Pendulum could swing ‘too far’ against hydrocarbons sector, Alberta warns
Caution urged in how green transition is managed after long list of projects axed
Federal efforts to build greater consensus on a long-term energy strategy for Canada met provincial reality Thursday, as Alberta warned about the dangers of “the pendulum swinging too far” against oil and gas, and British Columbia stuck to its guns in opposing the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline while the province pivots toward green energy.
In a panel discussion at a conference convened by Jim Carr, the federal natural resources minister, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd urged caution about how a green transition is managed.
“It’s important for us to keep people working and have a strong economy,” McCuaig-Boyd told the meeting. “This is important for us because good jobs and economic opportunity underwrite our ability to transition to a low carbon economy. A strong economy gives us capacity to invest in renewables, funds green infrastructure and funds innovation.”
Alberta’s NDP government is doing its part to help with the energy transition by putting a price on carbon, phasing out coal, capping oilsands emissions while still growing production, said McCuaig-Boyd, one of the few voices at the meeting defending Canada’s oil sector and its workforce.
Carr is hosting a two-day conversation to “create a long-term vision for Canada’s energy future” with heavy input from academia, Indigenous communities, the public and green advocates.
“Looking forward, it’s important to not let the pendulum swing the other way, overburdening industry, creating uncertainty,” McCuaig-Boyd said.
Those conditions have resulted in a long list of oil and gas projects being cancelled, including TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline last week after the federal government expanded its review to include upstream and downstream climate change impacts.
McCuaig-Boyd said she remains confident the Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast “will be built in good time, which will be very good for Alberta and for Canada.”
But she also said good regulatory reforms are needed to avoid scaring away investors. “We don’t want it to be so overlapped that what we do in Alberta is being duplicated federally, and then it’s way too long and leaves those people behind.”
Carr said the federal government continues to support Trans Mountain, which it approved last year.
“Ninety nine per cent of Canadian exports of oil and gas go to the U.S.” he said. “That means we have to expand our export markets, and our most obvious expansion is to Asia. There is this insatiable appetite for Canadian product.”
But the project is before the Federal Court of Appeal in B.C., where the provincial government, municipalities, and Aboriginal communities are challenging its permit.
B.C. Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said any resource decision needs the consent of all First Nations, “and as it stands right now with the Trans Mountain pipeline, they don’t have 100 per cent from all First Nations who have been impacted.”
“First Nations in the Lower Mainland have expressed opposition to this pipeline, and so it’s incumbent on the feds to be working with First Nations in terms of what their concerns are, rather than just barrelling through,” Mungall told reporters.
She would not say whether full consent is required from First Nations on the pipeline route, or throughout B.C., or in the Lower Mainland. “We have jurisprudence on that,” she said. “We have treaty rights on this and we have a lot of legalities on this.”
She said her government remains supportive of the liquefied natural gas sector, which she said through exports can help Asian economies reduce their dependence on coal and cut carbon emissions.
While two big LNG projects were cancelled since the election of her NDP government, Mungall blamed the decisions on low commodity prices and said the LNG industry remains alive in her province.