Sebastian Vettel’s Anti-Oil Sands Stunt Doesn’t Help Energy Security or the Environment

Sebastian Vettel Anti-Oil Sands Stunt Doesn't Help Energy Security or the Environment

Sebastian Vettel, a long-time professional and internationally recognized racecar driver, was widely booed by the crowd during the drivers’ parade at the F1 Canadian Grand Prix 2022. Joining the long list of celebrities who have used their platform to oppose Canada’s energy sector, it seems Canadians didn’t appreciate Vettel sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Just a few days before, the Aston Martin driver arrived at the Montreal event wearing a shirt that read “STOP MINING TAR SANDS” and “CANADA’S CLIMATE CRIME” in protest of the Canadian oil and gas sector.

It’s abundantly clear that Vettel doesn’t know much about Canada’s oil sands sector from his interview before the Grand Prix event.

“What happens in Alberta is a crime, because you chop down a lot of trees and you basically destroy the place just to extract oil and the manner of doing it with the tar sands mining, oil sands mining, is horrible for nature,” the 34-year-old father of three said, according to Global News.

The same day, pictures of Vettel’s newly designed helmet flooded the internet. Detailed with an old rusted pipeline and slogans protesting the oil sands, you can’t but help notice the sponsor logo in the same view:

It’s almost satirical, isn’t it? You know, to have the logo of the world’s largest oil company on your helmet while simultaneously protesting Canada’s oil sands.

Saudi Aramco is also the world’s largest oil exporter and second-largest producer behind the U.S. The state-owned company averaged 10.8 million barrels of petroleum liquids production per day in 2021, roughly 11 per cent of the world’s total.

To Vettel’s credit, the Formula 1 driver decided not to wear the helmet shown above on the day of the Canadian Grand Prix. However, if it wasn’t for the pushback from event-goers, provincial politicians and advocacy groups, he might have chosen otherwise.

But put aside the outrage over his actions and it becomes clear that Canadians need to continue promoting a more balanced and fact-based discussion around our energy sector.

Like countless other people worldwide, the German racecar driver has likely been misinformed about the oil sands by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmentalists who just aren’t honest about the facts.

These groups continue to demonize Canadian energy, which does absolutely nothing to benefit our families here at home or the global environment.

For example, does Vettel know about the great lengths Canadian oil sand producers take to reduce environmental impacts?

Oil Sands & Environment: 10 Facts

Canadian oil sands can lead the low emission oil and gas future

FACT #1 – Oil sands emissions intensity has dropped 44% since 1995.

FACT #2 – Since 2013, reported intensities among oil sands companies decreased 23% versus just 13% for global majors.

FACT #3 – Oil sands GHG Intensities could improve another 20% to 30% in the near future with the implementation of planned innovations.

FACT #4 – If the rest of the world followed minimal Canadian flaring standards (like those adhered to by oil sands producers), total GHG emissions from the average barrel of oil would drop by 23% - equivalent to removing 110 million cars off the road.

FACT #5 – Canadian energy companies are leaders in carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCUS); over 90% of future oil sands emissions are capturable using CCUS technology.

FACT #6 – The first phase of CCUS projects in Canada could reduce oil sands emission intensities by 14%, down to ~49.8 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per barrel (kgCO2e/bbl) of production, comparable to the average global upstream carbon intensity of 55.0 kgCO2e/bbl. Additional phases could reduce oil sands emissions intensity to ~30.4 kgCO2e/bbl, making Canadian oil and gas one of the lowest GHG-intensive feedstocks in the world.

FACT #7 – Oil sands producers are leaders in water recycling, averaging 82% of water use versus 29% for U.S. senior oils in 2019

FACT #8 – Alberta, home to the oil sands, was the first North American jurisdiction and one of the first globally to take climate action with mandatory GHG emission reduction targets for major emitters. It is also one of the few oil-producing jurisdictions with regulated emissions protocols, mandatory reporting and carbon taxes on excess GHGs.

FACT #9 – The oil sands support several Indigenous communities that actively participate in its development. Since 2012, oil sands producers spent $15 billion with Indigenous-owned businesses, with record spending of $2.6 billion in 2019.

FACT #10 – The Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero alliance, accounting for >95% of production in the sector, has made an unprecedented commitment to reach net-zero by 2050 through various means such as CCUS, hydrogen, fuel switching and electrification to name a few.

Sources: BMO Capital Markets, CIBC Capital Markets, Journal Science

Canada’s ESG Record

Also, does Vettel know about Canada’s world-class performance on several Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) related indices?

Canada – where oil sands make up the bulk of oil production – ranks exceptionally well compared to Saudi Arabia. For example:

So then, the question remains for Vettel and the list of celebrities he now joins: where do they prefer to get their supply from in a world with growing demand for oil and gas? Is it from:

  1. Highly transparent, stringently regulated and environmentally conscious producers like Canada?
  2. Producers with much weaker (sometimes non-existent) protections for human rights and the environment?

Vettel Ignores Current Realities

projected global oil and LNG demand growth through 2040

Vettel is not the first celebrity to use their platform to attack Canada’s world-class oil sands sector, nor will he probably be the last. But given current global energy shortages, it seems highly counterintuitive for anyone to call for the “shut down” of one of the most sustainable and reliable oil industries on the planet.

The reality is that energy security concerns are now front and centre in the minds of policymakers across the globe. This is particularly true in the European Union, which has increasingly relied on Russia for its oil and gas supply over the years and has now largely been cut off by the source.

Germany, Austria, Italy and the Netherlands are just a few countries signalling a return to coal-fired power generation amid energy shortages as they race to find alternative supplies to Russian fuel.

Meanwhile, global energy demand is expected to grow by nearly 50% by 2050.

You see, while celebrities like Vettel and other anti-oil and gas activists push toward a “fossil-fuel-free” future, the policy decisions of governments in the EU, Asia and elsewhere tell a very different story about how the energy transition is going to play out.

Such policies have made it clear we will need an “all of the above” solution where we can support the development of Canadian oil, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar, nuclear and other emerging technologies to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

Sebastian Vettel and other celebrities who attack the oil sands claim they are doing something good for the environment. However, attempting to influence public opinion on Canadian energy for the worse does nothing to support sustainable and reliable supply chains. All this does is help cede energy market share to other less responsible producers who just don’t care as much as we do about worker’s rights, environmental protection, gender equality, etc. – the list goes on.

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