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Justin Trudeau’s existential problems with oil and gas: Jack Mintz


7 minute read

From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Jack Mintz

Squeeze the industry to please his party’s green base or keep output, revenue and high-paying employment flowing?

Talk at the latest climate-change shindig in Dubai has centred around the future of the oil industry and whether countries should pledge to phase out oil and gas production entirely or simply transform the industry in decades to come. Canada always talks a deep-green game at these affairs but are we really ready to nail shut the oil and gas coffin?

Maybe not. In Dubai Canada announced a cap-and-trade approach to oil and gas emissions but argued it won’t actually stop oil and gas production outright. The provinces, who yet again weren’t consulted, may not agree. Besides, promises are one thing. The record is another.

It also emerged in Dubai that the Emirates, seventh largest oil producer, is expecting to increase its production by a million barrels a day (mbd) by 2030. This is not a new trend. According to the U.S. Energy Information Service, the UAE increased production of oil and hydrocarbon liquids like coal oil by 15.3 per cent between 2015 and 2022, from 3.7 mbd to 4.2, fourth-most of all oil-producing economies. That’s much faster than world output, which was up only 3.6 per cent since 2015, reaching 100.1 mbd last year.

The irony — maybe even the hypocrisy — is that three countries in the Americas have increased their petroleum output even more than this Middle Eastern oil sheikhdom has: the U.S., Brazil and, yes, us: Canada.

The Biden administration, which is promising 2030 emissions will be half 2005 levels, has so far failed to stymie oil and gas development. U.S. petroleum and liquids production has soared by 33.9 per cent since 2015, reaching 20.3 mbd in 2022. Two-fifths of the increase has been on Biden’s watch. The U.S., not Saudi Arabia, is now the world’s leading oil producer, accounting for fully 20 per cent of global supply.

The Trudeau government has pledged that 2030 oil and gas emissions will be 42 per cent lower than in 2005. This has led to tensions with the oil- and gas-producing provinces, which are resisting emissions caps for oil, gas and electricity. Ottawa’s opposition to liquefied natural gas sales even as the U.S. and Qatar are making great inroads in the world market has had industry leaders scratching their heads. Even so, since the Liberals came to power in 2015, Canada’s oil and gas production has grown second fastest globally, at 26.7 per cent, to reach 5.6 mbd last year. Much of this growth is due to big investments in the oil sands before 2015 but the production increase has been accommodated by pipeline expansion, with the federally-owned TMX soon to come on stream.

Neither Biden nor Trudeau is attending COP28 but Brazil’s president, Lula de Silva, stormed in at the head of a delegation of 2000 to repeat a pledge to cut 2030 emissions to less than half 2005 levels. Much of reduction results from reforestation, however, not phasing out oil and gas. And, to the surprise of attendees, Lula announced that Brazil will align itself more closely with OPEC. No shock there. Since 2015, Brazil’s oil and gas production has risen by 20 per cent, making it the 8th largest producer in the world at 3.8 mbd last year. It now evidently sees itself as a player.

Besides the U.S. Canada, Brazil and UAE, only Iraq (at 10.4 per cent) and Kazakhstan (at 4.5 per cent) have seen their oil production grow faster than the world average since 2015. The rest have had little growth, with seven countries registering declines, including 22.4 per cent in Mexico and 36.7 per cent in Nigeria, the biggest drop anywhere.

The standstill or even loss in oil and gas production in many oil-producing countries since 2015 is due to several factors. Oil prices dropped by three-fifths after 2014 and the pandemic caused another crash. More recently, Saudi Arabia and Russia have persuaded OPEC+ to constrain production and push prices to over US$80 per barrel — mainly in order to replenish their treasuries. In some places, including Ghana, the U.K. and Norway, old fields are depleting. Elsewhere, but especially in Africa and Mexico, crime and political instability continue to discourage development. Finally, in the face of lagging demand, investors have encouraged companies to distribute profits rather than invest in greenfield oil and gas projects.

But top producers like the U.S. and Canada are not holding back and governments aren’t stopping them. Phase-out is all short-term cost in pursuit of climate gains that won’t be realized for decades, if at all. Nor are politicians willing to eliminate the tax revenues and high-paying jobs the industry generates. With energy security crucial in an increasingly dangerous world, oil-consuming countries are finding that intermittent renewable energy and other high-cost energy sources are no substitute for fossil fuels.

As the federal Liberals sink in the polls, they face a many-ways existential choice. Do they pursue their climate promises and phase out oil and gas? Or do they secure the benefits of oil and gas production for years to come? Or, a third option: do they say one thing but quietly do the other? Is it all, as Shakespeare would say, “much ado about nothing”?


Indigenous Loan Program Could Pave the Way for More Natural Resource Economy Ownership

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By Resource Works

“We want to be part of the oil and gas industry”

Ottawa has promised a loan program for Indigenous communities to buy equity stakes in natural resource projects, but many questions are still unanswered.

Ottawa is currently under scrutiny as it prepares to incorporate an Indigenous loan-guarantee program into its 2024-2025 budget, aimed at assisting Indigenous communities in acquiring equity stakes in natural resource projects. This commitment was made in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fall economic statement on November 21.

The government will advance development of an Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program to help facilitate Indigenous equity ownership in major projects in the natural resource sector. Next steps will be announced in Budget 2024.

The federal budget is typically presented to Parliament in either February or March, with the 2023-2024 budget having been announced on March 28 last year. While Ottawa has engaged in consultations with Indigenous leaders and organizations, there remains a notable lack of specific details, including a critical issue – whether the program will permit investment in oil and gas projects.

The First Nations Major Projects Coalition, boasting over 145 members, strongly advocates for Indigenous peoples to have the autonomy to determine their investment choices without constraints imposed by Ottawa. Although the government did assert its commitment to ensuring Indigenous communities benefit from major projects within their territories on their own terms, First Nations groups worry that the loan-guarantee program might mirror the green restrictions of the current Indigenous loan program provided by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

This existing program allows equity stakes only in infrastructure projects aligned with the bank’s investments, such as clean power, green infrastructure, broadband technology, and transportation. For some time, the First Nations Major Projects Coalition (FNMPC) and the Indigenous Resource Network have been at the forefront of campaigns urging federal loan guarantees to facilitate Indigenous participation in natural resource projects.

Sharleen Gale, Chair of FNMPC, argues that fossil fuel investments must be a component of any federal loan-guarantee program, as equity in the oil and gas industry can empower First Nations to thrive in alignment with their values.

“We want to be part of the oil and gas industry,” says Gale.

In 2022, the Indigenous Resource Network (IRN) initiated the “Ownership Changes Everything” campaign, advocating for Indigenous ownership in resource projects. This campaign calls upon Ottawa to implement a loan program modeled after similar initiatives in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Robert Merasty, highlights the challenges faced by Indigenous communities due to the Indian Act, which prohibits First Nations from using their land and assets as collateral. Consequently, they lack the necessary at-risk capital to secure favorable interest rates.

“The problems our communities are facing is that there are few mechanisms to access the necessary capital for investing in projects and having equity,” says Merasty.

In 2023, FNMPC penned an open letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, emphasizing the significance of advancing major resource projects for a successful energy transition and economic growth benefiting all Canadians. They also pointed out that the Indian Act remains a significant hurdle, preventing First Nations from leveraging their assets and land for borrowing.

FNMPC estimates that over the next decade, 470 major projects impacting Indigenous lands will require more than $525 billion in capital investment, with approximately $50 billion needed for Indigenous equity financing. An illustrative case from Alberta involved energy giant Enbridge, which partnered with 23 First Nation and Métis communities to sell an 11.57% interest in seven pipelines in northern Alberta. This partnership was made possible through a loan guarantee from the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp., which provides financing to Indigenous communities seeking commercial collaborations, alongside various other financial supports.

Greg Ebel, CEO of Enbridge, has joined the campaign for a national program.

“Investment in the entire energy sector and many others could be accelerated by the immediate implementation of a federal Indigenous loan-guarantee program to ensure Canada’s Indigenous Peoples have a seat at the table while also having equity that helps them secure a more prosperous future,” says Ebel.

As we await further developments, the question remains: Will a federal loan-guarantee program come to fruition, one that encompasses loan guarantees for investments in natural gas and oil? We are hopeful for a positive outcome.

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Canadian Energy Centre

Nine major insights from Shell’s latest global LNG outlook

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A worker at Shell’s Hazira LNG import terminal, about 250 kilometers from Mumbai, India. Photo courtesy Shell

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Led by growing demand in China and the need for energy security, LNG is playing an increasingly important role in global gas supply

Global energy giant Shell has released its latest outlook for world liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply and demand through 2040. Here are nine key insights about what to expect in the future.

1. LNG is playing an increasingly important role in global gas supply. Total world LNG demand is set to continue growing beyond 2040.

2. Global LNG trade reached 404 million tonnes in 2023, an increase of 7 million tonnes compared to 2022. Over the last five years, LNG demand grew by 45 million tonnes, or 13 per cent.

3. In 2040, the world is expected to consume up to 685 million tonnes of LNG, an increase of nearly 70 per cent compared to 2023.

4. The United States became the world’s largest LNG exporter in 2023, shipping 86 million tonnes, followed by Australia, Qatar, Russia and Malaysia.

5. By 2030, North America will supply about 30 per cent of global LNG demand, led by natural gas from major basins including the Appalachia (Marcellus) play in the eastern United States and the Montney play in Alberta and British Columbia. But the global gas market is increasingly exposed to U.S. risks like the Biden administration’s pause on new LNG approvals.

6. China is likely to dominate LNG demand growth as the country’s industries seek to cut carbon emissions by switching from coal to gas. With China’s coal-based steel sector accounting for more emissions than the total emissions of the UK, Germany and Turkey combined, gas has an essential role to play in tackling one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions and local air pollution. China’s gas demand is expected to rise by more than 50 per cent by 2040.

7. Natural gas, delivered as LNG, provides flexibility to balance intermittent solar and wind power generation. In countries with high levels of renewables in their power generation mix, gas provides short-term flexibility and long-term security of supply. Gas provides grid stability, enabling a higher share of renewables in power grids.

8. LNG continues to play a vital role in European energy security, with European nations importing more than 120 million tonnes in 2023, assisted by new regasification facilities. Europe will continue to rely on LNG to support its energy mix through 2030, even as total European natural gas demand is expected to decline by about 25 per cent.

9. South Asia and Southeast Asia are emerging as major LNG import regions, with Vietnam, and the Philippines starting to import LNG to backfill domestic gas declines. From less than 10 million tonnes in 2020, LNG imports to Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines are expected to rise to about 40 million tonnes in 2030 and more than 60 million tonnes in 2040. 

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