When Ms Soapbox read the “open letter” to Canadians published by three oil executives she was reminded of Sigmund Freud. Freud spent 30 years asking himself: what do women want?
After 70 years of riding the boom/bust roller coaster with the energy industry Canadians are wondering the same thing: what do they want?
The answer is contained in the “open letter”.
Here’s the letter as it appeared in 30 newspapers. (Ms Soapbox’s comments appear in italics).
The Open Letter
We have big decisions to make as a country, and there is an opportunity for each of you to influence the outcome. (How will you vote in the federal election?)
Canadians want to know what the energy sector is doing to address the global climate change challenge while working to strengthen our economy. (True).
As energy company leaders, we believe Canada is ideally positioned to do its part to both positively impact climate change and ensure a strong and vibrant economy for the future. (Good).
This is not an ‘either’ ‘or’ conversation, it’s an ‘and’ conversation. (Got it).
The world needs more energy to sustain a growing global economy that is expected to lift three billion people out of poverty in the decades ahead. We need more wind, solar and hydro, but oil and natural gas remain a large part of the mix too. This is true in even the most optimistic scenarios for the worldwide adoption of renewable energy. (Lifting three billion people out of poverty involves geopolitical and macroeconomic issues as well as climate change, but okay).
The world also needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But shutting down Canada’s oil industry will have little impact on global targets. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, with higher carbon fuels replacing our lower emissions products. (This is not an excuse for doing nothing, Canada can set an example. It’s called moral leadership).
A healthy Canadian oil and natural gas industry is vital in leading the way to a lower carbon future. (Not if “healthy” means “profitable” and “profitable” means minimal GHG reduction).
Made-in-Canada technologies that reduce emissions at our oil and natural gas operations could be adapted for sharing with other industries worldwide. We are already making meaningful progress developing those solutions. (True).
We’ve reduced the emissions intensity in the oil sands by about 30% over the past two decades, and a number of oil sands operations are producing oil with a smaller greenhouse gas impact than the global average. We’re working to get those numbers even lower.
(Actually, Suncor says it’s reduced emissions by 50%. Is Suncor sharing its technologies with you, if so, why are you at 30%?)
And Canada’s energy companies are the country’s single largest investors in clean tech. Through organizations such as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) we are continuing to work on – and share – breakthrough technologies. (Good, but you don’t get brownie points for doing the right thing).
But we can’t do it alone. (Here it comes…)
And that’s why we are writing this letter. (Wait for it…)
As we head into the upcoming election, we are asking you to join us in urging Canada’s leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by supporting an innovative energy industry. One that can contribute to solving the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most responsible way possible today.
(So you want to elect a government that will support the industry. According to 80% of the investors and industry executives who attended the 2019 ScotiaBank Conference, the biggest issue facing the industry is lack of egress/takeaway capacity—only 10% thought regulatory issues were the biggest challenge—the Trudeau Liberals bought Trans Mountain to fix the egress problem. The holdup is Charter challenges in the courts. A change of government won’t “fix” the courts.
The Conservatives say they’ll repeal the carbon tax. This will put more cash in your pocket. How will you invest it? 85% of the ScotiaBank guys said they’d buy back shares or pay off debt (ie. give the money to shareholders or banks), 0% said they’d invest in growth (ie. more jobs). So why should Canadians support the Conservatives?
The choices we make will determine the quality of life we create for ourselves and future generations. These choices will impact our ability to fund schools, hospitals, parks and the social programs that we as Canadians so deeply value. (Canadians also value the environment).
This isn’t about any particular pipeline, policy or province. This is about the future of Canada.
(So let’s talk politics. The ScotiaBank guys were asked who’d win in the fall election: 11% predicted a Conservative majority, 5% predicted a Liberal majority and 75% predicted a minority government of some sort. A CBC poll showed 35% of Canadians support the Conservatives, 31% support the Liberals, 13% support the NDP and 11% support the Greens—this foreshadows a non-Conservative minority government).
Signed by the Presidents of CNRL, Cenovus, MEG Energy
(And not signed by the presidents of industry giants like Suncor, Husky and Imperial and mega pipelines like Enbridge and Trans Canada).
Instead of publishing an open letter asking Canadians to elect a government that won’t push the industry on GHG emissions and supports less regulation, these three executives should have paid attention to economist Peter Tertzakian who told the ScotiaBank crowd in order to succeed the industry must: (1) lower its costs, (2) pay more attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and (3) do the best job it can to get the highest value markets because politics in Canada and the world are unpredictable.
To paraphrase Freud’s question: What do these industry executives want? Answer: a government that gives them everything.
Is this what Canadians want? We’ll find out in October.