Yesterday, we called it black gold, Texas tea, and watched as it became the road to riches for all the Jed Clampetts of the world.
Today, and for many, it is now called carbon pollution, a fossilized dinosaur, and a means to end the world as we know it, yet it is still the road to riches and the cornerstone for most of the world’s economy.
TransCanada ended its pursuit of the Keystone XL Pipeline. EXXON shareholders voted two “activist” crusaders to their Board of Directors in hopes of changing public opinion. A Netherland court ordered Shell Oil to reduce its carbon footprint and invest in something else.
Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund divested its interests in oil producers. Insurance company declined to reinsure pipelines. Endless protests block new pipeline construction. Protesters demanded B.C. be net zero carbon emissions by 2025.
Vancouver City Council is looking to charge a parking tax of $1000/year per gas guzzling vehicle. Premier Horgan said every new vehicle sold in B.C. in 2040 will be zero emissions. Five major oilsands producers said net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The list keeps going, but where are we headed?
Is oil really going the way of the dodo bird? Will we truly be electrified by 2030 or 2040 or 2050? Can we be net zero by 2025?
Climate change activists and fossil fuel deniers would like you to believe that the end is near. They would also like you to believe that we can do without the energy a barrel of oil currently provides.
Much was written about the demise of the internal combustion engine during the past two years of pandemic ponderings. Oil prices plunged as we were all ordered to stay home and quit moving about. And with that, all that time at home came the steady barrage of mindless social media postings predicting oil’s demise in a few short years as its use fell off the cliff.
But, with the pandemic now ending, what is happening?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by the end of 2022 we will be using more oil than ever before and will surpass 100 million barrels per day for the first time. 2021 will see the sharpest rise ever in oil consumption. They also predict that there could be temporary oil shortages due to supply and delivery constraints. Others predict we will travel more than we ever did before.
Which is it?
Will oil be gone as our primary source of energy before Trudeau can say “election” or is it here to stay until Greta grows up and gets selected to lead the EU?
Who has got this right? Do we really need oil?
Big business says we must keep plodding along and we will get to net zero by 2050?
Our brilliant politicians say different. They say we can flip the switch to off by legislating net zero by 2025 or 30, or you pick a year.
Trudeau says his carbon tax will be net zero financially to us Canadians, and for many, a positive source of income.
Alas here in B.C., Premier John says not so fast.
B.C. is not going that way. His carbon tax will not be used to help his citizens pay for more expensive energy. He will use our taxes to fund more hotels for homeless, more to pay for higher contract costs that subsidize union workers in government-issued infrastructure contracts, and much, much more in paying for the thousands of newly created government workers.
Some say we do not have enough lithium, graphite, cadmium to supply the electric vehicle market. Others say we aren’t developing new copper mines fast enough. Some just pray that technology will keep up and provide what we need, when we need it.
What is real?
One of these days we will wake up and smell the proverbial roses and begin to read the fine print of all these promises.
New pipelines will be proposed and built to keep up to world oil demand, maybe not here initially, but they will be built — somewhere. “Activist” directors on major energy companies will vote keep their oil-based programs profitable while they too work on net-zero solutions.
Yes, we Canadians will keep paying more and more for our energy, until it reaches the point where Canada is non-competitive on the world scale, after which we will begin replacing our governments with the direction to lead us down another path. Shell Oil won’t stop producing oil because of one judge, but if required, they will just stop selling it in the Netherlands.
The Norway fund is keeping its investments in refineries while they tell the world how great their Environmental, Social, and Governmental (ESG) platform is. Pipelines will still find insurance companies to do business with as insurance companies will go to where the money is.
Net zero by 2025 will be another long-lost slogan by next year. Vancouver taxpayers will wake up and realize that $1000 to park a car is not an incentive, but a political penalty for living in utopia. Horgan will be long gone before he can penalize the rest of B.C. with his 2040 promise.
And surprise, surprise, the most likely of all these promises to exceed is… oilsands producers net zero by 2050.
They too understand that times are changing, that we must change, but to turn this ship around and make the worldwide changes needed, that will take time. Just like new battery technology, they too will rely on new technologies to make the changes. And unlike our politicians who think in election cycles, their projections will be based on reasonable implementation periods.
Until then, there will still be the steady increase and use of non-combustion vehicles, where it makes sense, more recycling of plastics into useful products, and more mines that provide the minerals required for this all, etc., etc., and etc.
What we won’t see is a decrease in the need for energy, for a long, long time to come.
Evan Saugstad lives and writes in Fort St. John.