QUESNEL: Canadian natural gas to the world’s rescue

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One saying goes that if you don’t like the conversation change the channel. Apparently, some parts of the civil society are coming together and doing just that.

Given ongoing problems in getting LNG projects off the ground, energy security and affordability should take centre stage in our national conversation. But sadly, many of this country’s politicians and policymakers are ignoring that at home and on the world stage. Or they are looking at one aspect of the problem and not seeing the potential for energy security to advance domestic and foreign policy goals.

Politicians and government-dependent NGOs step aside, and allow an engaged civil society to take the lead!

A new non-partisan initiative is seeking to raise the conversation about the need for safe, reliable low-emissions natural gas.

The new initiative — Energy for a Secure Future — describes itself as, “A non-partisan civil society initiative that brings together Canadian business leaders, indigenous peoples, industry and labour organizations (…) to build a secure energy future for Canada and our allies around the world.”

Started by the natural gas sector, the initiative has grown to embrace many sectors and angles to the issue. Given Canada’s commitment to ambitious climate change targets, natural gas must be part of the equation.

The initiative began February 15th this year and will release a series of policy papers to get the conversation going. Its first paper examines the role of indigenous communities in developing natural gas energy, including for export. Given the growing importance of indigenous energy partnerships in meeting our energy needs and reducing poverty on reserves at home, this conversation starter is long overdue.

The recent approval of a billion-dollar LNG project that is majority-owned by the Haisla Nation in British Columbia shows that indigenous communities will be playing an even more important role in our energy conversation.

The initiative brings together the environmental, indigenous and foreign policy dimensions to having reliable and plentiful natural gas. We need a strong cohesive movement untainted by partisanship and other ideological divisions to start that conversation on the national imperative of getting our natural gas to market.

One would think providing low-emissions energy to all regions of Canada and the rest of the world goes beyond partisan labels and regional identity.

After all, it is our energy as Canadians. Oil and natural gas produced in Canada does not belong only to energy producing provinces or to one political party or one specific sector.

It seems Energy for a Secure Future is taking that principle to heart in ensuring no segment is left out of the conversation. The initiative’s advisory board includes a who’s who of Canadian leaders and spokespeople from various sectors beyond the standard energy ones, as well as important indigenous figures involved in the energy economy.

The sector has always faced challenges in showing Canadians that the energy industry is national in scope. Energy literally affects all of us. The value chain involved in producing oil and gas extends to all parts of Canada and represents thousands of good paying jobs in many sectors across the country.

Unfortunately, it took a military invasion in a faraway country for Canadians to realize the national and international implications of their natural gas resources. Canadian leaders, for a while now, have known that low emissions Canadian natural gas could displace coal in Asian countries, but sadly they did not always see the urgency in building pipelines and refinery capacity.

A Russian energy-dependent Europe facing a long winter seemed to have moved Canadians to care.

Shannon Joseph is chair of the initiative as well as its main spokesperson.

“We’ve attracted people from different sides of the political spectrum. We have also attracted people from different sectors in Canada,” she said, pointing to the participation of Dominic Barton, chair of mining giant Rio Tinto and former Canadian ambassador to China. The initiative built an impressive and diverse advisory council to bring forward perspectives from different economic sectors.

She said the origins of the initiative began with the conflict in the Ukraine and afterward the soaring energy prices that were making things worse for European countries.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine showed the world the vulnerability of much of Europe to Russian energy sources. Canadians realized they could help by turning on our taps and exporting more gas to these vulnerable countries, many of them our NATO allies.

A problem that has affected Germany she said, as well as the United Kingdom where citizens were forced to ration scarce energy, is the rising cost of power in systems where the intermittency of renewable sources had previously been managed through reliance on to Russian gas. As countries have moved to break that reliance, the conversation began to shift to how Canada could help. We also saw Germany, Japan and other Asian countries approaching Canada to meet their own energy security goals.

“In the case of Japan, Canada’s message seemed to be ‘we are with you, but we can’t really help you,’ and this has to change, because we can help,” said Joseph.

From this situation, we began to see the need for a conversation that looks seriously at the geopolitics of energy and how that affects the issue of energy security and energy affordability here and abroad. Getting this issue would also be part of our effort to meaningfully advance Indigenous economic reconciliation and reduce on-reserve poverty.

Hopefully, the initiative will make an impact on the national stage. It is critical we change the conversation in Canada before the next big crisis. Energy for a Secure Future deserves our support for trying.

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