Opinion: Perception is not reality: Canada’s energy sector is best in the world

By Mac Van Wielingen, Calgary Herald, September 21, 2019 

Canada’s energy sector is world-leading in scale and capabilities, but it has been progressively hampered by political, legal and regulatory processes and hostile activism. There’s no justification for the damage we have done to ourselves. The common explanations come wrapped in concern and criticism about our energy sector’s environmental, social and governance standards.

The problem is not what most believe. We are arguably “best in the world” for our standards and performance. Nor is the problem that the industry denies climate change. The problem is misinformation and misunderstanding, the failure to grasp actual realities, the unwillingness to collaborate and a lack of visionary leadership.

The energy and climate vision we are now pursuing may “feel good” for some Canadians and create electoral gains for some political leaders, but the impact on global emissions and climate risk may be insignificant or even adverse.

Canada is responsibly committed to reducing its level of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. But we are important in a way that is different than our political leaders seem to understand.

We are not important as a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our oilsands contribute only 0.15 per cent of global emissions. In 2018, total emissions from China and India were about 12,000 megatonnes, which is equivalent to 150 Canadian oilsands. Just the year over year growth in emissions from China and India was equivalent to adding 10 Canadian oilsands.

How is it possible to argue that Canada’s oilsands are somehow a material factor in causing a global climate crisis? This is an example of grotesque and dangerous misinformation; dangerous to Canada’s economic and social well-being and worse, as it is evolving, dangerous to our unity.

If we phase out our oilsands, or even our entire oil and gas upstream business, the lost volumes would be replaced by supplies from other countries. These other suppliers would also generate greenhouse gas emissions through their own extraction processes. The net reduction in global emissions would be negligible, if anything at all. We are just shifting emissions to other jurisdictions, along with investment capital, jobs and a tax base. This is a real risk in our existing strategy.

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