By Sue Tiffin
Jonathan Wright president and CEO of NuVista Energy Ltd. in Alberta who also sits on the Board of Governors for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was in Toronto a couple of weeks ago for the 2019 CAPP Scotiabank Energy Symposium in which the oil and natural gas industry connects with investors.
Before Wright attended that conference he drove up to Haliburton joining Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale who invited him to present on the Alberta energy crisis and its impact on Ontario business at the Bonnie View Inn on April 15.
Wright said he was in town to have a “fireside chat about energy Canada oil and gas” and that with increasing interest in greenhouse gas reductions and climate change which he said he and his industry colleagues care very much about he thinks there are “a lot of misconceptions that are happening these days” about the oil and gas industry.
“The world experts are telling us that the world is going to need 27 per cent more energy by 2040 than we are today” he said. “That shouldn’t surprise us.”
He said that despite $2 trillion being spent only two per cent of the world is supplied by renewable energy and that number would only rise to six per cent by 2040. Wright applauded renewable energy but said that the coal oil and gas infrastructure took 200 years to build and reliable renewable energy infrastructure was not going to happen in five years.
Meanwhile he said oil and natural gas provided backups “because the wind does not blow all the time and the sun does not shine all the time.”
“The hubris that comes people think oh good we’re not going to need natural gas or oil anymore we’re not going to need pipelines anymore … that is simply saying let’s shoot ourselves in the foot as a country” he said. “When we say we want pipelines that does not say we don’t want renewables.”
Wright’s main message was that Alberta’s oil and gas industry required investment and support from the rest of Canada and that within Canada “there’s a lot working against us.”
“I won’t be subliminal about this what we’re trying to say is … Alberta needs your help but we think what’s good for Alberta is also good for Canada” he said.
Canada is currently the sixth largest oil producer and the fifth largest natural gas producer in the world.
“We are a massive producer of natural gas” said Wright. “We can do a lot better I can tell you. We’ve got absolutely the capability the rocks the people what we don’t have is the investment and support.”
Wright said directly or indirectly half a million jobs in Canada depend on the oil and gas cache with 63000 jobs in Ontario largely manufacturing plants producing things for the oil sands including steel compression equipment chemicals and pressure vessels to the tune of $1.9 billion spent by oil sands companies in this province alone.
Wright included information from the Fraser Institute which he acknowledged was right-wing but research-based in his presentation naming anti-industry rhetoric intimating an eventual shut down of the oil industry; the national carbon tax; a failure to expand pipeline capacity; Bill C-69 (anti-pipelines) and Bill C-48 (oil tanker ban) and red tape (including an oil sands emissions cap methane regulations ethanol regulations) as challenges for the oil and gas industry.
“Confidence and investment is collapsing in Canada it’s something that worries me deeply” he said. “I’ve always considered myself proudly Canadian first and an Albertan second but now we have entire provinces that seem to think it’s OK to hold up nationally important infrastructure projects which are critical for another province’s infrastructure. I think that’s a terrible shame and I think it has to change.”
Though marine tanker oil shipments have doubled since 1970 the number of spills greater than seven tonnes has dropped dramatically according to one slide in Wright’s presentation.
“Explain to me why we’re so worried about the next pipeline?” he asked while showing a map of pipelines running throughout North America. “The next pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built because it’s built with today’s standards. Some of these were built 50 years ago. Actually if you drive around the U.S. and Canada’s the same you don’t see a wasteland of spilled oil. They’re all very responsibly-operated. And yes every once in awhile there’s a pipeline leak and that’s terrible and we clean it up immediately and that pipe is taken out of service if it’s seen as a risk. There are risks with human development but there’s an awful lot of pipelines out there.”
His presentation in Haliburton was one of 20 that happened throughout Ontario that day.
“I think it was a good message I think it shows that the oil and gas industry can provide good-paying jobs and they can use the resources in a very responsible way” Schmale told the Echo after the meeting.
When asked if he would also ask a representative from the renewable energy sector to present in Haliburton Schmale said he would.
“If they offer yeah if they offer” he said. “I’m not saying renewables aren’t part of this solution not at all but in order to extract some of the rare earth materials that are needed to buy batteries for some electric cars we need a strong mining sector. And the mining sector is encountering challenges right now because there is no confidence in the regulatory process. It is broken. They do not see value in some of the rules and regulations that are coming online.”
Schmale said he would have liked more people to have been at the presentation which was hosted by the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce but was open to anyone and said he was more than happy to bring Wright back.