As if two years of a pandemic weren’t enough, we now have to deal with an affordability crisis. This has been exhausting and stressful for most of us. In an attempt to exploit our concerns, Canada’s oil and gas industry would like us to believe this terrible inflation means we need to throw all caution to the wind, forget about climate action and double down on fossil fuel production. This could not be further from the truth. Not only is investing in more fossil fuels not a solution to today’s problems, it actually will lock us into more turbulence for decades.
The biggest polluters are profiting from this crisis
The costs of producing oil and gas in Canada have not changed much this year, but prices at the pump went way up, mostly because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If production costs stayed still but prices went up, where did all the extra cash go?
Cenovus, Suncor, Imperial Oil and CNRL — Canada’s four largest oil companies — raked in more than $12 billion last quarter, nearly three times more than the same quarter in 2021. Oil and gas CEOs and shareholders are making historic profits without lifting a finger. Meanwhile, 56% of Canadians can’t keep up with the rise in cost of living. The largest polluters are not only taking away our chance of a safe future: they are now messing with our immediate standard of living. Instead of choosing to keep prices low for their fellow Canadians, they let prices skyrocket and even asked for more public dollars, dollars which they seem to have got. This is already Canada’s second-highest year for subsidies to the oil and gas industry – $15.4 billion.
In short, the companies making money from this crisis are insisting we should trust them to get us out of it, by giving them more money for fossil fuel production.
This is our chance to get out of the boom-and-bust nightmare, for good
We can’t keep fighting fire with fire. The ups and downs of oil and gas prices bring us wars and economic crises. Wouldn’t we rather rely on the ever-shining sun, the predictable wind, or the reliable geothermal forces of nature to fuel us?
Investing today in new oil and gas projects makes no strategic, nor economic, sense. Firstly, the new infrastructure they want to build will take years to come online, meaning it is not a solution to our current problems, but would be a current drain of our public dollars, which are much needed elsewhere, for example in programs supporting families struggling with rising heating or food bills. Secondly, modern, clean energy systems are already being built by those who currently need our fossil fuels. Whatever the oil and gas industry is planning on building won’t be useful by the time it is ready.
This is why to address our current energy affordability and reliability issues, we should work to accelerate the building of this clean energy system. If we are going to go that way anyways, why not accelerate the transition to benefit from it sooner?
We do not need to choose between savings and a safe future
We know it, winter is approaching. So are higher heating bills. Combined with the already painful prices at the pump, it’s clear something has got to give if we are to make it to spring. Whatever that is, though, it should not be climate action, because many climate solutions are actually the way to cheaper energy and commuting bills.
It will take a whole of government effort to bring Canada on the path of sustainable and affordable energy, but governments should start by:
- Stopping all subsidies to the oil and gas industry and redirecting those funds to speed up the transition to clean, local, abundant energy.
- Putting a special tax on the exceptional profits oil and gas companies are making right now to pay for immediate relief programs for families who need it to heat their homes and pay for food.
- Ensuring polluters pay their fair share of carbon pricing, while continuing to provide a rebate to Canadian families. Remember, while we pay the tax directly at the pump, almost all of us get back more than we gave out. The government estimates an average yearly cost of $564 in 2022 for a household in Ontario, for example, and that same household will receive a total of $697.
- Setting up a task force that guarantees our homes stay warm while our gas bills don’t go through the roof. The taskforce for would provide a Canada-wide energy savings program by giving households the tools and means to getting their furnace serviced, insulate their attic and get a heat pump. That would require a combination of grants, zero-interest loans, controlled rates to avoid contractors from hiking prices, and managing landlord-tenant relations so everyone does their fair share.
- Creating rapid public transit corridors on the most frequent commuting routes of the country, which take up most of people’s commute budget, while requiring car manufacturers invest in the production of zero-emissions vehicles, which would lower their price and make them more widely available.
We have gone through incredibly difficult times in the past two years, and some private interests are trying to convert our legitimate concerns into profits for a small number of shareholders. I know I’d do anything just to have a few normal, stable years. That is why we need to get away from oil and gas – the future the industry offers us is one of economic rollercoasters, dependency, and climate insecurity.