Let’s play Pictionary. We’ll describe something, and you draw it.
The term to draw: the energy industry.
What do you imagine that looks like when you’re thinking about it?
Perhaps wires and towers stretching out as far as the eye can see into the skyline?
Or do you think about your local gas station where you fill up every week?
These are visuals that many of us have seen, so we’d likely have no trouble drawing either.
A picture that is less likely to come to mind might be a mother in a developing country, cooking an evening meal over a fire, powered by animal dung. Her family lives in a country where electricity is available, but they can’t afford to pay for it.
Her kids are doing homework by candlelight and propped-up flashlights — if they have batteries. The internet is spotty and only available via mobile phone, assuming she can charge their device and pay for mobile data, that is.
Energy literally runs the world. But not everyone has the same access to power, and in 2022, the number of people without access to electricity increased for the first time in decades.
Back to Pictionary, because this next point is really important — what about drawing the globe with Canada in the middle, and pathways and dotted lines connecting our country to other places in the world that need energy?
This might not be a common way to visualize the energy industry either, but it should be, because Canada is uniquely positioned to help address this problem. And in doing so, we can help millions of people — both here at home and around the world — to have affordable and reliable access to the resources they need to achieve economic and social prosperity.
What’s causing the global energy crisis?
Well, for starters, complex political scenarios around the world impact the supply and cost of energy for everyone.
The most obvious example right now is Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine; when the war broke out, energy producers fled the region and Western sanctions led to a breakdown of supply relationships. Countries all over the world were left scrambling to find energy and European countries were forced to reevaluate energy supply sources as they had long been dependent on Russia.
But then there’s also other factors such as climate change. Floods, fires, tornadoes, heat waves and more are negatively affecting energy production, infrastructure and transportation. The energy grid that includes above-ground hydro lines, for example, were not designed to withstand severe, destructive weather.
These are just a few of the circumstances that are disrupting consistent, reliable sources of energy and leading to increased prices, energy shortages and blackouts. The effects are being felt everywhere, in wealthy countries as well as developing nations.
But this crisis has especially triggered a big step backward for many people struggling to access energy in their day-to-day lives.
Energy insecurity around the world
In Africa, 43% of the population (that’s 600 million people) still lack access to electricity. This means that families are relying on other, less clean sources of energy to cook their food, for example. It also means they’re cut off from the digital economy and its potential to transform communities by increasing access to jobs, education, and important social services like healthcare.
And energy insecurity will hit young people in Africa the hardest.
By 2030, they will account for 42% of the world’s youth population, making access to the digital resources (which require energy) critical for future prosperity and economic sustainability.
But the developing world isn’t the only place feeling the crunch of this crisis.
Last winter was difficult for people in Europe, where the war in Ukraine cut off access to Russian oil. People in Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, faced heating bills that were three times higher than anything they’ve seen in years.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution though — one that will not only address today’s energy crisis but the problems we could face in the future, too.
As the world’s population grows towards the 10-billion mark, Canada is in a position to meet the energy needs of people here at home and elsewhere in the world.
Because no one should have to choose between heating their home or buying groceries for their family.
How Canada is producing cleaner energy
Energy diversification is necessary, but it won’t happen overnight. Or even in the next couple of decades.
To meet our energy needs here at home as well as support greater access to cleaner energy across the globe, Canada shouldn’t shy away from one of its most significant resources: cleaner, greener fossil fuels.
Canada produces a significant amount of the world’s natural gas. And since 2000, the oil and gas industry has worked hard to ensure the production and delivery of LNG (liquified natural gas) is better for our planet. Those efforts are paying off, as greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil produced in Alberta’s oil sands have decreased by 33%.
This resource has allowed the province to switch from energy sources with higher emissions (namely coal) to natural gas, a transition that took place well ahead of the provincial government’s timeline.
“Natural gas is one of the mainstays of global energy. Where it replaces more polluting fuels, it improves air quality and limits emissions of carbon dioxide,” says Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.
While it may be a badge of honour for Canada to meet emissions-reduction goals, helping other countries to do the same by exporting responsibly and ethically produced energy remains our responsibility to the planet.
A unified Canada — and more export infrastructure — can help fight global energy poverty
Demand for LNG is growing in countries like India, China and Southeast Asia, and others in Europe are looking to reduce dependency on natural gas imported from Russia.
And the good news is that Canada has the supply to help meet those demands because we produce more energy at home than we currently need.
But transporting that energy to countries in need is a more complicated undertaking. Right now, almost all of our oil and natural gas exports go to one customer — the United States.
You read that right — one country. And one of the richest countries in the world.
To get Canadian energy to overseas markets Canada needs export terminals.
The U.S. has approved 15 LNG export plant proposals in less than a decade, whereas Canada only has two West Coast facilities under construction, reports energy industry association CAPP.
“Utilizing leading-edge cleantech, these facilities will produce among the lowest greenhouse gas emissions for LNG production in the world,” CAPP writes. “As the world grapples with energy insecurity, Canada is positioned to step up as a secure, reliable and responsible supplier.”
To get energy to export terminals, we also need more pipelines. And if you’re not sure about pipelines, consider this: “LNG shipping has one of the best records in the shipping industry — more than 90,000 LNG cargoes delivered without a single cargo loss since the first commercial cargo was shipped in 1964,” notes LNG Canada.
Many LNG export projects have been proposed in both the west and east and the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) has granted export licences. But most of these proposed LNG projects require building new long-distance pipelines to transport that gas to a coastline where it can then be shipped to global markets.
Without this infrastructure we can’t get our energy products to many of the countries that desperately need them.
Exporting Canadian energy provides a huge economic benefit to our country. But the effects of energy export extend beyond a business case. If we are unified as a country, we can help solve energy insecurity at home and around the world.
Canada is well-positioned to be a global leader for this cause. We can share our ever-cleaner and ethically-produced energy — in a sustainable and affordable way — with countries that are working to transform their energy supply.
Is that something you’d like to see come to life? We just have to imagine it. And draw out the plans. Then make it happen.