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Elevated oil prices have allowed Alberta to largely skirt around the economic malaise afflicting economies across the developed world. But Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist at ATB Financial, tells BNN that what oil prices give to Alberta's economy, they can just as easily take away.
"There is always a sense in Alberta that this could all be yanked away from us pretty quickly," he says. "All we would need to see is -- not so much in Europe and the United States -- but a major downturn in emerging economies such as China and India because this is what's keeping those oil prices above $90 per barrel."
While many commentators believe the controversial Keystone XL pipeline -- which will ship oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast -- will be approved, Hirsch says the political backlash should act as a warning call to oil companies and policymakers about the risks of shipping the province's prize asset.
"Alberta has had it pretty easy, we dig the oil out of the ground and we put pipelines in place and no one has ever questioned whether the pipeline will go ahead," he says. "Now for the first time we're seeing some real question marks as to can we get our oil out of the province - and this changes the game a little bit in Alberta."
"Even if the XL pipeline does go through…going forward it won't be so straightforward getting these pipelines built. People will have to anticipate there will be more opposition and hurdles before we can just throw a pipeline in the ground."