Upgrading our Strategy

I used to struggle with the number of hours kids spend playing mindless video games. Minecraft, Farmville, Tropico, Settlers …. there seems to be an endless supply of, and demand for, non-violent nation-building games.

I used to think they were wasting their time. But I have come to develop great hope that they in fact are developing the skills to run our province with much greater foresight than previous generations.

Think about it. If you were given this wonderfully productive piece of land called Alberta, what would you do? What would you build? How would you create a society so productive and so prosperous that you would be the envy of the world?

Imagine digging a hole in the northeast part of the province and discovering what is now the Oil Sands – an endless supply of thick, dark, peanut butter like substance worth trillions of dollars. Would your first move be to build a railroad or pipeline and ship it out of here? Or would you build upgraders and refineries, petrochemical facilities and manufacturing factories that allowed you to control the market on everything from jet fuel to fertilizer to plastic toys?

Imagine planting a farm in southern Alberta and you were able to produce high quality Durham wheat. Would your first move be to harvest the crop and put it in rail cars to be shipped to a pasta plant in Italy? Or would you consider building your own pasta company, under a Canadian brand that exports and competes worldwide?

Imagine raising cattle on some of that land. Would your first move be to sell your young cattle to someone across the border who will beef them up before sending them to a slaughterhouse? Or would you consider building your own beef processing plant, a steak & hamburger restaurant chain or Alberta BBQ beef skewers which are exported to China.

Just daydreaming here … but you get the point.

Occasionally, opportunities present themselves to re-start the game, and to make better decisions. Over the past decade, building value-added upgraders and refineries didn’t make a lot of financial sense as margins were better from existing refineries south of the border. But now as labour becomes more available, input costs come down, the Canadian dollar falls, technologies are improved, risk of building upgraders/refineries have been mitigated, and neighboring provinces refuse unrefined products through pipelines, it’s time to think strategically and make some nation-building investments.

We can keep shipping stuff out of here and shipping out our wealth in the process. But these video-game-addicted kids are telling me that’s not the best way to win the game.

4 thoughts on “Upgrading our Strategy

  1. I think you’re on to something Brad.

    I filled up in Edmonton the other night – it was $0.80 / litre. In Vancouver today its about $1.30. Oil has dropped in half, but we’re still paying a lot more for the final value-added product. Granted a lot of it is tax imposed by Government, but still, there is a lot more gold in the final consumer good than the raw stocks.

    Gamification is going to be a required future competence, if it’s not already. I often wonder if our current leaders have the necessary imagination to play the required games and conceive the needed breakthrough solutions.

    Breakthrough thinking is figuring out how to build an economy that maximizes the value of our raw resources and banks the revenue to progress our society. I’ve often wondered why our Heritage Fund isn’t well north of $100 Billion, or that we at least don’t have $100 Billion worth of oil replacement intellectual property to show for it. Breakthrough is the thinking required to fund developing and controlling the next generation of energy technology (e.g. Solar Fusion) and making it commercially viable before someone else does it, catching us with our proverbial pants down, and rendering our oil largely valueless.

    That would be a very fun game to play: What happens to Alberta when China makes Fusion commercially viable and our oil is devalued to $10 a barrel? When that happens, will people just tell us to look in the mirror and tell us we have been getting a free ride, or is there an alternate scenario where Albertans have invented and patented the technology, and control its use and yield to replace oil revenue.

  2. Reblogged this on Big Big Time Blog and commented:
    Gamification is perfect for this scenario. Allows us to look at it with the goal of winning. Sometimes you have to lose a piece or suffer short term pain for long term gain. Whatever the angle is – you go to win.

    Nice analogy, Brad!

  3. Playing games – you never just sit on your hands. Always keep reinventing, improving processes, collecting more materials or expanding influence, etc.

    Love the analogy, Brad!

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