Exposing the Political Manipulation by Oil & Gas Companies in Canada

The Canadian tar sands contribute little to Canada’s economy yet it’s environmental destruction is known internationally. Despite this, the Canadian commitment to killing the planet by exploiting the tar sands is offensive and has held back green policies. Why does this happen?

SHARE has looked into how oil and gas companies lobby Canadian governments to permit their profiteering from planetary destruction. The greenwashing by tar sands companies is used to make it look like they are respecting the environment, this work by SHARE shows that we can’t trust them. This is good news because now we know how oil and gas advocate behind the scenes and we can prevent it.

While at first these commitments seem promising, a second look reveals a less-than-rosy picture of the role of Canadian oil and gas companies in relation to Canada’s climate targets, regulations and the road map to net zero. The most important work any company could do right now is commit to — then get to work on — reducing emissions in absolute terms. However, there are other important ways the oilpatch impacts climate action on a national and global scale. One of these is the extent to which its government relations, or “lobbying” activities, do or do not align with the climate actions Canada must undertake to prevent the worst impacts of climate change from wreaking havoc on our planet. 

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Why the Price of Gas Needs to Stay High

Intersection

People who rely on unsustainable energy sources tend to complain about the price of their energy (despite the subsidies they receive). We need to stop listening to those people who only want the dangerous status quo to continue. The price of fossil fuels have increased this year for a few reasons, with the price not being reflective of market costs due to government intervention.

In order to advert climate destruction we need to encourage politicians to not let the price of gas decline.

First, consumers will not accept high prices if it means high profits for fossil fuel companies. Maintaining high prices for consumers must be complemented by a radical overhaul of the taxation regime facing fossil fuel companies, not just one-off windfall taxes. Those taxes would maintain high consumer prices even though the fossil fuel companies wouldn’t actually receive very much—enough to cover reasonable costs, but not enough to invest in further fossil fuel production. As the International Energy Agency has pointed out, to achieve net zero by 2050, the amount of investment needed in new oil and gas production is zero.

Second, consumers will be much more willing to accept higher prices for fossil fuels if the additional tax they pay is returned to citizens as an equal carbon grant. Alaska has done something similar, putting a share of oil revenues into a “permanent fund” which it then distributes through a cheque to every household each year (though this approach can go wrong—in Alaska politicians ended up cutting public services to maintain payments from the state fund).

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Make Big Oil Care by Cutting Profits

industry

We’ve heard lots of big claims from oil companies about their commitment to sustainable energy production, but those are all words. Their actions are still to extract fossil fuels which undercut all their efforts to produce renewable energy. The simple reason oil companies are still killing the environment is profit. So to get them to actually live up to their words we need to ensure that oil makes little money. Step one should be to cut market-manipulating subsidies governments give to oil companies.

The best way to hurt oil companies in the meantime is to cut back on your use of gas. Also, remember to vote for politicians that support public transit and clean air.

In terms of electricity generated from clean energy sources, BP has made the most progress of any of the oil companies — but even then, its global renewables capacity only adds up to 2,000 megawatts, the equivalent of about two gas-fired power plants.

Mei Li, a co-author of the report, suggested that the ability to continue profiting from fossil fuels was the chief reason that oil companies haven’t lived up to their climate promises. Wall Street is more likely to reward quarterly profits than moves to overhaul a business over the long-term. “They do not have the incentives to force them to make a clean energy transition,” Li said.

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Oil Companies are Useless

industry

Looking at the actions of oil companies it’s clear they only care about one thing: profit. Everything else, like the planet and human life, is a tertiary concern that is easily ignored. With the release of the most recent IPCC report why are governments and thinkers listening to these planet killing companies?

The big oil companies wax ecstatic about how they are investing in renewables, but that it merely a pittance compared to their ongoing extraction of fossil fuels and money spent lobbying for more oil use and exploration. These companies have derailed conversation about how to make the world better and now it’s time to ask why we even listen to their words about caring about the planet when their actions clearly demonstrate they don’t.

Climate policy critics will surely suggest an aggressive push towards renewable energy will cost too much and do too little, although with natural gas and petrol prices in Europe soaring to record levels, it’s much harder for them to pretend fossil fuels are in any way affordable. But according to a recent report from Wärtsilä Energy, a Finnish company that specializes in industrial energy technology, a rapid transition could actually save Europeans money.

“Increasing energy independence does not need to cost more for power companies or energy consumers,” it says. “Accelerating the transition to a clean energy system could save European countries 323 billion EUR by 2030, compared to our modelled baseline scenario.”

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Insulation is Better Than Oil

tree with climate knowledge

Insulation is a boring solution to the deadly consumption of oil inside your home. If you have a gas furnace or other fossil fuel heater then you can start reducing your consumption of the dead dino juice by better insulating your home. You can also go a step further and replace planet-killing heating solutions with a heat pump.

In the United Kingdom a simple policy change to encourage homeowners improve their insulation and/or install heat pumps can eliminate the need for Russian gas. The time to this is right now so it cuts off the market desire for oil from a state waging war on its neighbour.

If you’re a homeowner then improve your insulation and get off of gas.

An analysis by the think tank notes concludes that the deployment of insulation and electric heat pumps in 6.5 million homes by 2027 could reduce UK gas demand by four per cent, which is roughly equivalent to UK imports of Russian gas.

By enabling citizens to use less gas to heat their homes, a policy focused on heat pumps and insulation could also curb energy bills and protect millions of households from volatile international gas prices, it said.

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