Green Electricity Must Grow Faster Than Carbon Fuelled Power Shrinks

Does the federal government have a plan that will produce enough green energy to displace oil and gas? Vilifying oil companies and taxing their customers is not a plan.

In 2022 the major global oil and gas exporters include Saudi Arabia (murderer of dissident journalist Jamal Kashoggi), Iran (killer of Mahsa Amini for wearing an improper hijab and more than 200 others for subsequent protesting), and Russia (unprovoked attack on Ukraine killing tens of thousands and displacing 14 million).

Those regimes are unmoved by protest stunts such as the “Stop Oil Now” adolescents throwing tomato soup at famous artworks. But many political actors in western democracies support their cause, seeking to suppress production and viewing oil companies like Canadian Natural Resources, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and British Petroleum as the enemy.

Thus, when asked by a German reporter whether he was ready to deliver natural gas to Germany, Prime Minister Trudeau ducked the question. “Canada is a major oil and gas producer in the world but because of our commitment to fight climate change, we are working very, very hard to decarbonize and develop other sources of energy that we can rely on and share with the world.”

The Germans are in great difficulty, having decommissioned 14 of their 17 nuclear power plants while relying on Russia for 40% of their natural gas imports. They are burning dirty coal instead.

When he reluctantly approved the Bay Du Nord development in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault assured opponents that it will become increasingly difficult for companies to gain approval for future oil projects.

It is no surprise, but perhaps a bit embarrassing, for the former environmental activist to be sued for approving Bay Du Nord by Ecojustice, the Sierra Club, and others. The Saudis, Iranians, and Russians hope they win; more supply will reduce the prices they can command.

When Russia invaded Ukraine and sanctions were imposed on its exports the prices of oil and natural gas rose sharply, richly rewarding Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the other OPEC nations. This contributed to the global spike in inflation.

A week ago Guilbeault and activists lashed out at oil companies for their big profit increases resulting from the higher global prices. Those price increases would have been smaller if he was not so busy suppressing supply. This is only going to get worse.

Canada and the other western democracies are far too slow in developing new low-carbon sources of energy. Providing enough new green energy to replace the existing carbon-fuelled electricity is in itself a major challenge.

Wind and solar are the primary technologies being touted. Both are intermittent sources that cannot be turned up and down at will. Balancing sources are needed. Hydroelectric power and nuclear are the two main candidates. Batteries are expensive, toxic, and cannot provide the necessary scale.

No matter what the source there will be opposition. Wind farms have been protested in Nova Scotia, for example in Wentworth and Inverness. Forbes reports that no fewer than 317 wind projects have been rejected by municipalities in the United States.

Muskrat Falls and the Site C dam in British Columbia are among the hydro projects that have faced opposition. Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are implacably opposed to nuclear power.

Some projects succeed despite the opposition, but the complex litigation always causes delays.

Matching the current sources is just a start. Demand is going to increase substantially. Canada’s population has increased by 6.5% in the last five years. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has just announced an increase in immigration goals to 500,000 per year.

That would point to a population increase of over 25% between now and 2035, and a corresponding increase in the demand for energy for existing uses. That is the year after which Canada and others plan to forbid the sale of carbon-fuelled vehicles.

There is reason to doubt whether enough electric cars can be built to meet demand. The need for enormous quantities of materials such as lithium and copper will require many mines that do not exist today, even on paper.

Providing even more zero-carbon energy sources to replace oil furnaces and combustion engines will further add to the demands for green energy.

In a perfect world the federal government would publish a continuously updated forecast of what green energy projects are underway or planned, and how they compare to the amount that will be needed each year until 2035, reflecting population growth and broadening uses. If such a plan exists it has missed the notice of this observer.

From that could be deduced the amount of oil and gas that will still be needed each year. Canada should plan to have that amount available from domestic sources. To do otherwise will raise the prices of oil and gas and serve the interests of vile regimes.

Carbon taxes might reduce demand a little, and preventing new oil wells may please green voters, but neither will produce a single kilowatt of new electricity. A visible plan tracking whether enough green power is being built gives the best chance at success.

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