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By the Numbers, Canadian Energy Should Attract ESG Investors

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Cody Battershill

If you’re focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment criteria to help determine your future financial investment moves, you should consider overweighting your position in Canadian oil and gas assets. Here’s why.

WSJ guest columnist Mark P. Mills, author of The “New Energy Economy:” An Exercise in Magical Thinking, recently explained in the Wall Street Journal that building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic.

“If you want ‘renewable energy,’ get ready to dig,” Mills’ headline warned.

Meanwhile, Canadian oil and gas is subject to some of the most stringent environmental regulations, and the highest standards for transparency, equality and worker safety. Companies here make huge investments in R&D, developing innovative extraction technologies and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per barrel.

If that doesn’t make Canadian oil and gas a clear choice among ESG investors, then what does?

Powering all of society on wind and solar plants hooked up to giant batteries would cause explosive, unprecedented growth in mining, and generate enormous waste, according to Mills.

And he adds, since renewable generation and storage infrastructure are built with non-renewable materials, the amount of recycled solar panels is, by 2050, projected to grow to double the amount of today’s entire plastic waste stream.

Mills points to a few more sobering numbers. A single thousand-pound electric-car battery requires “digging up, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials somewhere on the planet.”

Solar power? Think cement, glass, steel and other metals. In fact, Mills observes that the International Energy Agency projects global silver and indium mining will jump 250 per cent and 1,200 per cent respectively over the next 20 years or so, just to supply an increased demand in solar panels. And more than 90 per cent of the world’s solar panels, Mills says, are built in Asia on electric grids largely powered – you guessed it – by coal.

Wind turbines? If they supplied just half the world’s electricity, Mills explains we’d need nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, and two billion barrels of oil to make the blades.

Electric cars? Think rare-earth elements, which are likely to rise 300 to 1,000 per cent by 2050 to meet the Paris goals. Demand for cobalt and lithium will rise more than 20-fold, Mills explains.

It begs the question: why not use our gasoline as a more ESG-compatible alternative to electric vehicles? That single move would require only a 10th the total tonnage of materials to deliver the same number of vehicle miles over a battery’s seven-year life, he calculates.

When it comes to ESG calculations, Canada is a leader in protecting people and the planet – and the world will be using oil and gas for a lot longer than many people think.

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.

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