Energy is the Connection Point That Powers Prosperity in Canada and Around the World

by | June 2023

It’s just another Tuesday in Saskatoon.

A 16-year-old girl sits at her kitchen table after school talking with her parents about what she wants to be when she grows up.

Let’s call her Maya.

Maya’s mom suggests she might want to be an engineer. Maya loves to build and plan, after all, and creativity runs in the family.

Her dad thinks it’s a great idea and shares stories of his experience at Queen’s University in Ontario, back when he went to engineering school.

“This is Canada, so you can be whatever you want though,” her mom says.

Maya thumbs through news headlines on her phone, while her parents continue to talk.

There are stories that touch on the state of the economy; jobs in the energy sector; how provinces are hiring more doctors and nurses; new artificial intelligence curriculum launched at a nearby college that she thinks sounds cool; and something about taxes that she skims over.

“All those headlines are connected,” Maya’s mom notes, as she glances over Maya’s shoulder. “We sometimes forget how nationally and globally vital the Canadian energy sector is, but we owe a lot of our economic and social prosperity to the resources we have at our disposal.”

Maya could be any girl, in any province, but the story holds true — the energy industry not only literally powers our daily lives, it’s a key driver of our economy, funds the social programs we hold dear and even helps to meet the energy needs of populations outside our borders.

It’s connected to everything. And has an essential role to play in enabling prosperity here at home, as well as supporting the growth and advancement goals of many abroad.

It might seem obvious, but we need energy to power everything

We take energy for granted.

When we flick on a light switch, open the fridge to grab a cold drink, or turn up the thermostat on a crisp winter afternoon, we rarely stop to consider the source of that power.

“But we all need energy. It is what keeps us alive,” says Sue Riddell Rose, a founder and board member of Canada Powered by Women CPW.

“Most of us can’t even get out of bed without it – the alarm that wakes us up, the hot water for a shower, the electricity that makes our coffee. And of course, it’s what powers our cell phones,” notes the geological engineer, philanthropist, notable energy executive, and her most important title of all — mom.

Despite the obvious importance of the energy sector, it can be a taboo topic of conversation because it has been polarized and politicized, and the industry has historically been criticized for its environmental impact.

Riddell Rose says what’s often missing from that dialogue, though, is an understanding of how much the energy sector is invested in the ongoing transformation of our energy systems and driving ever-cleaner oil and gas-based energy —  all the way from the drill bit, through processing systems to delivery to end-users, in order to enable large-scale emissions reduction.

Think: new technologies and other innovative processes — such as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCS) — that are progressively reducing the sector’s environmental footprint.

“Oil and natural gas-based energy is still very much required to power our world, and will be for decades,” notes Riddell Rose. “It’s safe, reliable, affordable and getting cleaner every day”.

As of 2019, renewable energy was only meeting 11% of global energy demands (and 60% of that is hydroelectric power). Solar and wind power are growing but also coming up against challenges like land use, human and wildlife impacts and affordability when power grids need to expand and redundancies are built in.

So as important as energy diversification is, it can’t possibly happen overnight, and needs to be progressive due to infrastructure and grid limitations, storage challenges, the need to mine for scarce minerals and more.

Which is why it’s so necessary to invest in and support the production of greener, lower-emission oil and natural gas, especially in highly regulated, socially-conscious countries like Canada.

Riddell Rose notes that sound energy policies, which support innovation in the energy mix, will advance a thriving economy and a cleaner environment. That enables prosperity at home while putting Canada in a global leadership position to help others and reduce global emissions.

“Canada has a moral obligation to share our energy wealth with countries that are working to transform their energy mix to a more secure, cleaner and affordable energy stack and with countries who don’t even have the luxury of reliable electricity, and we can do so in a sustainable way with ethically produced oil and gas,” she explains.

Energy drives economic and social prosperity — as well as investments in a more sustainable future

The Canadian society we all love and cherish would not exist as it does without the country’s energy sector.

We significantly rely on industry royalties and taxes (which are then reinvested through transfer payments to the provinces) to fund systems that we engage with and depend on every single day.

Dropping your toddler off at a subsidized daycare program? – Energy revenues helped make that happen.

Hugging your other child goodbye at the bus stop as they head to elementary school? – Energy returns helped pay for that.

Need to get imaging done and see a doctor because you sprained your ankle? – Energy-related tax income funds our universal healthcare system.

Just consider the fact that energy profits generate 9.7% of our country’s GDP, and the sector accounts for 27.2% of our export products.

Then there are jobs. The energy industry directly employed 264,700 people in 2021, and indirectly supported 369,900 jobs across Canada, in every province.

But energy resources are not only a key driver of financial and social prosperity from coast to coast to coast. They’re also an important provider of increasingly more sustainable energy that powers our lives here at home — and that of many other people around the world as well.

Canada is the fifth-largest natural gas producer, and sixth-largest crude oil producer internationally.

And since 2009, the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of oil sands production, which represents nearly 75% of emissions from Canada’s oil and gas production, has dropped by 20%. The same trend is true for conventional non-oil sands production.

Additionally, “major oil sands producers — representing more than 95% of industry output — have announced ambitions to get to net-zero emissions by 2050,” as part of their commitment to transforming the sector, IHS Markit reports.

Growing Canada’s contribution to the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply can also support nations that want to switch from coal to natural gas-fired power — a tremendous opportunity to contribute to a massive reduction in GHGs around the world.

We’re funding the future of sustainable energy development.

Canadian energy is integral to global prosperity too

We don’t live in a bubble.

Our country is privileged to have access to an abundance of natural resources.

Other parts of the world are not so lucky. They have growing energy needs, and not enough power to meet them. “The world’s population is more than three times larger than it was in the mid-twentieth century,” and is set to hit 9.7 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations (UN).

Power is so important to human rights, that simply turning on the lights is enough to lift nearly 600 million people out of poverty, says the UN.

The UN has 17 Sustainable Development goals it wants to achieve by 2030, including ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

It’s going to be countries like Canada that will provide the solutions to provide ethical, clean, renewable and more efficient energy to the world, says Riddell Rose.

It won’t be countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia, where human rights appear sometimes to mean little. Canada is already at the forefront of delivering on the UN goal — at home, in our First Nations communities, and abroad. We’re already investing in clean energy transformation.

For example, Canada’s Climate Investment Funds’ Accelerated Coal Transition Program, with a $1-billion investment, helps developing countries transition from coal-fired electricity to clean power.

Another program, the Canadian Fund for the Private Sector in the Americas, helps countries in Latin America and the Caribbean reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to climate change while empowering women.

Did we mention everything is connected to energy?

Energy is integral not just to our own prosperity here at home, but the future of the world as a whole.

“That’s why we need more public dialogue, rather than arguments, around how Canada is contributing to environmental solutions and how we can do more,” says Riddell Rose. “We can and are helping to build a cleaner, greener world, while simultaneously growing our economy and our social net in Canada to build Canadian prosperity, and at the same time providing moral, ethical, cleaner energy that can meet the current and growing needs of people around the world.”