Sometimes we don’t focus enough on energy’s hard realities. In terms of production, maybe the hardest reality is this: the world will continue to consume oil for a very, very long time to come. I’m hoping Canada will play a stronger role in supplying that oil.
There’s simply no way around it. Sure – wind and solar will make a growing contribution to our electrical needs globally over the long term, provided governments are willing to put in place the subsidies to help make these sources more affordable. But whether they’re affordable or not, there’s a limit to society’s ability to rely on intermittent power sources.
And at least in Canada, nuclear electricity seems to have reached a plateau in Ontario, with few prospects in our western provinces either. We’re lucky to have fairly abundant hydroelectricity, but especially for transportation we – and other countries – are going to need oil for the foreseeable future.
Add in the fact that energy demand domestically and around the world is growing, and pretty quickly you can see we all face an energy challenge. Fortunately, it’s a challenge that’s easily met.
The first step is for Canadians to make it a priority to become more familiar with Canada’s record on sustainable energy production. We should all join the energy conversation today, and exchange information openly and regularly with our neighbours on the importance of supporting affordable, reliable Canadian energy that meets the world’s highest standards for worker safety, human rights and environmental protection.
Sure, it sounds like a tall order. After all, we’re busy, we have jobs, families, recreational activities and other things that consume our time and keep us from learning about our own proud record in the sustainable production of Canadian oil and gas.
And yet, boosting our own understanding, even only slightly, about our Canadian energy sector and its options might be one of the most important things we can do in our spare time. Here’s why.
In one way or another, energy is crucial to virtually every aspect of life – from work to leisure; from factories, schools, hospitals and office towers to home; from food to transportation; to virtually every manufactured product. Whether it’s the arts or the sciences, energy touches all of it.
Familiarity with Canadian oil will protect us from common myths – for example that Alberta oil is “dirty.” In fact, the oilsands contribute only 0.15 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and at least six other countries along with 13 oilfields in California have higher upstream GHGs than our oilsands do.
When we’re told First Nations all oppose oilsands development, be aware that over the past 15 years aboriginal companies earned more than $10 billion in revenue through strong working relationships with the oilsands industry. It’s also important to note that more than 25 per cent of all Canadian First Nations produce oil and gas now, or want to in the future.
I’m hoping we’ll also become more aware of energy supply in the context of global demand – in other words, “the big picture.” For example, it’s important to know the world needs an additional 30 million barrels of new oil production by the year 2030 just to replace the depletion of existing production.
It’s also crucial for Canadians to be aware that current shipping routes force us to export our product only to the U.S. and, as a result, the U.S. pays us a discounted price. Pipelines like Northern Gateway, Energy East and Trans Mountain would all help sell more of our product to the global market, but we should all be aware we’re not there yet. Today, we continue to operate at the whim and control of our U.S. neighbours.
And still our regulatory reviews on liquid natural gas (LNG) exports lag behind, just as U.S. and Australian construction speeds ahead. In fact, Australia will soon be the world’s largest LNG exporter. Make no mistake, the race is on. We need a strong finish.
Leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos heard recently from the CEO of Saudi oil giant Aramco that the world will need to invest US$25 trillion in new oil-producing capacity over the next 25 years if it is to meet growing demand.
The U.S. government’s recent approval of Keystone XL will allow us to ship Canadian oil to our largest trading partner and replace oil coming from countries that don’t share our human rights and environmental values. It’s a project that’s very positive for Canada, creating some 4,500 Canadian construction jobs.
And for the U.S., 20,000 manufacturing and construction jobs will mean an increase in personal income for all American workers by $6.5 billion during the lifetime of the project, as well as a large bump in tax revenue for local governments.
For Canada, it’s great news when you consider the number of energy workers currently on the job hunt. But it will also ensure people working in our oilsands region will experience continued strong demand for the products they create through their hard work, innovation and unrivalled commitment to safety and environmental responsibility.
But, there are hurdles to be jumped before shovels are in the ground. That’s why it’s so important all Canadians engage in the hard realities of the energy sector and demonstrate their support for responsible resource development in Canada. The time to do so, without question, is right now.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder/spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the