Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 26, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
20-THE LETHBRIDQE February Government oil firm could provide inside information OTTAWA (CP) With its proposal to set up a Crown-owned oil company, the government is lagging behind similar actions already tanen by most of the world's oil-producing countries and many of the biggest consumers. Legislation is expected in the new parliamentary session starting Wednesday to set up a national petroleum corporation with powers to explore, do research and ultimately refine and distribute oil products. Prime Minister Trudeau said Dec. 6 the company would be able to invest million in the next five years in the Alberta oil sands alone, as well as launch other projects. But many countries are far ahead of Canada with government-owned oil companies. Several Arab oil states own producing firms or share ownership with private corporations. Others, including Venezuela, now are taking steps to nationalize their oil industries. The government's energy white paper released last June says that among consuming states, "countries with national oil companies are more nearly the rule today rather than the exception." Favor ownership It says that although North American attitudes have limited government participation in in- dustry, "most other parts of the. world do not have the same ideological inhibitions against government initiatives and many nations look with favor upon government ownership in energy industries." Energy Minister Donald Macdonald has noted that many of the foreign-owned oil companies operating' in Canada are actually owned by foreign governments. Among the largest examples: Petroleum, almost half-owned by the British government, one of the top 10 oil companies in Canada. French government owns 100 per cent of one company whose subsidiary, Aquitaine, operates in Canada. And it owns 35 per cent of another which owns Total Petroleum (North America) Ltd., also operating in Canada. national oil company, Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, is the largest wholly-owned government oil firm in the world, the energy report says. has set up the Norwegian State Oil Co. to develop its North Sea reserves. has moved to set up a national petroleum and minerals authority, with explor- ation, transportation and refining powers. A major benefit of government ownership, which assumed greater importance with the new and sometimes mysterious Arab supply and price practices last fall, is the inside information it gives governments on the operations of the oil business. "It is difficult to quantify the value of being well-informed jn the oil the energy report says. "But in a rapidly changing international oil economy some benefits must accrue to those parties who more clearly understand current developments and future trends." Need information Officials say the current spate of rumors about price-gouging and windfall profits reveals the need for information more than ever. The energy report says most countries get into the oil business for reasons not directly related to economics. Security of supply and the role of foreign ownership with its impact on the management and growth of national economies were often, more important. Mr. Trudeau cited the security-of-supply issue, saying the proposed national petroleum corporation "will assist in ensuring reliable and adequate imports of oil to meet present and future needs Venezuela, which supplies about 40 per cent of Canada's imported oil, has already said it wants to deal with a government agency in any arrangements for guaranteed supplies. The energy report says that a government- owned company might "play an effective role in government relations with other countries where their state companies were dominant or active." 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