Mark Milke and Lennie Kaplan
Canadian Energy Centre
Want to know why Canadian oil and gas gets so little respect from anti-oil and gas activists?
It’s not because Canada’s main energy sector is somehow a miscreant on measures of carbon emissions or anything else.
Instead, it is often due to three approaches: focusing only on absolute emissions and ignoring the effect of economic growth and per capita measurements; skipping over the reality of a cold northern country; and making the perfect (utopian end) the enemy of the good.
This might be why, despite considerable debate in the media and policy circles about the absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the activities of Canada’s oil and gas sector, little attention has been paid to the reductions in GHG emissions intensity that have occurred within the sector over the past two decades.
Some background and a necessary definition: emissions “intensity” is the emissions rate of a given pollutant relative to the intensity of a specific activity or industrial production process.
Examples include grams of carbon dioxide released per megajoule of energy produced, or the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions produced to gross domestic product (GDP).
In laymen’s terms, if an industry or an economy is growing, as are its emissions, is not immediate evidence of a negative trend.
It would be akin to looking at automobile manufacturing and asserting (if this were happening) that a 20 per cent rise in the use of steel in the last decade must mean that sector is less efficient in its use of steel.
But what if that same sector was manufacturing twice as many cars, trucks and SUVs as a decade ago?
Then the rise in steel use would, in fact, be evidence of a sector doing more (100 per cent more production) with less (only 20 per cent more steel).
This trend on carbon emissions intensity is occurring within Canada generally and in the oil and gas sector specifically. (And again, we are measuring carbon emissions intensity, not absolute emissions.)
For example, pair Canada’s economic growth from 2000 to 2019 with carbon emissions and here’s the record: carbon emissions intensity is down dramatically.
Between 2000 and 2019, measured in what’s known in technical terms as “megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent,” the greenhouse gas emissions intensity in Canada fell by 30 per cent for every billion dollars in wealth created.
This item is reprinted with permission from the High Prairie, AB, South Peace News. For the complete article, click HERE
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