Society needs oil & gas, & Canada needs to provide it

Dependence on foreign oil ignores our country’s wealth of natural resources 

Chris Kitchen explores the benefits of taking advantage of Canadian oil reserves.

Our society urgently needs to address the climate crisis, and a big part of that solution involves using Canada’s abundance of oil and gas.  

Most people see “oil and gas” as dirty words, whether at Queen’s or on campuses across the continent. But in my view, that stigma warrants a closer look.

First, let’s put the industry in context. Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world and is the fourth-largest oil exporter. Our oil and gas also amount to around 15 per cent of Canada’s total exports. Altogether, the industry employs hundreds of thousands across the country and supports government services in every province. 

Oil and gas are good for Canadians. Any negative views you still hold warrant an update.

If you compare the top 10 oil exporting nations, you’ll find Canada not only has the most stringent environmental regulations, but the highest standards for transparency, equality and worker safety. 

Additionally, the oil and gas industry is the largest national spender in Canada on environmental protection. Many of Canada’s successful clean tech projects—including research and development around solar, wind, geothermal or carbon capture technologies—are supported by oil and gas players like Enbridge, Suncor, and CNRL

These projects nod to Canadian renewable energy’s proud history, which continues to hold promise as the best way to achieve climate-friendly power generation. 

However, it’s crucial to understand that renewables currently only account for five per cent of global energy consumption. When it comes to reliable and plentiful power, not all energy is created equal. 

For the foreseeable future, our only hope is to rely on oil and gas, though it’s up to us to ensure we do so in the greenest way possible.

While coal-fired energy is still king globally, continued Canadian innovation and environmental regulation in oil and gas should place Canada at the forefront of the global energy industry.

We are innovating here in Canada, as evidenced by the findings of a recent Science Magazine article. The piece found that conventional oil production waste gas flaring has increased worldwide since 2010. This practice burns off gas that is released by pressure relief valves in the process of producing oil and gas, preventing harmful gas leaks. 

Waste gas flaring hasn’t increased in Canada, however, due to technological innovations. 

If Canada’s ability to minimize such flaring was adopted globally, greenhouse gas emissions per barrel would fall by 23 per cent.

The logic is clear: the world urgently needs to implement climate solutions, and that extends to the energy we consume. Renewable energies aren’t powerful enough for us to rely upon. If you concede that most of the world’s electricity is irresponsibly generated by cheap coal, then one of the most immediate and effective solutions to the problem is to substitute coal with cleaner natural gas.

However, Canada’s stringent environmental regulations don’t currently do enough for us, as we lack the pipeline capacity to make this happen across the country. Instead of transporting Canadian oil to meet energy demands in our country and abroad, we still import some of our oil from countries with inferior environmental and human rights records.

In fact, a 2019 National Bank Financial report featuring World Bank data stated 89 per cent of the world’s oil is supplied by countries where greenhouse gas emissions are completely unregulated. 

By contrast, Canadian policy on greenhouse emissions reductions, environmental stewardship, and human and worker rights support the fact that Canada is a global energy leader

Additionally, our country’s lack of pipeline capacity prevents Canadian product from reaching a global market, where it would achieve a competitive price. Instead, we sell our oil and gas at a deep discount— incurring peak losses of up to $3.3 million per hour to a single customer, the US.

Canadians have a shared goal toward increased sustainable development. This includes those who work in, and are advocates for, the oil and gas sector. 

Unfortunately, this information is largely left out of mainstream discourse. 

Opposing viewpoints advocate for an abrupt end to fossil fuel development, while often failing to acknowledge there’s currently no feasible energy alternative to meet the existing demand. 

It’s important to acknowledge that Canadians’ high quality of life is a direct result of our geological fortune and recent innovations to develop the oil and gas industry.

As consumers, we should all seek out credible information to understand more about where our energy comes from, and where it goes. We’re all beneficiaries of the oil and gas industry, yet most of us still fail to recognize this as truth. 

Canadian oil and gas can benefit the world’s climate today, our country’s focus on human rights, and the sustainability of Canada’s government-funded education, health, and social programs. 

Rather than bashing Canadian oil, we should take pride in the role Canada plays in the world’s energy future. 

Chris Kitchen is a fourth-year Engineering student. 

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