A Turning Point for Canadian Energy

I read a thoughtful analysis that talked about Chrystia Freelands task to convince her colleagues in government that we can achieve our climate targets while having a vibrant energy industry.

She appears to be a lone figure in government.  Many of her Liberal colleague MPs, Cabinet Ministers, and even the Prime Minister see the oil and gas industry as the villain responsible for the entire problem.

Ms Freeland is correct – and needs to be listened to.

Canada could shutter our entire energy industry, and it would make little if any difference to global emissions.  In fact, it might result in an increase, hard as that may be to believe.

Canadian oil and gas is produced with efficiency that is good and is improving quickly.  Canada is a world leader in this technology, and the spending by industry is large.  The TOTAL emissions from extraction and refining in 2017 was 124 Mt out of a total of 716 Mt for Canada.  Road transportation, by comparison, was responsible for 144 Mt.  If the Oil and Gas industry was eliminated, we would simply import our needed energy as Quebec and Atlantic Canada already do.  The emissions from production by corrupt governments and the long-distance transport would almost certainly result in higher emissions than our industry produces.

Public Electricity and residential heat generation produce almost the same emissions as the oil and gas industry produces, but ironically, the electric industry delivers only about 20% of our total energy, and the electricity industry in Canada is more than 75% based on emission free generation.  A small portion of our electrical generation, largely based on coal power, produces a disproportionate share of our emissions.  One never hears much about this, but to be fair, significant programs are under way to sequester the emissions from these sources.  Our energy industries are far more proactive than they are given credit for.

Overall, industry in Canada, which is responsible for less than half of the total emissions, has made real progress in reducing their impact, and some, including Teck and Fortis have made strong commitments, that are funded by their boards, to reduce emissions.  Teck, the applicant for the Frontier Oil Sands Project, had previously made a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.  FortisBC, that owns both electricity and natural gas utilities and sells more energy in BC than BC Hydro, has a 30BY30 program that targets emissions by customers using their energy by 30% by 2030.

Contrast that to public use.  Sales of SUV and light trucks that produce more than twice the emissions of a hybrid car, have increased their sales by more than 50% in the last 6 years, while the sales of cars have fallen by about 1/3.

Climate change is a serious issue that must be addressed, and Canada is truly a laggard.  Our emissions based on 2018 numbers have declined about 1% in the last 4 years, while the US, where the president thinks this is a hoax, is down 5% and the UK is down by about 20% and has a real plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The problem is not so much the sources of the energy – the world has ample capacity, driving prices lower.  The problem is in the use.  We ALL need to reduce our consumption.  Canadians are among the highest energy users on the planet.  We love to blame China and India, but the numbers tell a different story.  Canadian annual emissions are 15.1 tonnes/capita, while China and India emit 7.5 and 1.7 tonnes/capita annually.

I am old enough to remember a quote by “Pogo” in an old cartoon that used to be in our newspaper… “We have seen the enemy – and it is us!”

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