Efficient policy for efficient energy

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Public consultations commenced on a new energy policy for Quebec on February 13th. This is to replace a recent policy devised under Martine Ouellette who infamously protested outside the Quebec Oil and Gas Conference, the year before she lectured inside, as the Minister of Natural Resources.

Martine Ouellette is oft repeated, though rarely quoted, by those in Quebec who suppose oil development is safer than natural gas and think impacts are lower in natural areas than rural areas.  The truth is both can be done safely, yet the former policy reflected these inane beliefs nonetheless.  It did little for Quebec’s reputation in international financial markets.

The Quebec Oil and Gas Association was invited to observe the first of three sessions on the new energy policy concerning energy efficiency.  I was really pleased to see outside experts from the UK, Norway and Vermont there.  They brought a global perspective and focused on pragmatic solutions.

I was less pleased that the discussion centered almost exclusively on the consumption of electricity.  The Government produced document for discussion presumed and stated there is not great opportunity to use hydrocarbons more efficiently. Yet hydrocarbons are over 50% of the Quebec energy diet. Hydro is important for the province, but it’s not even the main source of energy consumption.

At least as concerning was the complete lack of discussion on producing and transporting energy more efficiently.  One of the big issues of our time will be transmission of electricity from where there is wind and sun to places where it is needed and used. And certainly, even Martine Ouellette knows the pressure on the oil and gas industry to reduce its impacts, even if it were to be absurdly restricted to natural areas.  Isn’t it self evident this will come mostly through greater efficiencies?

For our Association, it once again showed the need for a continuous dialogue on energy that includes both consumers and producers. Producers might have raised these types of points.  Most certainly we would have raised this one:

Quebec discovered the purest source of natural gas in North America as demonstrated by the work of the Strategic Environmental Assessment.  Its almost pure methane straight out of the ground and can go straight in to a pipeline without treating.  A policy that encourages the production of less clean sources; ones that must be transported long distances, is the epitome of a carbon leak.

Carbon leaks result from vane policies that encourage reducing local carbon emissions by transferring them somewhere else.  It is the opposite of think global and act local.  This is the worst type of greenwashing and hides behind loopholes in Kyoto’s carbon accountancy. Good policy would not allow it, let alone promote it.

Its not just local gas production that would plug Quebec carbon leaks.  Producing oil locally can do the same thing.

As the Norwegian expert noted, carbon leaks aren’t just bad for the environment they hurt the economy too. I love Norwegians!