Eric Anderson, host of the daily radio commentary heard on Rawlco radio stations in the province, spoke at Chapel Gallery in a presentation hosted by the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce.
The subject was food and energy, Saskatchewan’s role in the world and how activity in those areas will impact the Battlefords.
Anderson gave the audience of businesspeople an upbeat message about the vast potential of the province in meeting the demands of the rest of the world. He focused particularly on resources at Saskatchewan’s disposal in oil, potash, diamonds and uranium, and why Saskatchewan was well positioned to meet the world’s growing needs.
The tremendous growth in population in China and India will increase demand for food and Western goods in the coming years, he said. Throughout his presentation, he tied Saskatchewan’s resources to the needs and wants of those Asian giants.
“There’s a growing middle class there and they decided they wanted things like diamond engagement rings or they want a car. Or they don’t want to eat rice, they wanted to eat beef,” said Anderson in an interview with the News-Optimist.
That all benefits Saskatchewan, he said.
“There aren’t that many places around that supply food and energy,”
Anderson told the audience that with more people around the world comes more population density and less available farmland– a problem, because that growing population still needs food.
“We need 70 per cent more food in the next 40 years, but we’ve got less farmland,” said Anderson in talking to the News-Optimist.
The only real answer, he said, is increased use of fertilizer.
“That’s potash,” said Anderson.
“Our potash is going to expand immensely and on a scale that will impact everybody including here.”
Another major focus of his presentation was energy.
“The world needs more energy because it allows things to happen and for cultures to evolve and grow,” said Anderson.
“With that in mind – we’ve got energy. We’ve got investable energy,” he said, referring to the fact people can invest in oil projects in Saskatchewan without fear of losing it to government takeover such as in Venezuela and other countries.
He also pointed to maps showing the number of projects that had been on the go in Alberta, compared to the few that had gone on in Saskatchewan up until now.
“The money’s going to flow here,” said Anderson.
Anderson presented slides showing Saskatchewan sitting on top of an as-yet untapped bed of heavy oil. He also showed the areas of the province that have potash, He said there is tremendous potash activity in the province by PotashCorp, BHP Billiton and several other players, pointing to the thousands of workers needed just to construct the Jansen Lake project.
Anderson also talked about the impact it would all have on the Battlefords. He spoke of heavy oil projects near the Battlefords, such as the Rallyemont and Allstar projects.
As well, the Battlefords stand to gain as a local supplier to the potash industry, he said.
“The project is so large that it doesn’t matter where you are, you’re going to get hit by it.”
He called potash the best economic stimulus package possible, pointing to how Saskatchewan grew during a period of time when the rest of the world went into a deep recession. Anderson also expressed confidence to the audience that Saskatchewan would continue to do well in spite of the most recent economic uncertainty around the world.
His message was upbeat about the Saskatchewan economy – though “optimistic” might not be the right word to describe it.
“It’s not optimism. It’s knowledge, and you know what’s happening in the world and what we’ve got and what the world needs,” said Anderson.
During his presentation he cited facts and figures from energy company annual reports. These are solid sources, because they were from those who can be held accountable, people who could be “sued or put in jail if they lied,” he said.
He stressed the many competitive advantages Saskatchewan has as a place for companies to invest, pointing to diamond mining as one example. He told the audience Saskatchewan had some of the largest diamond deposits in the world. It is economical to mine diamonds here, he said, because mines are accessible by road, and therefore costs are one-tenth of those operating in the Northwest Territories. Companies can also avoid the turmoil associated with mining diamonds in Africa.
Anderson talked about Saskatchewan’s large and concentrated uranium deposits and tied that resource to the growing needs of the world’s nuclear reactors. The number of nuclear reactors that will need materials is growing, he said. He also noted mining efforts will be needed to fill a big hole, as a program to process degraded material from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons will end in 2013.
In the question-and-answer session that followed many in the audience wanted to know what Anderson thought about power. He acknowledged there would be a growing need for power in the future to supply the vast number of projects going on in the province.
Anderson said he didn’t think wind power would work as a baseload power source, because Saskatchewan simply doesn’t have enough wind. As for nuclear power, Anderson said small scale nuclear plants might be a more viable idea than a large plant, which he said would require a costly revamp of the power grid to accommodate.
Anderson is also adamant about keeping the royalty structure the way it is. He pointed to Alberta’s experience in changing royalties, which led oil companies to start drilling in Saskatchewan instead.
Chamber of Commerce president Scott Campbell said Anderson’s message was of tremendous value to those who attended.
“He doesn’t look at it like we do because we live right here,” said Campbell. “He looks at the whole province.”
Campbell appreciated Anderson’s message about the income the province would be receiving from potash and royalties, pointing out the Battlefords stands to benefit from potash even if the mines aren’t close by.
“The provincial coffers are going to get a lot of money from the mines and from the resource projects, and that’s got to flow down to us. That’s going to mean better highways, better health care, better education,” said Campbell.
He sees the activity as creating a “snowball effect” for everyone.
Anderson’s visit kicks off educational events the Chamber has planned this fall.
Coming Oct. 20 will be the event billed as the “Business Event of the Year,” entitled the “Accelerate Your Business Boot Camp.” The event is hosted by retailer and international business speaker Donald Cooper and will be held at Gold Ridge Centre in North Battleford.