A pumpjack is silhouetted against the setting sun in Oklahoma City, March 22, 2012. No surprises are expected today as shareholders in ARC Resources Ltd. and Seven Generations Energy Ltd. vote virtually on an all-shares transaction to form Canada's sixth-largest oil and gas producer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Sue Ogrocki

Opinion: Canada needs to have conversation about energy needs

Another month and another “expert” report calling for fewer pipelines. Attacks on pipelines have become so routine we only notice the most outrageous ones.

A recent report from academics at Simon Fraser University calling for stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion fits that category – it is fuelled by false premises and ignores how free markets and pipelines work.

Canada needs to have serious, non-partisan conversations about ours and the world’s energy needs and the opportunities that come from that. Misinformation is incredibly costly and must not distort critical decisions for Canada’s future.

One of the authors of the report, Thomas Gunton, has argued since 2017 that Canada does not need to invest in additional pipelines, that we already have enough. The winter of 2018 immediately proved that argument wrong as Canadian producers were hit with low prices due to a lack in pipeline capacity. Pipeline infrastructure is crucial to meeting energy security and not having enough can be devastating. Even now Ontarians and Quebecers are worried that Michigan might shut down the Line 5 pipeline this month, which meets half of their energy needs.

The authors of these reports forget that pipelines are static. Each pipeline delivers oil to a dedicated endpoint and serves a specific market. It is about the supply of oil needed to meet the demand in particular regions. Without Trans Mountain, no Canadian oil would be delivered to British Columbia, Washington, California, or Asia. When Gunton says that Canada has too many pipelines it is like arguing that you don’t need a kitchen faucet because your neighbour already has one.

Pipelines are the most efficient, environmentally friendly way to transport the petroleum needed to meet market demands. Without pipelines, oil will still be transported on trucks and trains – significantly increasing the cost, environmental impact, and risk for disaster. Doing away with pipelines is counterproductive, especially since Canada’s energy sector is well-regulated, well-managed, and well-run.

Coming out of a pandemic-induced recession, Canada should not be stifling the energy industry – we should be promoting our most important export. If Canadian companies cannot compete globally because we prevent them from efficiently bringing our products to market, other countries will take our place. Make no mistake, the demand for oil is there and will be met by countries with much lower ESG standards than Canada.

We know that there is strong demand for oil throughout Asia and have every reason to believe that demand will increase in coming decades as increased Asian prosperity leads to a growing middle class and the energy demand that quality of life entails.

A completed Trans Mountain pipeline will help Canadian oil companies compete on the world market unfettered by inefficient transportation. Our petroleum producers would be able to reduce costs for consumers while protecting the environment, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue in government coffers. Taxes which pay for the healthcare and social services we all value and have relied on so heavily in the last year.

Despite what some may want, as Canada transitions to produce more energy with lower environmental impacts, oil will remain vital for many decades to come. In fact, the oil and gas industry is making dramatic advancements in technology. There are credible industry announcements every day about lower emissions and even net-zero technologies are becoming almost as common as misinformation in anti-pipeline reports.

Canada’s oil and gas sector have been world leaders in innovation. They spend more money on clean technology than all other Canadian industries combined. There is good reason to believe that in the near future that new oil and gas development may have a smaller environmental footprint than wind and solar with their massive reliance on concrete, steel, and rare earth metals.

Calling for pipeline closures may be popular with some. However, this popularity does not make it more logical, responsible, or appropriate. And reports like this latest one from Simon Fraser University – fuelled by false premises about oil demand and how markets work – detract from the much-needed discussion about the future of petroleum in Canada and the world.

Cody Ciona is a researcher for the Canadian Energy News Network.

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