Opinion: Will Canada step up its efforts to ship more Canadian energy to Europe?

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“You don’t pay in euros or rubles for Russian gas and oil, you pay in the lives of the same Europeans as you.”

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It was a simple message spread across Europe by a coalition of Ukrainian energy companies that came together to create “Stop Bloody Energy”, a call for Western companies to divest from Russian oil and gas.

As the process of weaning Europe off Russian energy is slow, action has begun with the US and Europe signing an agreement to supply billions of cubic meters of additional natural gas last month.

Unfortunately, the federal government of Canada seems at best indifferent, and at worst unwilling to even engage, claiming that you cannot solve one crisis by exacerbating another. They recognize that oil production could be increased to the equivalent of 300,000 barrels per day, but only time will tell if they keep going at this rate.

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Canada provides the world with the most ethical oil and gas, but targets introduced by our federal government continue to restrict our country’s energy sector. Most of this government’s policies towards the sector show little regard for technological leadership and innovation in the industry. The only saving grace is a tax incentive in the 2022 budget directed at carbon technology to reduce emissions.

As the federal government begins discussions on emissions caps and demands that provincial governments make gas less affordable for Canadian families, our friends and allies in Europe are calling for our gas to help them break free from dependence on respect of dictators like Vladimir Putin for energy security.

Canadian oil and LNG can play a major role in reducing European emissions in the long term. Fifteen percent of Europe’s electricity is still produced by coal, and the sooner it can be moved, the better. Unfortunately, most export infrastructure projects have suffered from cancellations or red tape.

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In a column published in the Edmonton Journal on March 31, Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said “Albertans can lead us to the clean energy security this 21st century demands”. He says he will work with the sector to design emissions caps and support the implementation of technologies that will make our energy sector cleaner, while promising that it will create sustainable jobs.

Actions, on the other hand, speak louder than words, and the industry has had a lot of lip service in the past. While this should be a priority, new ways to export our product to places that desperately need it are unlikely to be on the table anytime soon.

Canada’s oil and gas sector as a whole employs about 600,000 Canadians, according to Natural Resources Canada. The energy sector is a major driver of the Canadian economy, accounting for 10.2% of nominal GDP ($219 billion). And Canadians do it better than anywhere else.

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Any policy agenda that ignores the significant economic contributions of the energy sector and hard-working families supported by industry is simply not a viable solution.

This is a huge opportunity for the federal government to step in. The world needs more secure, reliable and responsibly produced energy, and Canada’s oil and gas industry is ready to provide it. As the sector strives to reach net zero as soon as possible, the Liberal government must decide whether Canada will be the solution to our allies’ energy security challenges. It is not Canadian to let our friends and allies suffer under the control of an oil dictatorship.

Gurpreet Lail is President and CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.

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