DEBATE: Can We Support Both Canadian Oil & Natural Gas and Global Sustainability Efforts?

Debate - Mike Smyth Show - October 23rd, 2023 - Can Canadians support both oil and natural gas and sustainability efforts at once

Do Canadians have to choose between supporting our local world-class oil & natural gas sector, or supporting global climate action? Is Canada’s energy sector compatible with global sustainability efforts here at home and worldwide?

Join Cody Battershill, Founder and Chief Spokesperson of Canada Action, as he debates these questions with Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, on the Mike Smyth Show of CKNW 980 out of Vancouver, British Columbia.


Or, keep reading for the full transcript between Mike, Cody, Peter, and the callers below. Also see:


Canada Action YouTube

Mike: All right, here we go now with our great fossil fuels debate in the era of climate change. Is it time to wind down Canada's production of oil and gas?

Now, that would include natural gas in BC here. We're spending billions on pipelines and production here.

And, man, you talk about a huge political fight in Canada over this. Now, of course, the Justin Trudeau government promising to increase the federal carbon tax, drive down demand for fossil fuels, limit production in places like the Alberta oil sands.

What a stark difference with Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the federal Conservative Party. He is promising to scrap the carbon tax. He wants to expand oil and gas production in Canada.

Got an awesome panel standing by to discuss this. Let's have a listen to Poilievre here first. Here he is speaking in British Columbia last week about oil and gas production in Canada. Listen to this.

Poilievre: Carbon capture and storage so that our oil and gas sector can put the carbon back in the ground where it came from and we can become the lowest emitting source of oil anywhere on planet Earth.

Oil, by the way, will be used roughly 60 to 100 million barrels a day for the next two decades, if you believe the International Energy Agency. So we think it should be low emitting Canadian oil to bring home that money to Canada.

Mike: Okay. 100 million barrels of oil demand for the next 20 years, he says, and Canada wants to get in on that. Let's discuss it with our panel now.

I got Peter McCartney on the line, Climate Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. Hey, Peter.

Peter: Hey, thanks for having me.

Mike: Thank you for being here.

Cody Battershill on the line. Cody is the founder of Canada Action, which is an advocacy group for oil and gas production in Canada. Cody, thank you.

Cody: Thanks, Mike. And thanks, Peter.

Mike: Okay, gentlemen, thank you to both of you. Peter, let me go to you first.

When you hear Poilievre there talk about continuing demand for oil, 100 million barrels a day for the next 20 years, is that true? Is that an accurate number?

Peter: It's not an accurate number. And I want to start by saying that the numbers Pierre Poilievre is quoting, if they were to come true, would lead to a catastrophic two and a half degree temperature rise on planet Earth. And I just do not believe that humanity will let that happen.

It's funny because he quotes the International Energy Agency, but, boy, is he ever cherry picking when it comes to this, because the International Energy Agency actually runs three scenarios. The one he's quoting is that no more climate action happens.

It's called the Stated Policies. We're doing what we do today. We don't introduce any new rules, regulations anywhere on Earth to reduce climate pollution for the next 30 years.

But the ones that say we're actually going to meet the commitments that we've made, the announced pledges scenario, or even the net zero by 2050 scenario, say that global oil demand will plummet over the next 30 years into well below what Pierre Poilievre is talking about. He's kind of fudging the numbers here.

Mike: Okay.  It's interesting. So he's projecting a massive continuing demand for oil and gas in Canada. Should get a piece of it. Cody, what do you think?

Cody: There's a lot of forecasts for oil and gas demand, and all of them show that in 10, 20, 30 years from now, we're still going to be using it.

So we could debate the numbers, but as long as the world is using oil and gas, using forestry, using mining, using electricity that we can export to the US, those resources should be produced in Canada. We should invest in our democracy, invest in our communities, invest in our responsibly produced supply.

Now, let's quickly talk about Peter's forecast. Respectfully, Peter, you've been saying for more than a decade oil will peak. We don't need it. We don't need Canada. And what's happened? Oil has gone up more than 10 million barrels a day since you and groups like yours started opposing Canadian pipelines. Gas demand has gone up.

And who has benefited? The United States, Australia, Qatar, Nigeria, Russia. Other producers that don't have the same focus on economic opportunities for Canadians. They don't have the same focus on human rights. They don't have the same focus on democracy and reducing emissions.

And now let's talk about making a meaningful impact on reducing emissions today while we balance affordability for Canadian families. That's LNG. And that's letting our allies and trading partners diversify away from other countries that don't share our values to buying more oil and natural gas from Canada.

That's a win win.

Mike: Okay, Peter, what do you say to that? Because this is going to be a big issue in an election campaign in our country when we get around to one here, and you're going to hear this all the time from Poilievre.

We can continue oil and gas production here in Canada and we can make it clean. We can make it the clean oil and gas. What do you say to that?

Peter: Yeah, I mean, just to clarify, we've said that oil demand would peak in the mid two thousand and twenties. And that is the current forecast that 2026 oil demand is going to start heading downwards instead of up we cannot produce.

Canadian oil and gas has some of the highest emissions anywhere in the world. And the production of these fossil fuels is the thing that's fueling climate disasters all over the world. And so when they talk about carbon capture, the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change evaluated all of the different ways that we have to reduce emissions, and they found that carbon capture was both the most expensive and the least effective way to do it.

So we are throwing billions behind this fantasy, which is essentially just a life preserver for the oil industry, so they can rag the puck until they have a friendly government that lets them go ahead and keep polluting for decades to come.

Mike: Okay, Cody, what do you say to that? Because we heard Poilievre hit that point as well. In the clip we played there, he talked about carbon capture and storage, that we can keep pumping oil, but we somehow capture the carbon so it's not released.

Is this possible? Like Peter calls it a fantasy. Is it real?

Cody: The federal government, the Liberal government, bought Trans Mountain because of a number of factors leading to obstruction and delays. That pipeline is almost complete, has huge support from Indigenous communities, helps Canada maximize the value of our resources.

They've also supported LNG. We have broad and growing nonpartisan, bipartisan support from all Canadians for all of the above strategy.

To be clear, we must advance wind and solar. We also must advance oil and natural gas and hydro and nuclear. And Peters against most of those things I just mentioned, which is not pragmatic.

We have seen Canadian oil and gas emissions. The Global Mail Editorial Board a couple of weeks ago, a month ago, said that emissions peaked eight years ago and they've fallen even though production is up. That's without major carbon capture.

So if Peter wants to reduce emissions globally, he's talking about the global climate, global weather, global this, global that. Let's be honest.

China and India are building coal power plants. Record coal power production worldwide. Also a record wind and solar. Also a record oil and natural gas. So let's export LNG to reduce coal power. Let's invest more in carbon capture, which if there's any chance carbon capture could reduce emissions, why would Peter be against it?

Mike: Okay, Peter. Peter, quick response from you. Then we'll fit a break in here. Go ahead.

Peter: Yeah, it's an opportunity. Cause we're spending tens of billions of dollars on the chosen technology of the oil when we know what we need to do is phase out fossil fuels. And we should be spending our money on know.

We cannot pretend. Places like China are moving into electric vehicles. One in every three electric vehicles sold today in China, vehicles is electric. And so they are moving off of fossil fuels faster than we are, and we need to get with the program in order to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.

Mike: Okay. It's our fossil fuels debate. Full phone board, right to your calls. Dev in Vancouver. Hi, Dev. Go ahead.

Dev: My point is this. Norway, one of the leaders on this planet when it comes to environmentalism, is investing billions and billions of dollars in new oil and gas development.

Peter, I don't know what you're smoking, but can you please tell me what it is? Because I'd like to live in an alternate universe like you do.

Mike: Okay, let's be polite. Okay? I do insist that we be respectful to each other. So I just remind you of that, Dev. Peter, go ahead.

Peter: I mean, let's be real here. Nobody's proposing new tar sand mines in Canada anymore. Teck Frontier had one that was proposed and they pulled the plug because it doesn't make any sense when you don't have oil over $100 a barrel.  The existing projects are chugging along and they can produce at a lower cost.

They're going to keep doing this. But even if Pierre Poilievre becomes prime Minister, he can hope and pray as much as you want. But the oil industry is not going to invest in something that doesn't make any sense.

So this is kind of a moot point when it comes to oil production in Canada. It will decline over the next several decades because that is what the economics require.

Mike: Cody, what do you say to that?

Cody: There's recent reports showing that Canadian oil production is sustainable at much lower prices. Oil sands is one part of our energy mix, but only there's a handful of mining projects. Most projects are drilling operations that actually have a far lower land footprint than similar operations in the US or elsewhere.

You've also got natural gas liquids and oil production offshore, the Atlantic, Saskatchewan. You've got a little bit in Manitoba, Alberta and BC.

Peter wants to cherry pick a tar sands mine because that's what they protest. All mining has a mining footprint, and everything we do on planet Earth has an environmental impact.

You have to also mine the ingredients that you require for wind, solar and electric vehicles. So let's mine it in Canada. Let's support democracy, invest in our local and Indigenous communities, generate revenues for Canadian social programs, and help the world diversify away from producers of those resources that don't share our values.

Mike: Back to the phone calls. Keith and Surrey. Hi, Keith. Go ahead.

Keith: It seems a little disingenuous to term oil and gas energy extraction as green in any form. But if we were to take a step back and actually determine what is the goal, are we wanting to live on this planet for a really long time, or are we wanting to maximize shareholder value in the near term?

Fossil fuels do increase CO2 emissions, which increases the severity of storms, wildfires, and the billions and trillions of dollars that that's going to cost is going to way wash out any of this nonsense that we continue to talk about with Peter and Cody.

Mike: Cody, what do you say to that?

Cody: We need all of the above. Global population is growing, global energy demands growing. So Canada's got one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world. We have among the highest investment in clean technology, carbon capture and storage.

We're 6th in the world for renewable energy production with hydro, wind, solar, some of the largest projects in North America and Alberta and across the country.

We need all of the above.

And that's what the world is saying. As long as the world needs oil and gas. It's got to come from Canada. We're focused on reducing emissions. And by the way, like I said, emissions peaked eight years ago.

Mike: But what do you say, Cody, let me ask you this. I know you're not a climate change denier, right? Like you're saying that fossil fuel emissions do cause climate change, right? So I know you're not a denier.

So what do you say when Peter says, look, if Poilievre is right and we're going to have 30 years of escalating demand for oil, this is going to be catastrophic for the planet? Are you buying that? Do you agree with that?

Cody: Well, the planet is going to have to look at mitigating. The planet's going to have to look at, how do you know someone who lives in a developing country who doesn't have a home, who doesn't have clean cooking fuels.

If you look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, poverty, reducing hunger, reducing disease, climate, environment, clean water.

And a lot of these countries, they just want clean water. They're not as focused on some of these other things. So we have to think globally.

As long as the world's using oil and gas, if you want to have maximum climate impact, climate action, then let's use the lowest emission barrel. And that's from Canada. ...coal power. That's from Canadian LNG.

Mike: Peter, your response? Go ahead.

Peter: The idea that people in the developing world need oil and gas to have clean water or alleviate poverty is absurd. We can do that with emissions free technology and we are doing it with emissions free technology.

Substituting one fossil fuel for another is not a win. It's not better. And we have to find a way, and we will and are finding a way to provide a good quality of life for everyone on this planet without fundamentally undermining the life support systems that provide that quality of life.

Because the number one thing that is kicking people down wherever people are trying to come up out of poverty is the climate disasters that are wreaking havoc all over the world right now.

Mike: Okay, squeeze in one more. Call Karen in Surrey. Hi, Karen. Go ahead. You got like 30 seconds here. Okay, go ahead.

Karen: Trudeau has not met one target. Imposing carbon tax on Canadians. It's a fake tax. Pierre is going to get rid of it. He's going to introduce better ways to address the climate issues.

He's not a climate denier like Peter likes to say. He agrees climate is an issue, but the carbon tax is not the solution. Cleaner approaches is, And that's the way it is.

Mike: Okay, Karen, thank you for the call. Okay, guys, as usual, the time flies by when you're on, so you get 30 seconds each to sum up. Peter, go ahead.

Peter: Yeah, I mean, Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives have no plan to deal with climate change, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in the next election because I don't think you can do it without a carbon tax inany of the ways that they're proposing.

So the world needs to get off of fossil fuels. We know it. And the sooner we do, the more lives we can save. At the end of the day, that's what we need to do.

Mike: Cody, 30 seconds to you. Go ahead.

Cody: I believe BC has had a carbon tax for a long time and emissions have continued to go up. So I don't know if that's gone down by itself is going to necessarily be the cure all.

But we do have to look at investing in technology. We do have to remember global emissions. Not national, not local.

So what's our maximum impact globally while we balance affordability and economic opportunities for Canadian families? Canadian natural gas, Canadian clean technology, small modular reactors, developing wind and solar at home, hydro, all of the above.

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