Remaining dependent on the United States as the only foreign market for its oil and gas exports will cost Canada up to $50 million per day, according to a report released today by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCOC).
At the moment, 98% of Canada’s petroleum products and 100% of its natural gas is exported to the U.S.
But gas production and oil demand in the U.S. is changing, reads the report, as the U.S. is expected to become a net exporter of gas by 2020 and experience zero growth in its oil imports over the next 30 years.
Natural gas imports into the U.S. dropped by 25% in 2011 alone.
To reverse that trend, the report, $50 million A Day, argues Canada must build proposed pipeline projects and liquefied natural gas export facilities to capitalize on growing energy demand in Asia. Failing to do so will cost Canada millions.
The CCOC study cites three sources to back up its conclusions:
• A 2012 CIBC report found transportation bottlenecks in pipelines to the U.S. force Canadian oil products to be sold at steep discounts, costing Canada $50 million per day;
• A 2012 Canadian Energy Research Institute study reported that failure to build proposed pipeline projects [Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project and Kinder Morgan’s twinned Trans Mountain pipeline, for instance] could cause Canada to lose $1.3 trillion in gross domestic product and $276 billion in taxes between 2011 and 2035;
• A 2013 Canada West Foundation study found that each stalled pipeline “that would open up access to world markets” [Northern Gateway] costs the country between $30 million and $70 million in economic benefits everyday;
The CCOC study also attempts to shed light on the oil and gas sector’s contribution to Canadian economy.
In 2011-12, the oil and gas industry made $1.2 billion in payments to the B.C. government, $1.8 billion to Saskatchewan and $2.8 billion to Newfoundland-Labrador.
In addition to provincial payments, oil and gas projects require various goods and services and spur investment in the markets. For example, by 2035, Ontario suppliers will provide $55 billion in goods and services to oilsands projects.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, 12% of the listings are energy companies, the second largest industrial group behind the mining sector. Nationwide, the oil and gas sector accounts for about 7% of GDP.
Economic benefits from oil and gas, strong as they may be, come with environmental risk. According to the report, “Canadians are struggling to reconcile Canada’s role as an energy producer with the challenge of climate change. They are worried about the safety of energy transport infrastructure and its impact on their communities. These concerns are important, but need to be understood in the light of some key facts.”
Those facts, reads the report, are that 1.5 trillion litres of oil were shipped through Canadian pipelines last year, only 8.3 million litres of it spilt. Shipping oil via tanker is safe as well, contends the report, “with not a single tanker oil spill by a Canadian vessel” in the 2000s.
Eoin Madden, Vancouver-based climate campaigner with environmental group the Wilderness Committee, said a continued focus on oil and gas projects is short-sighted and will not result in long-term economic benefits.
The world will move away from fossil fuel production and export, he said. The CCOC report explicitly mentions climate change. If Canada wants to ignore that fact and push the development its oil and gas reserves, Canada will be left behind
“We – the world – are not staying with fossil fuels,” said Madden. “That is the bottom line. So, the other side of the coin is the more we stick with oil and gas the further we get from innovation.
“The real cost is not what we’re losing everyday. The real cost is the loss of innovation. How much innovation have we lost already?”
On September 26, Perrin Betty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, will be speaking at the Vancouver Board of Trade about changing global energy markets.