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Corbella: Canada could displace half of Russian energy sales

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To heat or eat? That is the question many Europeans are already grappling with this winter thanks to high energy prices.

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Russia’s war against Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and Vladimir Putin’s punitive decision to turn off the natural gas tap to his neighbours in the rest of Europe are largely to blame for what most politicians and pundits are calling an energy crisis worse than the one that led to blackouts and long lineups at gas stations in 1979 during the Iranian revolution.

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Canadians are rightly worried about our brothers and sisters in Europe and the United Kingdom. Could we help?

Think tank  sought to answer just that question by examining just how much of Russia’s oil and natural gas exports Canada could displace if our governments made it a priority to approve pipelines and other infrastructure so that our plentiful and ethical oil and gas resources could be exported to Europe and other destinations.

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SecondStreet.org surveyed eight experts in the oil and gas industry asking them to estimate how much Russian energy Canada could displace in the short, medium and long term. Their answers were then averaged and compared with projections for future Russian energy imports.

The report found that within a year, there wasn’t much our country could do — again, we lack pipeline capacity to get our resources to Canada’s coasts where they can be shipped overseas on tankers.

However, by the end of the decade, Canada could be offsetting upwards of 59 per cent of Russia’s annual natural gas exports and 46 per cent of their crude oil exports.

That would significantly curtail how many bombs, tanks and soldiers Putin could afford to send Ukraine’s way — or perhaps another country in the future — since half of Russia’s budget is paid for by oil and gas exports. And this is an important point. The world is facing a long-term problem with Russia. Long-term forecasts suggest the world will see more renewables coming onstream in the years ahead, but natural gas and oil will continue to be used for decades.

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Even if Putin pulled out his forces today, it would be irresponsible to continue to purchase energy from his regime for even five or 10 years in the future.

As Ukrainian parliamentarian , every barrel of Russian oil is filled with “Ukrainian blood.” The same, however, can be said of the bombs dropped on Yemeni citizens by the Saudi military funded by Saudi oil. It can be said of the bombs dropped on Syrian civilians by the Assad regime fuelled by Iranian oil wealth.

Canadian energy, by contrast, is blood-free and is developed to the highest environmental and social standards in the world.

Naomi Hossain, a professor of development politics at the American University in Washington, D.C., is putting the final touches on a paper that studies energy, fuel and food protests and riots around the world.

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“In the last 12 months, from November 2021 to the end of October 2022 we counted there were more than 12,500 protests that were about the price of food, the price of energy … and cost of living issues, and is in every region of the world,” said Hossain, who was reached via telephone at her university office.

Hossain says in 30 countries there were more than 100 of these events, sometimes countrywide. She points out that she excluded from her research all protests that were against fossil fuels.

“We pay all this to environmentalists throwing tomato soup at Van Gogh’s sunflower painting, but actually the bigger story around energy this year, in my opinion based on this data, is that most people are really struggling to get the energy that they need. That’s the more significant story,” she said.

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“This is not people wanting to fly around in their private jets. This is people trying to get to work, to afford bus fares, trying to heat their homes. All around the world, the phrase ‘to heat or eat’ is not an exaggeration. It’s a reality.”

She says if she were a politician, the energy crisis “would make me really worried.”

Hossain points to Lebanon, Sri Lanka and even the U.K. with Liz Truss’s short-lived prime ministership, as jurisdictions where politicians paid the political price because of high energy prices.

“Energy is really becoming a fundamental flashpoint in the citizen/state relationship all around the world.

“There hasn’t actually been much analysis of these types of protests before and I think that’s something to do with the way social scientists are wired. We don’t like to study things that we don’t really approve of, and I think that a lot of social scientists don’t approve of people fighting for their rights to fossil fuels because of climate change. But now we’re having to make an exception because this is such a big deal.

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“When I see these protests around the world, it’s not because people want to burn fossil fuels in particular, they just have to have energy, because that’s what everyday life is all about. It’s all very well saying, ‘Keep it in the ground,’ but the rest of the developing world is saying, ‘It’s our turn now. Americans and the Chinese need to cut down their use.’”

All over Europe, governments have been imposing restrictions on how much energy their citizens can use. In Spain, through its sweltering summer, the government ordered that air-conditioning could be set no cooler than 27 C in public buildings. In France, shops were fined for leaving doors open while heating or cooling, and in Germany — which is most reliant on Russian fuels after shutting down coal-fired plants in an effort to meet climate change targets — citizens are not allowed to heat their homes or businesses to more than 19 C. The benchmark European gas price soared by 550 per cent in one year in the summer because supplies are so tight.

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The energy crisis caused largely by Russian aggression is even expected to  all across Europe to prevent blackouts.

Officials in cities like Lisbon, London, Frankfurt and Zurich are being forced to limit the hours of their Christmas light displays and scale them back as well.

Many Europeans say they are showering less, and sticking to cold food rather than turning on their ovens to cook.

Canadian liquified natural gas and our oil could help alleviate the suffering of our European allies — if only we could get our product to them. It’s long past time for Canada’s federal and provincial governments to allow our ethical gas and oil to help our suffering allies.

Licia Corbella is a contributor with SecondStreet.org and a former editorial page editor at the Calgary Herald.

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