July 31, 2018

Canadian Oil Isn't The Problem

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The last few years have been difficult for the Canadian oil industry. Cancelled pipelines, withdrawn projects, and lost investment dollars have been compounded by low oil prices which has put a strain on Canadian companies. Despite these challenges, the industry has put an emphasis on cleaner, safer, and more transparent oil production. In fact, Canada’s oil and gas industry is highly ranked internationally in a number of performance metrics including corporate governance, environmental sustainability and innovation, all of which should be important to those looking to put our environment first.

To add even more context, Canada ranks significantly higher in all of these categories than any of the other top ten oil-producing countries in the world: a list that includes both Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia, along with Kuwait, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. Only the U.S. comes close to matching Canada’s aptitude when it comes to clean and transparent oil production.

Puzzlingly, environmentalists across the country have taken stands against the Canadian industry but have made few moves to protest against our country’s reliance on foreign oil. As British Columbia’s provincial government takes steps to prevent the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, they have welcomed tankers filled with Azerbaijan crude. While municipal politicians in Quebec celebrate the cancellation of Energy East, tens of thousands of barrels are imported to the province daily from Saudi Arabia.

A common statistic used to measure a country’s fundamental energy-related values is corruption, due to the measurable correlation with environmental delinquency. Transparency International is a global think tank based out of Brussels which ranks countries by perceived levels of public-sector corruption. A recent report they released ranks Canada 2nd out of the top 28 oil producing countries in the world. These countries combined produce over 90% of the world’s oil.

Canada also has one of the world’s leading clean tech markets, ranked number one amongst the G20 countries. In the Calgary area alone, this sector is estimated to be worth about $1.3 billion. Significant investments are continuing to pour in from both industry and government sources, but a reduced role for Canada in the international market could lessen the impact these technologies could have in terms of reducing emissions.

In a world that is highly dependent on oil, where demand has continued to rise and no viable alternative has presented itself, Canada’s oil sector should be celebrated. Instead, protestors, pundits and politicians across the country rally against the industry, seemingly only because it is convenient. All while saying nothing, and taking no steps, to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil.

If the goal is to fight climate change, then the Canadian oil industry should be embraced. The reductions made by our producers could have a significant impact in the battle against climate change, especially in a world where demand for oil is still trending upwards. Shutting down the world market for oil is an unrealistic and unreasonable goal. Brash attempts by environmentalists to do so are only hurting the cleanest producers, and unintentionally benefitting the dirtiest.

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Doug Steele is the MLA for Cypress Hills and serves as Legislative Secretary to the Minister of Energy and Resources