As the federal election kicks off, the oil industry is sparing no expense to convince Canadians that what’s good for oil companies is good for Canada. And Canadians need to vote for a government that puts oil first.
It began with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ “vote for energy” election campaign which could well be summed up as “pipelines, pipelines, pipelines!” That was followed by an advertisement taken out in papers across Canada, signed by three oil company CEOs, arguing that Canada’s oil is the best, getting better every day, and will miraculously reduce emissions globally. And the latest installment is an oil company-funded video that casts the oil industry as the poor downtrodden heroes, under the jackboot of the evil environmental empire. “Enough is enough” is their rallying cry.
This would all be laughable, except there are some people who are buying it. If you know one of these people and you’re talking with them about Canada’s upcoming election, for example, here’s what you need to know.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: what Canada does on climate change does matter globally. Canada is one of the top 10 carbon polluters in the world – so our actions matter in an absolute sense, and they also matter from a diplomatic perspective. If the good, relatively rich people of Canada can shirk their responsibility, then why should anyone else act?
Second, far from being choked out, Canada is producing more oil than ever before. Yes. More than ever before.
And thanks to the growth in oil production, the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada. Most of this growth has been driven by the oil sands.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, between 1990 and 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production have increased by 423 per cent.
Yes, 423 per cent!
The oil executives like to tout improvements in emissions “intensity” – the amount of carbon per barrel. And there have been improvements there. But the fact that some oil sands operations have reduced the amount of carbon per barrel is completely irrelevant – because any gains in emissions intensity have been swamped by the increase in overall emissions caused by the massive growth in oil production.
Also, while emissions intensity of the oil sands may have improved a little, the overall carbon intensity of Canadian oil has actually been going up – due to the shift toward more oil sands production and less conventional oil production.
Emissions from the oil sands now exceed 80 megatonnes, and by 2030, projections are that they will exceed 100 megatonnes – meaning they will be fully one-fifth of Canada’s emissions if we reach Canada’s international climate goals.
Are the oil sands responsible for one fifth of our economy? Nope. They are responsible for less than three per cent.
Are the oil sands responsible for one fifth of the jobs? Not even close.
In fact, more people are employed in clean tech today in Canada than in Canada’s entire oil and gas industry – but you wouldn’t know it to hear the oil industry and its boosters talk.
And – here’s the rub – oil production is now at an all-time high, but royalty revenues and employment have been falling. Production has been growing, but almost 30,000 jobs have been axed in the oil patch between 2014 and 2018, and another 12,000 are expected to be cut this year.
On top of all this, there’s a growing environmental clean-up bill, estimated to be as high as $260 billion, and there’s essentially no money set aside to do this clean up. Taxpayers will likely be left footing this bill. That will dig a big hole into the budget for all those schools, hospitals and parks that the oil industry wants you to believe they pay for.
But none of this is enough for Big Oil. Now they want you to vote for a government that clears any remaining hurdles and finally unleashes the oil sands (as if that’s possible) and our country is finally and gloriously awash in oil.
Don’t buy it. And tell your friends and family. Big Oil is trying to fool us and hijack our country. We won’t have it. Canada is bigger, much bigger, than the oil industry – and we should vote like we believe in it.