Headwinds and Tailwinds

June 9, 2022 — 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Inflection point noun
a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs

Is the goal of net-zero emissions realizable by 2050?
Can we afford it?
Can we afford not to do it?

Murray Smith offers a point of view and a summary of positions taken by industry, governments, and financial institutions and offers his analysis from the perspective of being a policy-maker and a business owner in the energy sector. During his time of service to Alberta as minister of energy from 2001 to 2004, the Energy Information Agency, which tracks oil reserves globally, officially recognized 175 billion barrels of recoverable reserves in Alberta’s oilsands. This was achieved through the documented research efforts of the Energy Resources Conservation Board and an 18-month effort by the department to get the job done. Once the project was approved, global investment skyrocketed in Alberta, as the oilsands continued to grow in production to more than 3.5 million barrels per day in today’s world.

The increased revenues to the government treasury enabled Albertans to be debt-free in July of 2004. There is more to tell on how this was achieved. Increased production took advantage of higher oil prices, which culminated in crude oil hitting US$147 per barrel in 2008. During this time, the federal government signed on to the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 (exiting in 2011). As time stops for no one, old targets were dropped as unrealistic and new ways of stopping energy proliferation of production in democratic jurisdictions came to the fore.

Essentially, by 2021 western countries turned over the supply and pricing matrix of crude oil to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, or OPEC+.

Now, as governments have collectively spent trillions of dollars fighting a three-year pandemic, racking up enormous debt, and watching an economic transformation, still very dependent on fossil fuels, do they have the resources to achieve these goals? Or do they adapt to a pragmatic approach such as is outlined by Bjorn Lomborg, who advocates adaptation as an integral strategy? Can any of these lofty goals be achieved without cooperation from China, India, and Russia?

As a major exporter of primary goods, including agriculture, forestry, mining, and energy, Canada needs a strategy that recognizes the world will still want and need these products, but developed and marketed efficiently across the globe. Does Canada go broke trying? This session addresses the tension that exists between government-set goals for emissions reduction and the private sector economic growth of Canada’s most valuable industry sectors. Is there a way to broker a deal that meets success on all fronts?

Presented by

Murray Smith

Expert in Canada-U.S. relations and the future of oil and gas development in Canada

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