At a controversial recent news conference, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May and current Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet claimed “oil is dead,” and stated there’s no advantage to supporting fossil fuel energy in future, once COVID-19 has subsided.
Both May and Blanchet might want to look at the Short-Term Energy Outlook prepared by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in early April, which states: “EIA expects global petroleum and liquid fuels demand will decrease by 5.2 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2020 from an average of 100.7 million b/d last year before increasing by 6.4 million b/d in 2021.”
In other words, oil demand is projected to recover post COVID-19, increasing by 1.2 million barrels per day in 2021 over this year.
I’ll agree with May and Blanchet on one point: Canadians would be wise to keep investing in renewables and energy efficiency. But realists acknowledge it’s not enough. A strong post-COVID-19 recovery is going to require our economy to be firing on all cylinders and our oil and gas sector plays an outsized role in Canada’s economy.
In inviting May and Blanchet to tour the oilsands when it is safe to do so, here’s how the leadership of McMurray Métis Local 1935 explained matters recently.
“Yes, we need to look at other ways to diversify the economy, but for now oil is going to remain a major commodity,” McMurray Métis CEO Bill Loutitt said in a story in Fort McMurray Today. “It’s there and we should continue producing it in a safe, reliable way.”
I couldn’t agree more. We can’t turn a blind eye to the oil and gas sector and its 530,000 employees and contractors, many of whom support families across the country. Nor can we ignore the combined contribution from the upstream and pipeline sectors to our national GDP in 2018 of $132 billion. (According to Viewpoint Research, the number increases to $200 billion once you add related downstream activities and power generation).
According to the Alberta Government, Alberta has made a net contribution to Canada of more than $600 billion over the past several decades – largely a result of the prosperity created by the oil and gas sector.
Additionally, the oil and gas sector has made incredible technological innovations and advancements over the past few decades. For example, the emissions intensity per barrel produced in the oilsands dropped by 29 percent between 2000 and 2018 and is expected to improve by another 16 to 23 percent by 2030, according to IHS Markit.
Despite COVID-19, all indicators point toward an oil industry with growing demand for many years to come. Maybe May and Blanchet should do their homework before wrongly predicting the sector’s demise.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer built organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.