Canadian Natural Resource Minister, Greg Rickford, has been on a celebrity tour of Europe promoting the hottest new Canadian product: crude. With sanctions pending against Russia, European leaders are now worried that Russia may turn off the tap.
When Crimea voted to join Russia, under the dutiful supervision of Russian authorities, of course, the rest of Europe had a choice to make. Continue to import 35% of their oil and 1/3 of their natural gas from Russia, or turn off the lights. Most of these countries have severely limited domestic fossil fuel production in the pursuit of environmental protection, but, without the green technology to shore up the energy sector, Germany, the UK, and others have had to rely on imports. Sounds like this could be a chance for Canada to come to the rescue.
Suffice to say, Western Europe finds itself caught between a rock and some spiky things. This week, Iran credibly offered to supply natural gas to Europe, and some energy ministers probably thought about it. And, if Russia boycotts the EU, there’ll be widespread outages just as summer heats.
Long have we heard from the European Union that oil from the Canadian tar sands is the dirtiest form of energy. Now, European ministers appear to be diluting the picture with Canada’s relative moral purity, and seeing something cleaner than Russia’s crude gestures in the region.
Before we can switch over the entire industrialized world to renewable energies, we still need fossil fuels—namely because they’re cheap(er) and abundant—to help us develop them, at the very least. For years, Canada has offered to supply Europe with oil and gas so that they can pay us instead of other despots ‘round the globe, but these efforts have been consistently stopped because of opposition to the tar sands. Now, with no infrastructure to get the fuel across the Atlantic, and the Natural Resource Minister concedes that there is no way Canada can export to Europe before 2020, a case of too little too late.
Instead, Rickford proposes to avoid falling into the same situation 6-7 years from now. The government argues that Canada is a democracy that doesn’t spend its spare time liberating neighbouring regions, and that the oil sands, at least, have some degree of regulation and supervision, unlike Russian oil fields.
As well, companies like First Energy Capital Corp. suggest that, in two years, Canada could potentially ship 500,000 barrels a day by sea. While this is insufficient, it may be necessary, especially if Russia cuts Europe from its energy sector in response to increasingly harsh sanctions—after all, Russia’s economy is now in recession.
Alas, whether Europe opens up its shores to Canadian oil or not, there are no easy choices when Putin’s newSSR is treating sovereign states as a playground.