When the federal environment commissioner reported Canada will not meet its 2020 international commitment on greenhouse gas emission cuts, no one was surprised.
The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been saying for years it will not sacrifice economic competitiveness — particularly in the oil and gas sector — for environmental gains.
But eight years after trumpeting to the world Canada’s “emerging energy super power” aspirations, the phrase appears to have fallen out of fashion with the Harper government.
Michael Cleland, the Nexen executive-in-residence at the Canada West Foundation, wrote in 2007 the government’s “energy super power” terminology was — as he puts it now — “kind of stupid.”
“In fairness to the government,” said Cleland, the former CEO of the Canadian Gas Association, “I don’t think they could have anticipated all of (the impediments to energy growth), whether it’s on the demand side or the public support side or dealing with climate change, or just the normal vicissitudes of energy markets.” But Cleland says those external factors have been exacerbated by Conservative policy decisions.
While oil exports to the United States are at a record high of 3-million barrels a day and the first load of Alberta bitumen was recently shipped to Europe there have been some major setbacks: including: delays to the Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines as well as some companies pulling out of projects in the oil sands
Andrew Leach, the Enbridge Professor of Energy at the University of Alberta, said current oil production is not the issue.
“The impact that this government is having is not on production today,” said the energy economist. “This is a longterm industry. So things the government has done in the last two and a half years have created more uncertainly and have stoked some of the opposition. That leads to long-run impacts.”
Leach also contends the government should have served as a “broker” between energy project proponents and objectors. “They chose the opposite approach kicking sand in the face of the environmental movement in Canada. They chose to talk down to American objections. They chose to take a very heavy-handed approach in terms of talking up the possibility of not needing the U.S. market.”
Add it all up and that goal of becoming an energy super power remains elusive.
(Source: Edmonton Journal)