A mini-series on the future of energy
By Dave Wilkin, P. Eng., M.Eng. and Tim Lutton, BSc., MBA
- Four plus billion people striving to join the middle-class in developing nations drives global energy demand growth, outstripping energy efficiency gains and low-carbon energy growth combined. Population growth and increased immigration intensifies the challenges. The world will need all forms of energy to meet future energy demand. It is not solar vs natural gas, or hydro vs oil etc. Instead, we will need oil and gas, hydro, nuclear plus renewables.
- Transition to a lower-carbon energy future will take many decades, but it needs to happen before low-cost oil and gas reserves are depleted, likely within the next 50 years. Looking forward, we need to develop hydrocarbon-based reserves to not only meet incremental demand, but to also replace declining reserves that are currently being produced. As recoverable reserves begin to decline, expect increasing exploration in environmentally sensitive places, such as the Arctic.
- No ‘silver-bullet’ technology replaces the world’s 85 per cent carbon-based energy, wind/solar included (given its inherent limitations). Many energy sources/technologies and importantly more nuclear energy will be needed to meet growing global demand. The era of relatively cheap energy is coming to an end.
- Geopolitics, underpinned by national self-interest, drives country energy policies and actions. This will only intensify as carbon, oil and gas reserves begin to decline.
- Of the world’s major oil and gas producers, only Canada contemplates actively destroying its energy sector (and economy along with it). It would accomplish nothing, as non-democratic carbon-energy exporting countries, possessing 85-90 per cent of global reserves (and weaker environmental standards) would fill the gaps, at higher costs while placing Canada in the ranks of the energy insecure nations.
- Despite two decades of green-energy subsidies and high carbon-energy prices/taxes, Europe’s oil and gas consumption still grew two per cent over the period. Don’t expect similar policies to work any better here – carbon taxes won’t get the job done, despite what so-called ‘experts’ claim.
- Canada’s 30 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 is not achievable. Zero global emissions by 2040/50 is unrealistic. Impossible targets damage credibility, feed mistrust and grow skepticism.
- Get tough with China now. China is the largest global energy user and does the most environmental damage. They have become a model for many other fast-growing nations, so without changes there, the rest won’t matter. They cheat on trade and have little respect for rule-of-law. Canada’s weak responses has had zero impact. We must join the US and other nations to bring long overdue change. Import tariffs and much tougher trade policy/restrictions would be a good start.
- Major investment in our electric-power grids. This means investing in a national, integrated power grid. It must be intelligent, secure with expanded bi-directional power-flow with US states. This technology could be a huge Canadian export opportunity.
- Continue critical oil and gas sector investments – Without continuing investments, Canadian energy supplies would quickly fall into decline, with serious consequences to our economy. Canadian oil must not be sold to the US at fire-sale prices. This means constructing new pipelines to tide-water on both coasts, opening new lucrative oil/LNG markets to energy-insecure Europe and Asia in particular. They all need other options to Russian and OPEC energy supplies.
- Government-business investment partnerships. Substantial R&D investments/incentives for sectors where we have proven expertise and competitive advantage – electrical grids, advanced nuclear power, new cleaner carbon-energy technologies.
- Expand development in our North, exerting real sovereignty there before other unfriendly nations recklessly exploit its resources.
- Reset Canada’s emission reduction target to something that is achievable – It will build credibility.
Measured against these recommendations, we believe the Conservative Party’s platform is best aligned, but more is still required from them too. Misguided national policies jeopardize our future, and catchy political sound-bites (such as declaring “climate emergencies“, “taxing pollution”, “growing the economy and fighting climate change go hand-in-hand”) accomplish nothing. Barring some technological revolution, future energy costs are headed much higher. Governments must not place disproportionate burdens on those least able to pay or cripple Canadian businesses under the banner of ‘fighting climate-change’.
The Bottomline: Canada’s annual CO2 emissions contribution, which is less than two per cent of global emissions, is exceeded each year by developing countries’ growth. If we are serious about making a global measurable difference, it will be as a leading, reliable source of cleaner energy and technology. On the domestic energy front, we can’t wait until our economically recoverable carbon energy production falls into serious decline before transitioning to a diversified, sustainable energy portfolio plus related infrastructure.
We hope you found our mini-series informative. An energy transition is underway, and Canada’s future depends on getting it right. Please stay informed, remain wary of ‘silver-bullet’ solutions, misleading political rhetoric, and fake news. And finally, choose wisely!
Previous articles in this series –
A mini-series on the future of energy, by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
The Energy big picture, by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
Growth, the global energy driver ~ by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
The Geopolitics of Energy ~ by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
The greener technologies offer no silver bullet ~ by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
Consider this scenario and its disastrous consequences ~ by Dave Wilkin and Tim Lutton
Dave Wilkin is a Professional Engineer who lives in Huntsville. He is an electrical engineer with a career spanning 35 years in IT, banking and consulting.
Tim Lutton worked in the natural gas and LNG industry for 32 years; with Imperial Oil in Canada, and ExxonMobil in the USA, Australia and Qatar and now lives in Huntsville.
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