By the time you’re done reading this paragraph, the world will have used an olympic-sized swimming pool of oil, and, by the time today ends,the world will have consumed a staggering 92,000,000 barrels of oil (IEA).
World demand is forecasted to reach 110,000,000 barrels of oil per day 20 years from now. Currently, Canada supplies about 3.9 per cent of the world’s oil production and is one of the world’s top ten oil producers, producing about 4,000,000 barrels of oil per day. Also, over 1,000,000 additional barrels of production are currently under construction in the oil sands. Forecasts indicate Canada could produce 6,000,000 barrels or more in the next 20 years, which is 50 per cent more than available today. Undoubtedly, this will be a huge contribution to the world’s demand for oil.
Canada has one of the world’s largest oil reserves, a third-place ranking with 170 billion barrels of oil reserves, of which 95 per cent are found in the oil sands of Alberta. Our country is also a top reserve holder and producer of many other valuable natural resources like potash, uranium, natural gas, a variety of agricultural products, coal, forestry, gold, lead, zinc, and nickel. We are ninth in the world for wind power and are in the top three for hydro electricity. As a nation, we also generate more of our electricity from non-fossil fuel sources than any other G-8 country.
Some people claim that they hate the world’s “addiction to oil,” as they tweet from their petroleum-built iPhones and MacBooks; perhaps, they don’t realize how important oil is to our everyday way of living. Oil is a big part of everything we do, everything we eat, and everywhere we go, plus energy is the key to our quality of living and longer life expectancies.
Of course, we need to pursue all forms of energy like wind and solar power, but these energy systems simply cannot replace the transportability, energy density, or diversity of oil. Currently fossil fuels represent 85 per cent of the world’s energy mix (IEA); this is the same as it was 25 years ago and is forecasted to drop to 75 per cent by 2035, as renewable energy systems grow and build further market share.
We need to account for that 75 per cent of the world’s energy that won’t be coming from renewables. Wind and solar power are great sources of energy, but it is not a choice of choosing one over the other, since we will require all forms of energy in 2015 and 2035, and even in 2065 and beyond. This includes oil and wind and solar energy, all working together to meet the world’s energy needs in a global energy mix.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Daniel Yergin, who wrote The Prize, says, “The use of wind, solar, and other renewable energy resources will increase significantly over the next few decades, but fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas likely will continue to dominate the energy mix and drive the global economy.”
Many of the voices that oppose the development of the Canadian oil sands imply that if the pipeline is stopped or the entire oil sands region is left untouched, the world will simply stop using oil. This couldn’t be further from the truth as every other oil-producing country is building new production capacity, new pipelines, and is working to achieve better market access and better pricing for their oil exports in order to meet world demand.
We have as a nation a tremendous opportunity lying before us, and we will have to make the choice to seize it or risk squandering the benefits. The choice is to either further enhance the prosperity of our great country and increase the quality of living for every Canadian or turn our backs on it.
Whether we want to admit it or not, every single Canadian is in the energy and natural resource business, as more than 50 per cent of our exports are natural resources, of which 20 per cent is oil. These exports are a big driver of government revenues that pay for our everyday social services that we value so much, as well as employ 1,800,000 Canadians and provide for many more (NRCAN).
Oil sands investment in Canada employs almost 500,000 people (IHS) and benefits every single Canadian. As long as the world needs oil, Canada is the best supplier. We are the most regulated, monitored, and transparent of oil-producing countries, in addition to being leaders in equality, human rights, and social responsibility. All pretty important issues, wouldn’t you agree? Without Canada’s 3.9 per cent of world oil production, the world won’t just stop using oil; it will simply come from other less regulated and less socially responsible places while our economy and prosperity suffer.
Being informed about our energy choices is key in this debate and so is understanding the big picture on energy. Stay informed, then make choices.
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