Latest Oil demand forecasts raise questions about economic wisdom of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

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Latest Oil demand forecasts raise questions about economic wisdom of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
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This column is an opinion by Thomas Gunton, professor and director of the Useful resource and Environmental Planning Program at Simon Fraser College, and former Deputy Minister of Atmosphere for B.C. For extra details about CBC’s Opinion part, please see the FAQ.

The federal authorities’s current Throne Speech said that local weather motion will likely be on the core of its plan to create a stronger and extra resilient Canada. That is excellent news; though it has been overshadowed by the pandemic, local weather change stays an existential disaster that threatens our well being and economic system.

Nonetheless, now we have heard these guarantees earlier than.

Below the Kyoto settlement, Canada dedicated to a 20 per cent discount in greenhouse gasoline emissions by 2020, and beneath the Paris settlement to a 30 per cent discount by 2030. These guarantees are straightforward to make but laborious to maintain. Canada will miss its 2020 goal, and the United Nations forecasts that Canada’s greenhouse gasoline emissions will likely be at the least 15 per cent larger than its 2030 goal.

And even when Canada and different international locations meet their targets, the United Nations forecasts that world temperature will nonetheless rise by Three to three.5 C by the tip of this century, greater than twice the Paris goal of 1.5 levels. Clearly, stronger measures to deal with local weather change are crucial.

Whereas the federal government’s dedication to stronger local weather motion is subsequently laudable, its actions increase severe doubts about its sincerity. One of the vital obvious examples of the inconsistency between its actions and commitments on local weather change is the choice to spend an estimated $12.6 billion of taxpayer funds to construct the Trans Mountain oil pipeline enlargement.

The federal government justifies this funding as a needed compromise to stability the pursuits of Alberta and the oil trade with the pursuits of these supporting local weather motion.

The irony is that constructing the Trans Mountain Enlargement Challenge is in nobody’s curiosity.

The throne speech, delivered within the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, included measures to fight local weather change. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Because the venture was proposed, oil demand forecasts have fallen. The Worldwide Power Company (IEA) predicts that oil demand in 2020 will drop by as a lot as 9 per cent due largely to the pandemic, the most important decline on report. Its newest forecast, launched Tuesday, concludes that “the period of development in oil demand involves an finish inside 10 years,” and that demand should fall completely by about one-third by 2040 to fulfill the Paris local weather change targets.

Power large BP lately launched its 2020 forecast that features three eventualities, starting from a small decline in oil demand to an nearly 80 per cent drop by 2050.

On the similar time that demand is declining and oil producers are reducing again, Canada is increasing its oil pipeline capability by simply over 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd). That enlargement is comprised of Enbridge’s Line 3 (370,000 bpd), Enbridge mainline expansions and Southern Lights reversal (450,000 bpd), the Trans Mountain enlargement (590,000 bpd), Keystone XL (830,000 bpd), plus 170,000 bpd from a number of smaller upgrades together with Keystone, Rangeland and Specific.

Pre-COVID forecasts of the expansion in western Canadian oil manufacturing to 2030 vary from a low of about 300,000 bpd in line with the IEA, to a excessive of 1.2 million bpd in line with the Canadian Affiliation of Petroleum Producers.

These pre-pandemic forecasts are definitely on the optimistic facet – if BP’s report is appropriate, oil manufacturing will truly decline and no new pipelines will likely be required. And even beneath the optimistic pre-COVID forecasts, pipeline expansions exceed the anticipated enhance in oil manufacturing by between 1.2 and a couple of.1 million bpd.

The route of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The enlargement twins it.

Which means if the Trans Mountain venture weren’t constructed, the opposite deliberate expansions nonetheless exceed projected manufacturing will increase by between 610,000 and 1.5 million bpd.

Whereas some pipeline enlargement could also be warranted, spending $12.6 billion of taxpayer funds to construct a pipeline when personal sector firms are including greater than sufficient capability to fulfill Canada’s want with none taxpayer help is difficult to justify.

Satirically, the oil sector might also be adversely impacted by constructing the Trans Mountain Enlargement, as a result of transport tolls should be elevated to cowl the prices of redundant pipeline capability. It will scale back oil firm income and tax funds to authorities.

The trade argues that larger prices will likely be offset by getting larger costs in Asia. However oil is traded in a world market that erodes any value benefit in Asia, and in recent times costs for heavy oil there have truly been decrease than within the U.S. Gulf.

The federal government additionally factors to the transport contracts that Trans Mountain has as proof the pipeline is required. However these contracts had been signed when the oil market was booming and, after they expire, it’s unlikely that they are going to be renewed, leaving Trans Mountain and the taxpayer in danger. Within the interim, oil will simply be moved off current pipelines to ship on Trans Mountain.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney responds to the Sept. 23 federal throne speech. The premier and his authorities have been proponents of increasing pipeline capability. (CBC)

The very fact is that the mixture of environmental dangers from elevated oil tanker visitors, the weak demand for oil, escalating building prices, and enlargement of different pipelines raises severe doubts in regards to the financial knowledge of constructing the Trans Mountain enlargement. This is the reason Kinder Morgan was desirous to promote the venture to the federal government, and why a lot of Canadian power consultants lately despatched a letter to the federal authorities asking them to defer further spending on Trans Mountain.

Oil will stay an necessary a part of the Canadian economic system, however the oil increase is over. That’s the reason main oil firms reminiscent of Shell and BP are transitioning to inexperienced funding and Alberta is new sectors reminiscent of hydrogen.

The federal authorities ought to alter its insurance policies to match this new actuality by reallocating the estimated $12.6 billion from constructing an oil pipeline to implementing the commitments within the Throne Speech on local weather change. These funds may also be used to assist Alberta transition to cleaner development sectors and construct a extra sustainable economic system that research present will generate extra jobs than the fossil gasoline sector.

We can not afford to spend cash on unneeded oil pipelines, and we can not afford one other damaged promise on local weather change.


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