Dear Ms. Denise Balkissoon,
As a former Ontario resident who grew up in Ottawa, but now live and work in Alberta, I view your recent article as words seeking a timely headline.
“To be a climate hawk living in Ontario is complicated. Without a doubt, climate change is a global emergency, one that requires immediate, drastic action, including the rapid phasing-out of fossil fuels. At the same time, I know that’s an easy position to take when no one I know works in oil or gas.” “I’m glad the oil sands are a sunset industry: they’re an absolute environmental nightmare. That doesn’t mean those who work there are bad people, but that everyone in Canada needs to help them move on”
I have a few thoughts and questions regarding the above quotes from your article:
Firstly, thanks for your offer of help to the workers in the oil and gas industry, but do you own a car, use Transit or take a cab to work? You might use a bike to get to work – and sometimes I do too. Do you ever fly in aircraft or take a ferry or a train? Do you have any plastics in your home? I assume you power your home with electricity, but if not, then unless you rely on natural gas (likely sourced from the USA) for heat, you probably use solar or a wood stove in the winter and open lots of windows in the summer.
Ontario currently sources 50%-60% of its electricity from 3 nuclear power plants, 24% of its electricity from hydro, 10% from natural gas and 6% from wind. As you know, coal-fired electricity plants are currently being retired all across the country. The Ontario Power Plant Scandal a few years ago is a reminder of how politics and media cost the Province of Ontario $1B in contract cancellation charges (for planned natural gas-fired power plants to replace coal-fired plants) which, due to this and other factors, has resulted in Ontario consumers now paying the highest electricity charges in Canada.
Secondly, did you know that 700,000 bbls/d of foreign oil make their way up the St. Lawrence on tankers every day and receive market price (Frank McKenna BNN Interview (3 minutes in), Former Premier of New Brunswick, Former Ambassador to the USA, current Deputy Chairman of TD Bank and Board member of CNRL) so that eastern refineries have gasoline feedstock for Central Canada? Once offloaded to the Canadian refineries for refining, the finished products are then trucked, railed or pipelined to consumers. I assume you knew that pipelines move millions of barrels of oil and liquids and billions of cubic feet of natural gas safely to their end users every day. Pipelines also transport drinking water, wastewater and other necessary items every day, mostly without incident. When an incident occurs, and they are infrequent, we all take notice and learn from the incident.
Since you mentioned the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in your article, it is useful to point out that oil and gas pipelines to Central Canada markets and to the West Coast already exist and in my view, need to be expanded. Based on what I know, they are regulated and owned by responsible companies with safe track records and monitored and maintained by employees who understand the impact of an incident both on their company and on the environment.
Without pipeline expansion approvals, our oilsands reserves will continue to receive a price discount that will hinder the future development of this finite Canadian resource while others take up our share of international oil sales and fill the gap. International investors know this and have shown their opinion by selling Canadian assets and moving their capital elsewhere. Governments should not try to phase out industries or products by showing a lack of decisiveness or by creating new tax burdens – the economics of the industry or the redundancy of the product eventually takes care of that. Change takes time. Blackberry, the cigarette manufacturers and the coal producers all know that.
Western Canada has plenty of oil and gas to supply our country and offshore markets as we transition to other energy sources. Our oil resources and their developers continue to show improvements in extraction technology, transportation safety and environmental stewardship. Let’s allow the industry to improve by providing it with the market to sell their products.
ATCO Gas, a natural gas distributor in W. Canada, had a slogan a few years ago “Blue Flame – Green Future”. They should bring the slogan back.
Sorry to tell you Ms. Balkissoon, but even though you say “you know no one who works in oil and gas” your daily life relies on the oil and gas industry.