Canada must come back down to ‘energy’ reality

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, September 14, 2022
Canada must come back down to ‘energy’ reality

The wind and solar power obsession of the last 20 years is failing to live up to its hype—the power hasn’t scaled, the storage technology hasn’t appeared, the negative environmental impacts have been larger than expected and, of course, the wind does not always blow nor does the sun always shine.

In short, the renewable “transition” isn’t transitioning. As REN21, the European clearinghouse for all things renewable observes, increasing global energy demand has offset the growth of renewable deployment. The share of fossil fuels in total final energy consumption is largely unchanged from 2009, up about 4 per cent. But according to REN21, the share of renewables in final electricity demand stagnated in 2020 compared to 2019.

Accordingly, the world is turning (grudgingly) to a semblance of realism concerning civilization’s need for reliable energy. Hydrocarbons (oil, gas, etc.) are reclaiming respect as a driver of progress. Nuclear power, natural gas, and even coal are rising in the affections of energy producers for the generation of abundant, affordable and reliable electricity.

A few examples. In California, the government of Gavin Newsom just extended the life of Diablo Canyon, the state’s sole remaining nuclear power generator, for another five years. Japan is preparing to reopen all of its (post-Fukushima) mothballed nuclear power plants and add more. Germany has turned back to coal power in the face of potential inabilities to generate sufficient power to survive a cold German winter of Russian/Ukraine discontent. Australia has also re-learned the beauty of coal to generate power. China, of course, never moved away from coal but is still expanding. Even the uber-green EU is waking up and smelling the conventional-energy wind—the EU parliament recently backed the designation of nuclear and natural gas power as “green.”

All this raises the question. What’s Canada doing as the world comes back to energy realism?

Well, Canada is doubling down on the renewables fantasy future. Rather than facilitating the production and transport of oil and gas, Canadian governments, for more than a decade now, have done their best to keep Canada’s oil and gas resources locked in the ground. Between pipeline obstructionism, regulatory strangulation, carbon-tax mania, and most recently a fixation on “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, Canada’s leaders remain hooked on the renewables fantasy, even telling European leaders a hard but polite “no” to Canadian natural gas exports as Russia reduces natural gas flows to Europe.

Canadian governments, led by the Trudeau government, have pursued the renewable dream as zealously as the greenest of the green countries in the world, but it’s time to wake up to energy reality. COVID and the war in Ukraine have clearly shown that renewables can’t supply the world with the concentrated, scalable, transportable and reliable energy it needs to sustain developed economies. If Canada does not adjust its energy policies to match the new realism, Canada’s energy economy will be out of step, and suffer for that lack of integration.

Governments should back off of their pursuit of the renewable dream, starting with net-zero GHG by 2050, which is predicated on the idea that zero-carbon renewable energy sources can replace GHG-emitting conventional energy sources. The time to triangulate is now.