COMMENT: Let’s commit to contributing to a cleaner global future

Natural gas is the key to displacing coal-fired power generation in emerging economies, writes Sue Riddell Rose, CEO of Perpetual Energy.

“Think global, act local.” The phrase popularized by the environmental movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s encouraged people to turn concerns about seemingly out-of-reach big issues into manageable lifestyle changes at home.

Sue Riddell Rose, president and CEO of Perpetual Energy says natural gas is a clear leader as the world searches for the right mix of future energy sources to meet growing demand through cleaner energy sources.

It worked then and it still works now.

To mark Earth Day this year, perhaps Canadians will reflect on how innovation in energy development is truly making the planet better and recognize that by thinking locally and acting globally, we have an opportunity to export a uniquely Canadian brand of responsibly produced energy to the world.

The projected increase of energy demand in China, India, Southeast Asia and Africa are staggering as these developing countries emerge as more dominant forces in the global economy, their growing middle-classes are boosting energy demand by more than 30 per cent by 2040.

Use of oil and natural gas, renewables, nuclear, hydro—all forms of energy—will be needed to meet that demand, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2017. The task, however, is not to meet this massive future demand with renewables instead of fossil fuels; the challenge is to find a reliable, affordable and abundant mix of renewables and ever-cleaner fossil fuels to eliminate energy poverty, giving the developing world access to household electricity and clean cooking facilities that are the foundation of first-world prosperity.

In the challenge to find the right mix of future energy sources, natural gas is emerging as a clear leader.

Thanks to innovation, the production of cleaner, more affordable natural gas is growing. We have Canadian-pioneered technologies to thank, in part, for helping the industry greatly reduce its impacts to air, land and water in the last decade. Demand for natural gas is also expected to increase by more than 45 per cent, making it the world’s second largest energy source by 2040.

Natural gas is the key to displacing coal-fired power generation in emerging economies. It burns 40 per cent cleaner than coal when used in electricity generation and reduces air polluting particulate compared to coal and other sources.

With some of the most stringent environmental standards in the world, Canada is positioned to play a significant role in the solution for a cleaner global future.

We rank fifth among the largest producers of natural gas globally, with an estimated 1,230 trillion cubic feet of resource. Yet we currently export natural gas to just one country, the United States.

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in Canada is instrumental to our ability to meet this massive, growing global demand for safe and clean energy. Establishing new LNG processing and shipping facilities on the West Coast, close to the vast natural gas resources in British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta would allow us to economically export to markets in Southeast Asia, India and China.

In 2014, there were more than 20 LNG projects totaling 29.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas exports proposed in B.C., but the collective effect of added costs, regulatory delays and political uncertainty continue to challenge Canada as a competitive place to invest. To date, no major project has been approved.

During this same time period, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in 59 years. They commissioned five LNG facilities and went from zero to 8.5 per cent of the global LNG market, with another 8 billion cubic feet per day of export capacity planned by 2020. The startling reality is, if Canada doesn’t supply the natural gas resources the world needs, someone else will.

For Canada to gain a foothold in the global LNG industry, Canadians need to think about how they can make change at the local level. This means supporting energy infrastructure projects and investment and demanding sound policy and efficient regulatory systems. Getting Canada’s natural gas to global markets is a unique opportunity to make positive change on a global scale.

Let’s celebrate Canada’s energy and innovation—Happy Earth Day!