When this is all over, the lockdown, what is the world going to look like? Some aspects of the reversion to the mean will be predictable – as soon as social distancing is no longer a health imperative, bars and restaurants across the country will explode like Stampede at its finest. Well, maybe not that extreme, there’s only so much liquor available, but it will be some party. Travel will tentatively resume, and even those who “hate the mall” or “hate shopping” will no doubt feel pretty good walking right into a store to buy whatever the hell they want without feeling like they’d just escaped from a penitentiary.
And then consider the frenzy that will go on from the other side, the commercial side that exists because consumers choose to throw money their way. Think of every sports league in the world looking to start raking in money again to pay those massive salaries. Recent speculation is that the NHL will return in summer; so will every other event from golf tournaments to concerts to festivals to you name it that will die without viewers. We won’t know which way to turn, the opportunities will be so endless.
In the energy world, the opportunities will be ample as well. A locked-down coronavirus-world has made certain truths clear to a lot of people, truths that energy providers have long held to be self-evident, but are not.
We can all now see how critically important reliable energy supplies are, and how taken for granted they were. We will have seen that a global lockdown resulted in a massive drop of 30 million barrels per day of oil demand, but that the world still required 70 million barrels per day even when as close to a standstill as it will ever get this side of a true apocalypse. We saw that demand for natural gas will hardly have fallen at all, and that, as China is showing, once life goes back to normal, energy consumption will rise back to levels similar to pre-coronavirus. And when it does, we now have more clearly seen the pollutive footprint of collective human activity, and can map out ways to make that better.
As suppliers of that vital energy, we would be making a mistake to just quietly go back to work expecting that the general public has now finally been properly energy-educated, that they now “get it”. The same people that last year had convinced many, via thousands of protests, of the “evils of fossil fuels” will be back at it again. Rust and Tzeporah never sleep. It will take time for citizenry to be open to their hateful, overly-simplistic, good vs. evil messages again, but those groups are well-financed and, well, that’s their job – to demonize hydrocarbons. They are not paid to solve, they are paid to demolish, and they will not stop until their paycheques do.
Big energy leaders, we need you to step up and take the lead. We don’t need you on your heels pandering to the groups and politicians that spent all of 2019 trying to wipe the hydrocarbon industry off the map. We need you to set the record straight. We need you to leave the message ringing loudly in ears that blind allegiance to irrational doctrine is not a sane energy road map for Canada. We need you to make it crystal clear that Canada is an exporting nation, that exporting nations emit more per capita than importing nations do, and that we will no longer apologize for being the world’s natural resource pantry. We need to be forthright that we can do it better, but we need to be firm that Canada will not and cannot turn its back on resource development.
We don’t need a Canadian energy centre that appears to be run by Trailer Park Boys. We don’t need grandiose websites making true but irrelevant points that make the world think we are out of touch with the entire media machine that climate activists dominate. We need you to hire the right people to get in the game, and that means going out and getting some millennials, and listening to them.
We need you to elaborate clearly to Ottawa just how a national energy system should work. We need you to point out that building endless solar installations while sacrificing hydrocarbons will make sense only in a world where we choose to do all our living while the sun shines bright enough to spin the meters. We need you to explain the importance of stable and reliable fuel sources that Canada is overwhelmingly rich in. We need you to explain that renewables are welcome, but we need you to explain with crystal clarity how they will fit into a functional energy system, not define it. Critically, we need you to explain all that – not so-called “new energy” experts that have no energy experience except at the end of the mysteriously large capital pipeline that feeds any wind/solar installation no matter how redundant its output will be.
We need you to form committees and action groups and demand that you be heard. We need you to crowd Greenpeace et al off the stage, not with lobbying efforts, but with relevant education efforts. We need you to demand that federal ministers spend time in the energy trenches of western Canada, not in UN climate conferences in Tahiti. We need you to take business-oriented Indigenous leaders to Ottawa with you, and make sure both voices are heard, together and forcefully.
We need you to spearhead massive reinvention strategies like, for example, a national hydrogen strategy just like Australia has done. We need you to come up with realistic plans to work with governments of all levels to take care of abandonment liability issues, and market access, and methane emissions reduction strategies. We need to be at the table and providing input, not being passively and angrily on the sidelines.
We need you to connect with young people, who have been raised on a diet of socialistic helicopter-parented manipulated bunkum about energy. They’ve been manipulated and misinformed, and we need to find a way to stage an intervention. We need you to engage them in the way they engage each other, with the tools they use to engage each other, and that means hiring and listening to young people about what they think they know. Don’t pretend you understand social media, hire people that do, and let them run.
We, as the hydrocarbon industry, need to catalogue what is real and what is aspirational not just for Canada’s energy policy, but for what’s going on in our backyard. We need to recognize that part of our business is acknowledging that the playing field may not be fair but that life isn’t always fair. We need to stop wasting time moaning that Ottawa doesn’t care about energy. They don’t, and that’s not entirely evil, it’s the natural instinct to take for granted that which is always there, just like any big city including Calgary doesn’t, in normal times, care about where its toilet paper comes from either. Ottawa’s energy apathy is a reality and in some ways a backhanded compliment – we keep doing what we do out here, and we’re not in their face asking for handouts or subsidies (hello, Bombardier) to keep working. In fact, all we want is for the government to uphold the laws to allow the hydrocarbon sector to do its job, and then get out of the way.
Post-coronavirus, we’re all going to reengage with life with a vengeance. We’re also at a crossroads where the value of our existing supply chains, including and especially reliable energy, could not have been made more crystal clear. Let’s seize that opportunity. Let’s move.