Fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty would hurt humanity

Canada is the solution for reliable, affordable, environmentally responsible energy supply

Deborah JaremkoAnti-oil-and-gas activists want the world to believe that the ongoing use of natural resources like gas and oil is an imminent threat to human society as bad as the atomic bomb. They’re wrong.

Modern life relies on oil and gas for transportation, home heating/cooling, food supply, and everyday products like your cellphone, computer and clothes. And everything from health-care items like heart valves and anesthetics to critical infrastructure like buildings, roads and bridges.

Reducing emissions in oil and gas is essential, and Canada’s industry is a global leader in these efforts.

Today oil and gas supply about 53 per cent of global energy needs, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In 2050, despite the rise of renewable and alternative sources, IEA expects oil and gas will still supply about 50 per cent of world energy.

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Calling for a total shutdown of oil and gas development worldwide would only hurt humanity, particularly the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Here’s why the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is the wrong path to take.

Energy access is critical to well-being

According to the European Commission, “adequate warmth, cooling, lighting, and energy to power appliances are essential services that underpin a decent standard of living and health. Access to energy services is essential for social inclusion.”

Canada and its partners in the G7 have called on members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) like Saudi Arabia to increase oil and gas supply as skyrocketing prices cause “grave concern” for households across the G7 and beyond. Bank of America has warned that further reductions in available oil could trigger a global recession.

The world’s growing population requires more energy, not less

According to the IEA, more than 730 million people around the world still don’t have access to electricity. Efforts to improve global energy access stalled due to the COVID pandemic, and spiking energy prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could make the situation worse.

“The pandemic’s impact on household incomes made basic energy services unaffordable for around 90 million people in Asia and Africa who had previously enjoyed access,” according to the latest joint report by the IEA, International Renewable Energy Agency, United Nations Statistics Division, World Bank and World Health Organization.

“As if the economic devastation of the pandemic weren’t enough, we’re also faced with increasing pressure to reduce our production of fossil fuels and move toward renewables,” N.J. Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, said in November 2021.

“But oil and gas remain critically important to meet Africa’s economic and energy needs, and that need is greater than ever.”

According to United Nations forecasts, the world’s population is expected to grow by about two billion by 2050, reaching 9.7 billion, driven primarily by growth in India. Those communities need access to abundant, affordable, reliable energy – and much of it will come from oil and gas.

Renewable and alternative energy isn’t available at scale to reduce oil and gas

Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Europe faced an energy crisis, in part due to overreliance on wind power when the wind wasn’t blowing.

Countries including Germany are now planning to restart mothballed coal-fired power plants to save natural gas supplies for storage, to be used during the winter months as the fallout from the invasion on world energy markets continues.

Alternative and renewable energy is increasingly important, but the reality is these technologies are not yet capable of providing the energy the world needs.

In January, the European Commission published draft changes to its “taxonomy,” or sustainable investor guidelines, adding natural gas and nuclear power because of their proven potential to reduce emissions while providing a stable energy supply.

Renewable energy sources “are not yet commercially available at sufficient scale” at an appropriate threshold, the commission said.

Canada is a responsible, reliable oil and gas supplier

Canada should be the solution as the world looks for reliable energy suppliers while maintaining targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to IEA executive director Fatih Birol, oil and gas will be required for a long time. He would prefer the supply comes from “good partners” like Canada.

Canada ranks number one among the world’s top oil reserve holders for environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, according to rankings derived from Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, the Social Progress Imperative Index, and the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators.

ESG measures a variety of metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, water use, Indigenous engagement, worker safety, diversity and inclusion, absence of violence/terrorism, and regulatory processes.

Canada’s natural gas can help the world get off coal

Using natural gas instead of coal to fuel power plants reduces emissions by about 50 per cent on average, the IEA says.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) carried by tanker from Canada can deliver an even bigger decrease, reducing emissions by up to 62 per cent, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal for Cleaner Production.

Driven by emerging economies working at getting off coal power, global LNG demand is expected to nearly double to cross 700 million tonnes in 2040 compared to 360 million tonnes in 2020, according to Shell’s latest report.

The world’s growing population requires abundant, reliable, affordable energy in order to thrive. Canada is the solution to provide the energy the world needs.

Deborah Jaremko is director of content for the Canadian Energy Centre, an Alberta government corporation funded in part by taxes paid by industry on carbon emissions.

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