Tim McMillan: Stores will open again, cars and trucks will begin to run and planes will fly. Our lives will continue – and life takes energy.
Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May recently said “oil is dead” and her “heart bleeds for people who believe the sector is going to come back.”
It’s foolish to assert “oil is dead” at any time, but it’s particularly ignorant to say it in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis.
Canadians are relying on oil to deliver their food, heat their homes, and provide the building blocks of the health-care products we need to keep us safe and alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
May’s nonsensical and condescending statements were backed up by Yves-Francois Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois leader who offered that oil “is never coming back.”
One could simply write off these comments and point out that May relies heavily on oil products to live in her exceptionally beautiful yet isolated riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands, where oil and natural gas are required to shuttle her via ferry to mainland British Columbia.
As for Blanchet, it would be difficult to justify that he’s speaking for Quebec, which is home to one of Canada’s largest oil refineries as well as to Bombardier, which makes planes that require jet fuel.
Quebec oil consumption is the second highest in Canada and a recent study by researchers at business school HEC Montreal showed the province is on track to grow its petroleum consumption by 30 per cent over the next decade due to rising truck and SUV sales. Oil and natural gas now provide more primary energy in Quebec than hydro.
However, we should examine their views a little more closely. There’s something behind these comments that should be deeply troubling to all Canadians.
We’ve seen the rise of the argument put forward by May and Blanchet from fringe activist groups that seem not bound by reality. However, it’s shocking to hear it from elected officials who are expected to lead and unite our country in a time of crisis.
We’re experiencing an exceptional period in human history. The locking down of economies around the world has meant a drop in global energy consumption for the first time in decades. Oil is by far the largest source of energy in Canada, bigger than wind, solar and hydro combined.
Prior to February 2020, global oil consumption was growing to record levels and all credible forecasts predicted continued growth for decades to come. The global economic crash halted that growth and has thrown all predictions into varying states of disarray.
However, we do know that stores will open again, cars and trucks will begin to run and planes will fly. Our lives will continue – and life takes energy.
Without oil and natural gas, our society would be almost unrecognizable. Medicines, warm showers, ample food supplies and the devices that connect us would virtually disappear, or become astronomically expensive luxuries.
I don’t believe this is the future Canadians want. We want to go back to work and enjoy the freedoms we once took for granted. We want to visit our aunt in Saskatoon, help our kids who are attending university in Halifax and stroll on the beach in White Rock on a long weekend. We want to get a ride to a downtown pub and watch the playoffs with a hundred other hard-core fans.
While May and Blanchet show derision for Canadian oil and natural gas, they’re in the minority. A Global Energy Pulse survey conducted by IPSOS in 2019 showed that 70 per cent of Canadians would prefer to use Canadian oil and natural gas than foreign imports. About half of Canadians surveyed believed critics’ views of the industry are about political confrontation and not the realities of the sector.
Oil and natural gas are Canada’s largest export products and the sector generates over $100 billion in gross domestic product and $8 billion annually in revenues for governments in the form of royalties and taxes.
It employs more than half a million Canadians and has a supply chain that reaches across the country.
The sector is also the largest investor in environmental protection and clean technology in the country, to the tune of more than $3 billion annually.
A strong oil and natural gas industry can drive our recovery, rebuild our industries and help restart our lives – something the majority of Canadians are looking forward to.
Tim McMillan is president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
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