Energy & Economic Opportunities in Eastern Washington

Many people are surprised to learn that our largest supplier of oil isn’t a country in the Middle East, but our neighbors to the North.  We import about 20% of our oil from Canada.  Canada sends 99% of its crude oil exports to the United States, making our relationship with Canada a valuable asset for both economic growth and energy security. In addition, Canada is in the midst of an oil boom with nearly a trillion dollars in investment planned over the next decade.

In late March, we, along with Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard, led a trade delegation from the Inland Northwest to Alberta.  This trip was to identify how businesses and our educational institutions can support, and in turn benefit from, the growing Alberta economy in this new oil boom to the north. In addition, the delegation was impressed by the opportunity to improve our energy security by enhancing our relationship with our neighbors, allowing us to rely less on suppliers who may not be as friendly with the United States.
Alberta has the fastest-growing economy in North America, close to the rate of growth in China and India.  Energy development is driving the economy, but economic growth is also taking place in the agriculture, advanced technology, manufacturing, construction, transportation, and distribution sectors.  Alberta has the highest per-capita income in North America and the demand for all types of products and services cannot be met by the local Alberta economy. We heard stories of signing bonuses for new employees at fast food restaurants and profit sharing at coffee stands.

The trade mission impressed upon us the importance of the U.S. and Canadian relationship.  First, we are important trading partners.  The Canadian dollar is strong.  Washington is the third largest exporter to Alberta after Texas and California.  We are also friends with a common language, culture and way of life.  We are closer to Alberta than its own capital in Ottawa – Eastern Washington products are less than a day’s drive away.

This is a great opportunity for our economy in Eastern Washington.  Nearly 20 people representing Eastern Washington engineering, construction, industrial and educational firms joined us on the trade mission.  Companies such as Coffman Engineering, Brooklyn Iron Works and United Coatings may soon benefit from Alberta’s economic boom by providing their products and services to companies in Alberta.  We would like to encourage the business community of the Inland Northwest to look north to our Canadian neighbors for their next partner and successful business venture.

The International Trade Alliance helps companies of all kinds export their products and services.  This benefits the local economy by creating new markets and new sources of revenue for our region’s businesses and families.  Trade missions such as this one are important to our region’s continued economic growth. 

To continue growing, Eastern Washington’s economy also needs an affordable, reliable source of energy.  Not only do high energy costs hurt Eastern Washington families, they cripple our entire economy and ability to create new jobs.

Our nation’s dependency on oil, and more specifically oil from less than friendly nations, is a major hindrance to moving our country’s energy policy forward.  We must work to move away from this dependency, through smart policy decisions and by investing in technology and alternative sources of energy.

We must develop a comprehensive approach to meet our nation’s energy needs. This includes expanding our domestic energy supply, streamlining the permitting process for refineries, encouraging conservation, and exploring alternative sources of energy. Whether its oil sands, hydro-electric power, wind, bio-diesel, hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear power or solar energy all of these sources of energy decrease our dependency on unreliable sources of oil. 

By looking outward and expanding the economy of the Inland Northwest, we strengthen our ties with energy suppliers, like Canada, improving our local economy and ensuring a secure energy future for today and the future.

Your community leaders are here to support our local business expansion and will make more trips like this one available to take the Inland Northwest to the world.

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Mark Peters, Executive Director, International Trade Alliance

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