The Great Green Debate
Alberta Oil asked Canada Action founder, Cody Battershill, wide-ranging questions on all aspects of energy from renewables to oil sands
Do you support renewable energy?
Absolutely. The world needs all forms of energy and the good news is renewables are growing. It’s important to recognize Canada’s record of global leadership on renewables, both in production and investment. This is a story we don’t hear about enough from Greenpeace, Environmental Defence and others. Worldwide, Canada has the seventh largest wind power capacity, is ranked 14th for solar and second for hydro generation. Per capita, we generate more renewable energy than most countries and has invested more than countries like India over the last couple years. In 2013, we ranked seventh in the world—one spot behind Germany and ahead of India, the world’s second most populated country. We must acknowledge Canada’s world leadership and continue to build on it. Energy demand is growing and it’s forecast in 2035 that fossil fuels will drop to 75 percent of global energy from today’s 85 percent .
What will it take for Canada and Alberta’s environmental efforts to filter down to change perceptions?
We have an amazing story to tell, and we need a dedicated, consistent, long term effort to share it. The industry and government have been slow and reactive, that just doesn’t cut it in today’s digital media world. We need to create and champion our own brand so others can’t fill the void. Canada is a global leader in the responsible production of our natural resources, in a manner that balances environmental protection with global demand for our resources, creating tremendous opportunity for our country. Canadians need to take charge and stand up for the truth—we all have skin in the game. We need credible metrics that compare our actions to other global jurisdictions. We need to vigorously defend Canada’s brand and ruthlessly challenge any misinformation that’s either intentional or accidental from ENGOS and media outlets. We need government and industry to make our “resource story” a priority.
How can Canada develop carbon pricing without it creating a playing field where investment and emissions move next door?
Climate panelist Andrew Leach explained it best when he said the world must have policies that impose similar costs, otherwise you’re not actually reducing emissions to the extent you think, but displacing them and the economic activity to other jurisdictions. Since 2007, Alberta has been the only top supplier of oil to the US with carbon regulations on production. We must view carbon pricing as one piece of the overall tax and regulatory structure, and focus on competitiveness – adjusting where necessary to attract investment. Despite Alberta’s carbon leadership, ENGOs oppose Canadian exports, while they give a free pass to other less-regulated oil producer countries. But more Canadian oil is good for the global environment. If Canada develops carbon pricing, then it must apply evenly across the economy, and it should be tied to our largest markets so our quality of life doesn’t suffer unfairly.
Should we expand the oil sands?
YES!!!!!!! As global demand for oil continues to increase Canada should also grow our market share. Canada produces fair trade energy from start to finish, under the best legal, regulatory and environmental framework in the world when compared to other top 10 oil reserve countries. As we expand, we must also continue to focus on environmental innovation and responsibility. That is the Canadian way. The reality is that opposing Canadian oil production and pipelines is a negative for the global environment, as every barrel that doesn’t come from Canada is quickly replaced by another jurisdiction often with weaker standards. Global oil demand is forecast to peak sometime around 2040 at between 110 and 120 million b/d. That is in addition to the ongoing replacement that is required for existing production that is depleting. The world needs to replace about 30 million b/d of current production by 2030.
Are you in favor of the oil sands emissions cap?
No. The stated objective of a cap is to improve efficiency but that’s already been happening. A cap and/or limit drives away new investment and jobs, production emissions are also only 10 percent of the total production from an oil barrel.
Canada is the only country that has implemented this cap. The cap in Alberta doesn’t stop oil consumption, or oil production, nor will it limit emissions and production globally.
The cap drives away investment because it creates uncertainty; companies can easily invest in other jurisdictions where regulatory costs are lower and where no such cap exists. If competitiveness suffers, then the incentive to continue improving on technology and efficiency also suffers. If we want to cap emissions, then the cap should apply to the entire life cycle of a barrel of oil, where about 80 percent of emissions are produced by end-users.
In the context of emissions displacement to other jurisdictions, are you in favor of more refining or upgrading in Alberta?
We are able to diversify even within the fossil fuel industry, towards greater prosperity for the province/country, while creating even more jobs. Alberta should continue to explore opportunities to add value to our resources, especially given that there are major innovations occurring in this space, right here in Alberta, for instance partial upgrading. These innovations mean that in Canada, we are working to develop technologies that reduce the emissions required for upgrading/refining. If we can use processing techniques to keep jobs and revenue within our province, while increasing the accessible markets for our product, we absolutely should. The emissions are going to be created somewhere, and we can do it best in Canada, so we should! The priority is on trying to create the maximum benefit to Alberta through our resource, within a competitive environment, a focus on innovation, and a strong regulatory framework.
Which is best for transporting oil – rail or pipelines?
Both are important transportation options, and both can be effective depending on the circumstances. We do know that pipelines are safer, and have lower emissions associated with the transportation. Regardless of the method used, Canadian standards are world class and are under continual improvement. We need to get our resources to market in the safest manner possible, with the lowest cost and emissions associated with their transportation. Most people wouldn’t realize that roughly 75 percent of every big train you see is loaded with natural resource products destined for local and international markets.
Do you want Keystone XL and/or Energy East pipelines building?
Wholeheartedly. Canada has imported more than $100 billion of foreign oil since 2012 alone, and Energy East will help make Canadian oil more accessible to all of Canada. This will create jobs, opportunity and additional financial resources for our high quality of life as Canadians. Energy East will also allow Canada to export our oil to global markets, including Europe, providing stability and security of supply for our friends and allies. Keystone will displace other sources of oil to the US Gulf Coast, which is currently importing about 2 million b/d from other countries with weaker environmental laws, no carbon regulations and inferior human rights standards. Keystone can help replace that while strengthening our strong relationship with our biggest trading partner and ally, the US. When you look at our environmental record, our social justice and human rights records, these pipelines are a no-brainer.
Do you support the fracking moratoriums in some provinces?
No. We believe fracking with proper regulation and oversight can be completed safely and responsibly. Fracking is simply a well completion technique that frees the flow of hydrocarbons (in rock layers kilometers below potable water supplies) by using water, sand and, usually, small amounts of everyday chemicals (surfactant, biocide and lubricants).
Since the 1950s, over 215,000 wells have been safety fractured in western Canada. In order to minimize possible environmental impacts, the Canadian oil and gas industry follows strict regulations and has adopted guiding principles designed to increase transparency, safeguard groundwater resources and reduce water use.
Fracking maximizes energy efficiency, creates jobs and benefits Canadians through increased revenues and royalties. It also enables industry to greatly reduce its land footprint through the use of horizontal drilling and multi-well pad sites.
Fracking in Canada has been unfairly and often confusingly portrayed. With safeguards and regulations in place, all jurisdictions will benefit.
Will LNG plants in BC increase or decrease emissions? (locally and globally and net)
LNG is a fossil fuel, but it’s far less CO2-intensive than other fuels it replaces such as coal. But this is not just about CO2; it’s also about more harmful pollutants. Over the life of the fuel, switching from coal to LNG for electricity generation will reduce not just CO2 emissions but also emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx); sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) that threaten human health through air pollution. The World Health Organization estimates that every year air pollution causes the premature deaths of some 7 million people worldwide. From my perspective, no matter whether some of the gas goes toward the LNG process, LNG still emits less CO2, less NOx, SOx and particulate than coal, making it a better fuel for electricity production. Demand for LNG is growing as natural gas in the US has displaced coal power. Canadian LNG is another positive both worldwide and for Canada.
How has your thinking evolved in the past ten years in this conversation?
A decade ago, I hadn’t really focused on the debate at all. But a walk past a store in Vancouver one day several years ago caused me to rethink whether Canadians were being well served by the claims of many anti-oil activists—so I got involved on my own time. Now I can tell you we are so blessed to be Canadian, and I’m reminded of that more and more every day. Look at what we have been able to accomplish in the oil sands. The more I learn about the industry and the way we do things in Canada and the more I see happening around the world, I am further convinced that the world needs more Canadian energy and more Canada. A transition to a low carbon economy and the existence of the oil and gas industry are not mutually exclusive. Canada should be the last one out of the pool when it comes to oil production.
Cody Battershill is the founder of Canada Action, an NGO that promotes Canadian energy. The Pembina Institute accepted Alberta Oil’s challenge to face off against Canada Action in an online debate about key energy and environment issues. Unfortunately, Pembina declined at the last minute, having first been granted a deadline extension, so we bring you Canada Action’s ideas and arguments.
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