centres like Strathmore, Ponoka, Stettler, Camrose, Drumheller or Wainwright. If you don’t like traffic lights, travel instead through or by Beiseker, Three Hills, Hanna, Castor, Forestburg, Consort, or Trochu. 

What you’ll drive by is a continuous vista of cultivated fields, oil wells, gas wells, batteries, grain elevators, storage vessels, fertilizer and seed distribution facilities, and gas plants. The roads pass hundreds of farmyards full of houses, barns, outbuildings, and a large array of trucks and farming equipment.  

Travel via Hardisty and you’ll see the massive oil storage tanks that comprise the main staging point for Alberta’s petroleum exports. The nearest place with this much oil stored this way is Cushing, Oklahoma. 

This year’s trip was made during a much better harvest than in 2021. Thankfully. The world desperately needs the food. 

Many fields were already cut. The rest contained wheat, canola and other crops waiting to be turned into money. Lots of equipment working the fields, lots of trucks hauling the bounty to the nearest elevator or processing facility. 

Lloydminster was once again buzzing with visible prosperity. Help-wanted signs everywhere. Oilfield equipment coming and going. Stores full, service and support businesses busy.  

We all know about the problems. We’re reminded continuously.  

But when I looked at the faces of the 500 people at the oil show banquet, I was struck by the thought that right now, Lloydminster may be the best place to live in the world. 

Food and fuel in limitless supply. Good jobs for everyone who wants to work. Affordable housing. Opportunity. Recreational facilities. Schools. A hospital shared by Alberta and Saskatchewan.  

And the crowd was universally happy, at least that night. After pandemic lockdowns and years of tough times, their oil show was back for the first time in four years. It was a proud and important symbol of a community and industry that was finally and firmly back on its feet. 

Most of Alberta is feeling that way again. With the recovery in oil and gas and better weather and prices for crops, the people that create the resources the world needs have a smile on their face and a spring in their step. 

Too bad more Canadians don’t visit rural Alberta and learn first-hand where the necessities of life come from. It they did, our country would be heading in a much different direction. 

David Yager is an oilfield service executive, oil and gas writer, and energy policy analyst. He is author of  From Miracle to Menace – Alberta, A Carbon Story. 

The unaltered reproduction of this content is free of charge with attribution to Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.