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Biden administration passes up chance to block Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement

Court filing signals president doesn't plan to cancel federal permits for the project

The Associated Press · Posted: Jun 25, 2021 10:12 AM MT | Last Updated: 1 hour ago
 
enbridge-20180816.jpg
In this file photo, Enbridge workers weld pipe just west of Morden, Man. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The Biden administration signaled in a court filing this week that it does not plan to cancel federal permits for Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline project, despite pleas by Native Americans and environmental groups for the president to intervene.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used the filing to defend its decision in November to grant Enbridge a water permit for the project, the last major approval the Calgary-based company needed.

 

Wednesday's filing by the Corps and its attorneys at the Department of Justice marks the first time President Joe Biden's administration has taken a public position on Enbridge's plan to replace its aging Line 3, which carries oil from western Canada to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisc., the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

Environmental organizations expressed displeasure Thursday.

"Allowing Line 3 to move forward is, at best, inconsistent with the bold promises on climate and environmental justice President Biden campaigned and was elected on," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

But Enbridge said in a statement that the Corps' filing "is an expected next step in the court appeal process," and that it laid out the federal agency's "very thorough review" of Line 3's federal permits.

Indigenous lawsuit

Two Ojibwe bands and three environmental groups sued the Corps in federal court late last year. They claimed the Corps did not properly evaluate the pipeline's impact on climate change, and that the agency should have conducted its own, full environmental impact study on the pipeline instead of relying on the state's.

Their lawsuit also alleges that the Corps failed to fully consider treaty rights. The pipeline crosses lands where several tribes claim treaty rights to hunt, gather and fish.

The Corps asked for the case to be dismissed, saying the agency met all requirements under federal environmental law. The permit allows Enbridge to drill beneath certain rivers during construction and discharge dredged material.

The Minnesota segment of the pipeline is more than 60-per-cent complete. The Wisconsin and Canadian sections are already carrying oil. Protests along the route in Minnesota have ramped up significantly over the past few weeks.

Since Biden took office in January, opponents of Line 3 have repeatedly called for him to stop the project. The most practical legal way for him to do that would be by revoking Line 3's Army Corps permit, or by ordering that the permit to be redone.

"Today's decision is the Biden administration on autopilot, defending a Trump water permit for a massive tar sands pipeline that is actually indefensible," said Andy Pearson, an organizer with MN350, a climate change group.

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It continues to amaze me that the vocal minority are still taking aim at "Bad Oil" and continue to ignore BC's dirty little secret.

Canada's Teck Resources signals hit from British Columbia wildfire

4 hrs ago

 

(Reuters) - Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd on Tuesday estimated third-quarter steel-making coal sales would be reduced by 300,000-500,000 tonnes due to a rail service disruption from the wildfires in British Columbia.

The company's shares closed down 4.9% in Toronto, while its U.S-listed stock ended 5.7% lower.

Rail service between Teck's steel-making coal operations and west coast terminals has been disrupted due to damage to the rail line near Lytton, the company said.

A forest fire that began after three days of record-breaking temperatures has destroyed most of the small western Canadian town of Lytton. [https://reut.rs/3At77Yl]

The company, which sold 6.2 million tonnes of steel-making coal in the first three months of the year, said second-quarter sales were unaffected as the disruption began on the last day of the period.

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

 

Coal mining is big business in the B.C. Rockies. It could get bigger if these projects are approved

Four proposed projects are undergoing environmental review in the Kootenay Rockies, where open-pit coal mining is tied to longstanding pollution concerns
Ainslie Cruickshank
April 1, 2021  8 min. read
 
Coal is a big industry in B.C. and it is on the verge of getting even bigger with the proposal of five coal mines along the Rocky Mountains. Photo: Callum Gunn
 

In the face of widespread public backlash, the Alberta government agreed to rethink its plan to open parts of the Rocky Mountains and foothills to open-pit coal mining — but it’s a different story just across the provincial border, where an already massive industry could get bigger. 

Coal is British Columbia’s most valuable mined commodity: the provincial government forecast production to be worth almost $4 billion in 2020. Eighty-three per cent of that production took place in the Kootenay Rockies, where Teck Resources operates four metallurgical coal mines.

Though Teck is a major employer and economic contributor in the region, its mines are also a persistent source of selenium pollution. Some conservationists fear the problem could worsen if any of the four proposed coal mines in the area are built.

Coal mining in B.C. Rockies could expand with these proposals | The Narwhal

 

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“the vocal minority are still taking aim at "Bad Oil"

Vocal minority??? How about our federal liberal, woke, environmentally aware, socially conscious feminist sock wearing pm?? In his 6 years in office, not once have I heard him make a statement condemning BC’s coal industry. Lots of talk about eliminating coal burning industries, but nothing about eliminating coal production and the jobs/taxes it supports.

I long for the day when a reporter springs that issue on him at his sermon from the cottage.

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54 minutes ago, st27 said:

“the vocal minority are still taking aim at "Bad Oil"

Vocal minority??? How about our federal liberal, woke, environmentally aware, socially conscious feminist sock wearing pm?? In his 6 years in office, not once have I heard him make a statement condemning BC’s coal industry. Lots of talk about eliminating coal burning industries, but nothing about eliminating coal production and the jobs/taxes it supports.

I long for the day when a reporter springs that issue on him at his sermon from the cottage.

No worries there, he will deflect or simply not reply to the question or so his track record suggests. 

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Sadly, canadians are smug enough and naive enough to think that how could a modern, environmentally conscious woke country like Canada be a major producer of dirty coal.

How could Justin give this his tacit approval? How come this wasn’t mentioned at the Paris accord? Oh wait, we have banned those dirty plastic straws….the work is done!

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Coal exports rise despite federal phase-out

Thermal coal from Alberta's Vista mine fuelling demand for power generation

  • Calgary Herald
  • 8 Jul 2021
  • GABRIEL FRIEDMAN

In mid-june, the federal Liberals announced what sounded like a one-two punch for Canada's thermal coal sector.

Calling it the fuel of a “previous century,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government joined with other G7 countries and agreed Canada would no longer finance new thermal coal plants and mines abroad. Meanwhile, at home, his cabinet announced it would apply strict scrutiny to any proposed new thermal coal mines or expansion projects.

But phasing out Canada's thermal coal sector won't happen overnight. In fact, if anything thermal coal exports have grown over the past couple years, and may grow further as new markets open up in Asia. As a result, even as western countries phase out coal production, new plants in Asia mean that peak demand may result in a plateau rather than a gradual decline — and Canada has been sending millions of tonnes overseas for years and in 2019, a new mine in Alberta added millions more.

“We'll get to peak coal demand in the next few years, if we haven't hit it already,” said Philip Wagner, principal analyst for the North American coal sector at the research firm IHS Markit. “But demand's not going to drop off super fast.”

There are still coal plants being built in Japan, China, Indonesia and other Asian countries, according to Wagner.

Although some of these countries, including Japan and China, have both committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero,” by 2050 and 2060, respectively, that still leaves several decades during which time coal — the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 30 per cent in 2018 according to the International Energy Agency — could be burned to generate electricity.

Even though Canadian thermal coal must be shipped halfway around the world, Wagner said it remains marketable to Asian countries for several reasons. First, it helps diversify their supply and safeguard against disruptions, an important consideration as other thermal coal-producing countries, like Indonesia, build new coal plants and consume more of their own domestic production.

Secondly, Canadian thermal coal has a high energy output, so one tonne may produce equivalent energy to a larger amount of coal produced elsewhere. That helps offset shipping costs, he said.

Wagner said Asia may have already hit peak demand, “but the decline won't be falling off the cliff, it'll be steady.”

Although Canada reported $4.5 billion in total coal exports in 2020, the vast majority was metallurgical coal, which is used for steelmaking.

By contrast, thermal coal is burned to generate electricity and releases air pollutants such as acid rain-inducing sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. In Alberta, coal production has also been controversial because the waste can contaminate local watersheds and destroy vegetation and animal habitats.

Stats Canada does not release data on thermal coal exports, citing the need to protect confidentiality of certain businesses under the Statistics Act.

Canada produced less than one per cent of global thermal coal in 2020, according to the International Energy Association. It forecasts production will shrink 0.7 per cent by 2025, and, even though coal use is on the rise in parts of Asia, IEA analysts have concluded that global coal consumption, including both metallurgical and thermal, already peaked in 2013 and will decline as countries accelerate a shift away from coal.

But for now the world continues to seek out Canadian coal.

Wagner said the Vista mine in Hinton, Alta., near Jasper National Park, accounts for nearly all Canadian thermal coal exports.

Vista started exporting some of its production in 2019, producing 1.3 million tonnes that year, followed by 4.8 million tonnes in 2020, according to statistics on the Alberta Energy Regulator's website.

In January, after exhausting its permitted tailing ponds, where waste is stored, and failing to obtain permitting to build new tailings ponds, Vista shut down for maintenance and laid off 300 workers.

In late April, Vista Holdings LLC, the mine's parent company, filed for Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act protection. The company did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

By late May, however, it had resumed production, and Wagner predicted it would ramp up production again shortly.

While there are other thermal coal mines in Canada, most produce for domestic consumption, as Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan still use coal to produce electricity.

Overall, according to the AER, thermal coal exports have increased from about 2 million tonnes per year between 2015 and 2018, to 5.4 million tonnes in 2020. This year, roughly 725,000 tonnes had been exported through April, a downward trend which may reverse as Vista ramps up again.

According to its 2012 feasibility study, the Vista mine can produce 11.2 million exportable tonnes of coal per year for 30 years.

Meanwhile, a showdown looms between the federal government and thermal coal proponents: Vista has applied for a federal permit that would allow it to more than double its production.

In announcing the new federal policy in June that deems thermal coal projects “likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects” and “not aligned with Canada's domestic and international climate change commitments,” Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of the environment and climate change, specifically said Vista would face tougher scrutiny.

“We cannot prevent (any company) from bringing forward projects into the system, but the bar in terms of approval is very high,” Wilkinson told the Financial Post.

Still, between 2018 and 2020, Canadian ports exported between 11 and 13 millions tonnes of thermal coal, according to Ember, an organization that tracks such data, and was founded by the U.K. environmentalist Baroness Bryony Worthington.

Wagner said much of this coal was produced by U.S. mines and just exported through ports in British Columbia.

Binnu Jeyakumar, director of clean energy at the Pembina Institute, said recent policy changes by the federal government and net-zero commitments by other governments around the world mean that the market for coal is only likely to shrink in the coming years.

There are also looming issues about what will happen to the communities in Alberta, where coal mining supports the local economy with jobs, and the government will need to help these places transition to a cleaner economy, Jeyakumar said.

While Canada's coal exports may continue growing, she argued that the writing is already on the wall.

“When you're making an investment in something like coal mining, you need to have your eye out on where the coal market is going to be in a decade,” Jeyakumar said. “I don't see how one can say that the trajectory is not declining.”

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ENERGY REBOUND

Profits `never been better'

  • Calgary Herald
  • 10 Jul 2021
  • CHRIS VARCOE Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist. cvarcoe@postmedia.com

A little more than a year ago, Calgary oilman Roger Tang was busy shutting in oil production at Deltastream Energy Corp.

The CEO of the privately held firm, active in the Slave Lake region of Alberta, had throttled back output from 12,000 barrels per day (bpd) to less than 1,000 as crude prices wilted during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Today, the Calgary-based oil company has not only brought its idled production back online, but it's also planning to boost output to 15,000 bpd by early next year.

“We are very excited. We are accelerating our drilling programs, ramping up production,” Tang said Friday.

“I have worked in this industry for about 35, 40 years. This is the first time I have seen such a big change.”

As the Canadian oil and gas industry heads into the Calgary Stampede season, it's got a few reasons to celebrate.

Commodity prices are moving up. Cash flow levels and profits are growing.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil prices shot up briefly to their highest point in six years earlier this week, before closing Friday at US$74.56 a barrel.

Oil markets have rallied as energy demand has rebounded with travel resuming, economies reopening — and continued production discipline by OPEC+ countries and U.S. shale producers.

Meanwhile, Western Canadian Select heavy oil prices reached their highest levels this week since late 2014, and closed Friday at US$61.84 a barrel, up $1.72 on the day.

For Canadian natural gas producers, the outlook is also bullish.

In Alberta, benchmark AECO natural gas traded at Cdn$3.63 per gigajoule, marking the strongest summertime prices seen since 2014, noted analyst Jeremy Mccrea of Raymond James.

“The profitability for this sector has probably never been better than what we're seeing here today,” Mccrea said.

“What a great time to start Stampede with these kinds of commodity prices.”

While some Stampede parties have been scaled back or cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mood inside the Canadian industry is shifting.

“Everybody we meet is talking about Christmas parties; they're talking about a busy drilling season,” said Tang.

“People are still cautious, but if you're looking at that big price swing, (companies) are basically back to 100 per cent of what they left behind before the pandemic.”

The financial health of the industry has been upgraded, although it's coming back from an exceptionally low point.

Last year's dramatic collapse in oil markets, coming after several trying years with lukewarm prices, pipeline constraints and tepid investor interest, pushed some companies to the brink.

A few were swept away in a wave of consolidation.

Thousands of jobs disappeared as companies chopped spending and drove down costs to weather the storm.

Today, with the escalation of commodity prices, the Canadian industry is expected to generate $141 billion in total revenues this year, just shy of 2014 levels, according to ARC Energy Research Institute.

And here's a telling sign. After-tax industry cash flow levels are projected to hit an all-time high of $75 billion, as the Canadian industry has reduced costs, production levels have increased in recent years and companies are reinvesting less money than in the past.

“The debt levels are coming down … a lot of excess cash flow is not going to spending,” said institute executive director Jackie Forrest. “The industry is looking quite healthy.”

While the institute forecasts 4,245 oil and gas wells will be drilled this year — up more than 40 per cent from 2020 levels — it would still be the second-fewest number completed since the last oil-price crash in 2016.

Some private companies such as Deltastream Energy are increasing their capital budget; Tang said the firm's capital expenditures will almost double this year to around $150 million.

Yet, many public companies are reluctant to hike budgets, as investors want to see a relentless focus on profitability and returning money to shareholders.

Headwater Exploration president Jason Jaskela noted that when most Canadian producers began setting their spending plans late last year for 2021, oil prices were trading around $45 a barrel. Today, not only are benchmark prices higher, but the price differential for heavy oil is relatively narrow, helping companies pump out higher levels of cash and profits.

“It used to be the business was very focused on growth and as commodity prices moved higher, people put their foot on the gas,” Jaskela said.

“You will see some growth come back into the business as prices go up, but I think you will see companies also focused on earnings.”

There are indications more producers are growing confident that higher oil and gas prices are sustainable.

The Canadian Association of Energy Contractors reports 144 drilling wells were active this week in Western Canada, compared to only 27 a year ago.

“The customer mood has improved dramatically,” Total Energy Services CEO Dan Halyk said Friday.

“It's not like the good old days, yet, of 2014, but … the fundamentals look pretty good.”

Halyk noted demand for drilling and other services is climbing and the company is hiring.

However, much still depends on the pace of the global economic recovery, as well as the co-ordinated actions of OPEC and its partners when it comes to oil markets.

In Canada, few players are expecting major new oilsands projects to move ahead or production to suddenly surge. Climate concerns, ESG considerations and market access remain ongoing areas of attention.

Yet, after several bleak years, the industry has shifted out of survival mode and is now coming to terms with an improved outlook.

“Our industry has been beaten pretty hard in Canada and there are a lot of tired people,” added Halyk.

“It's gratifying to me to see some hope and enthusiasm coming back, and some of the challenges that come with having to ramp up.

“It's been a while since we've had to do that in Canada.”

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And how much of that windfall do you think the oil producers will give back to the Canadian government in thanks and grateful for the bailouts they received?

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/04/16/opinion/time-bail-out-alberta-workers-not-billionaire-oil-company-ceos#:~:text=In 2018%2C the federal government,cost taxpayers over %2416 billion.

 In 2018, the federal government not only gave Alberta oil producers a $1.6-billion bailout package, they also spent $4.5 billion buying the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project which now is estimated to cost taxpayers over $16 billion.

 

Throughout this same time, we saw production in the oilpatch grow and the big five oilsands producers have continued to pay out billions in dividends to their shareholders. While oilsands producers found a way to take care of their investors, workers who lost their jobs in the 2014 price shock were left behind. Employment numbers have never recovered to anywhere near 2014 numbers, despite the fact that Alberta is now producing more oil than at any time in its history.

Clearly, there is a pattern here: global forces drive down oil prices, Big Oil CEOs lean on Ottawa for a bailout, the federal government writes another big cheque to this already heavily subsidized industry, investors get paid and workers are again left behind.

 

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Oh… and by the way…here is the counter narrative to Deicer’s link

Quote

$359 Billion: What Canada’s energy sector paid governments from 2000 to 2018

Taxes paid by energy industry add up to as much as all employment insurance payments since 1996

 

Yes, that is from an industry feed….. as for the Natioanl Observer…...pay attention to the last sentence…

Quote

YOU NEED TO KNOW THESE FAKE NEWS OUTLETS WHO ARE ALREADY ACTIVE THIS ELECTION PUSHING ANTI-HYDROCARBON NEWS

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There has been a wave of anti-hydrocarbon news stories recently. One of them even suggested a few small companies from Calgary were controlling the election process. Others we brought to your attention through our fact checks. We wanted to direct your attention to these outlets that are publishing and promoting these stories.

Here are the details on a few left-wing, anti-progress “progressive” or ENGO sponsored so-called “news” outlets. Sadly, the biased mainstream media often treats these outlets as agenda setters and repeats their stories, giving credibility to overtly partisan misinformation:

 

National Observer was created by climate activists for the original purpose of reporting on “energy politics and the environment,” looking for “connections between powerful U.S. interests and Canadian politicians” and “where candidates in the 2015 federal election stand on pipeline projects, LNG, big oil, and how they think and feel about climate change.” It is run by Linda Solomon Wood who describes herself as an American radical who “threatened to move to Canada and then actually did.” National Observer has been funded by a variety of ENGOs, including the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada.

 

 

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2 hours ago, st27 said:

Oh… and by the way…here is the counter narrative to Deicer’s link

Yes, that is from an industry feed….. as for the Natioanl Observer…...pay attention to the last sentence…

 

 

Once again misleading headline to confuse.

While that amount may seem large, it is actually less than what was actually paid to governments in total.  It isn't all just taxes paid, it is a cumulative amount which also includes the major payments of leases and rent.  

So if you want to compare apples to oranges, make sure that the kitchen sink isn't thrown in as well.

My information from the Canadian Energy Center website.

https://www.canadianenergycentre.ca/672-billion-the-energy-sectors-revenues-to-canadian-governments-2000-2018/

Here is a breakdown of the subsidies and where they go.  

https://www.iisd.org/articles/unpacking-canadas-fossil-fuel-subsidies-faq

And the study in long form.

https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2020-12/tax-subsidies-fossil-fuels-canada.pdf

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More good news from Alberta!

https://nationalpost.com/sponsored/news-sponsored/bringing-the-benefits-of-renewable-energy-to-canadas-remote-northern-communities

Bringing the benefits of renewable energy to Canada’s remote northern communities

Empathy, meaningful consultation underlie ATCO’s approach to Indigenous partnerships

The remote northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan (Fort Chip) once relied exclusively on generators requiring large shipments of diesel fuel by ice road to generate electricity. Today, the 1,000 residents of Fort Chip enjoy the benefits of Canada’s largest off-grid solar project, reducing local diesel consumption by approximately 800,000 litres each year — just one of many projects in which integrated energy, housing, transportation and infrastructure solutions provider, ATCO [TSX: ACO.X] has been working with Indigenous community partners to provide cleaner, renewable energy.

In 2020 alone, ATCO participated in more than 50 mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous groups. Of the $271 million in revenue generated by these joint ventures that year, in excess of $129 million went to the company’s Indigenous partners — more than $71 million in net economic benefits and more than $58 million in procurement contracts.

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Nearly half of all Canadian private sector industries experienced a major drop in investment from 2015-19

Industry-Level Private Sector Capital Expenditures in Canada: 1990-2019examines how, despite the absence of a major recession (as Canada experienced in the early 1990s and 2008-09), more domestic industries experienced decreases in capital investment from 2015 to 2019 than at any other time since 1990. Critically, a majority of industries decreased investment in machinery, equipment and intellectual property products (such as software), which all significantly impact productivity.

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If You Want ‘Renewable Energy,’ Get Ready to Dig

Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of plastic.

 

 
Democrats dream of powering society entirely with wind and solar farms combined with massive batteries. Realizing this dream would require the biggest expansion in mining the world has seen and would produce huge quantities of waste. 

“Renewable energy” is a misnomer. Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste. The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste. Consider some other sobering numbers: 

A single electric-car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds. Fabricating one requires digging up, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials somewhere on the planet. The alternative? Use gasoline and extract one-tenth as much total tonnage to deliver the same number of vehicle-miles over the battery’s seven-year life.

 When electricity comes from wind or solar machines, every unit of energy produced, or mile traveled, requires far more materials and land than fossil fuels. That physical reality is literally visible: A wind or solar farm stretching to the horizon can be replaced by a handful of gas-fired turbines, each no bigger than a tractor-trailer.

Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Solar power requires even more cement, steel and glass—not to mention other metals. Global silver and indium mining will jump 250% and 1,200% respectively over the next couple of decades to provide the materials necessary to build the number of solar panels, the International Energy Agency forecasts. World demand for rare-earth elements—which aren’t rare but are rarely mined in America—will rise 300% to 1,000% by 2050 to meet the Paris green goals. If electric vehicles replace conventional cars, demand for cobalt and lithium, will rise more than 20-fold. That doesn’t count batteries to back up wind and solar grids.

 
Last year a Dutch government-sponsored study concluded that the Netherlands’ green ambitions alone would consume a major share of global minerals. “Exponential growth in [global] renewable energy production capacity is not possible with present-day technologies and annual metal production,” it concluded.

The demand for minerals likely won’t be met by mines in Europe or the U.S. Instead, much of the mining will take place in nations with oppressive labor practices. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 70% of the world’s raw cobalt, and China controls 90% of cobalt refining. The Sydney-based Institute for a Sustainable Future cautions that a global “gold” rush for minerals could take miners into “some remote wilderness areas [that] have maintained high biodiversity because they haven’t yet been disturbed.”

What’s more, mining and fabrication require the consumption of hydrocarbons. Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades. More than 90% of the world’s solar panels are built in Asia on coal-heavy electric grids.

Engineers joke about discovering “unobtanium,” a magical energy-producing element that appears out of nowhere, requires no land, weighs nothing, and emits nothing. Absent the realization of that impossible dream, hydrocarbons remain a far better alternative than today’s green dreams.

 Mr. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a partner in Cottonwood Venture Partners, an energy-tech venture fund, and author of the recent report, “The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.”

 

https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/R-0319-MM.pdf

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New book says the climate is changing, but we may be very wrong about how that change affects us 

“The Science.” We’re all supposed to know what “The Science” says. “The Science,” we’re told, is settled. How many times have you heard it?

In one of the most important books on climate science in decades, author Steve Koonin looks at what we really know — and don’t know — about climate change
 

If there are two things we can learn from author Steven Koonin’s new book, it’s that the science is never settled and that the hype around climate change rarely squares up with the research behind it.

 

The author of Unsettled: What climate science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters was President Obama’s under-secretary of science at the department of energy. His book cuts a wide swath through cataclysmically rising temperatures, unprecedented heat waves, and overflowing seas. Instead, he describes a world where the temperature is rising and human activity is probably responsible for an increasing portion of it — but notes that the climate isn’t “broken”, the incidence of heat waves are par for the course, and the seas are staying put for the foreseeable future. In short, humans aren’t anywhere close to the verge of irreversible, climate-induced extinction.

Koonin isn’t relying on esoteric research. He dips into the same datasets published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. government, but ignores the hype and misinterpretations that often obscure them.

Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and its energy systems, “The Science” says Earth is doomed.

Well . . . not quite. Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that—to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

For example, both the research literature and government reports that summarize and assess the state of climate science say clearly that heat waves in the US are now no more common than they were in 1900, and that the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years. When I tell people this, most are incredulous. Some gasp. And some get downright hostile.

 

But these are almost certainly not the only climate facts you haven’t heard. Here are three more that might surprise you, drawn directly from recent published research or the latest assessments of climate science published by the US government and the UN:

  • Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century.
  • Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago.
  • The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal through at least the end of this century.

So what gives?

If you’re like most people, after the surprise wears off, you’ll wonder why you’re surprised. Why haven’t you heard these facts before? Why don’t they line up with the narrative—now almost a meme—that we’ve already broken the climate and face certain doom unless we change our ways?

Most of the disconnect comes from the long game of telephone that starts with the research literature and runs through the assessment reports to the summaries of the assessment reports and on to the media coverage. There are abundant opportunities to get things wrong—both accidentally and on purpose—as the information goes through filter after filter to be packaged for various audiences. The public gets their climate information almost exclusively from the media; very few people actually read the assessment summaries, let alone the reports and research papers themselves. That’s perfectly understandable—the data and analyses are nearly impenetrable for non-experts, and the writing is not exactly gripping. As a result, most people don’t get the whole story.

But don’t feel bad. It’s not only the public that’s ill informed about what the science says about climate. Policymakers, too, have to rely on information that’s been put through several different wringers by the time it gets to them. Because most government officials—and others involved in climate policy for the public and private sectors—are not themselves scientists, it’s up to scientists to make sure that non-scientists making key policy decisions get an accurate, complete, and transparent picture of what’s known (and unknown) about the changing climate, one undistorted by “agenda” or “narrative.” Unfortunately, getting that story straight isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I should know. That used to be my job.

Where I’m coming from

I’m a scientist—I work to understand the world through measurements and observations, and then to communicate clearly both the excitement and the implications of that understanding. Early in my career, I had great fun doing this for esoteric phenomena in the realm of atoms and nuclei using high-performance computer modeling (which is also an important tool for much of climate science). But beginning in 2004, I spent about a decade turning those same methods to the subject of climate and its implications for energy technologies. I did this first as chief scientist for the oil company BP, where I focused on advancing renewable energy, and then as undersecretary for science in the Obama administration’s Department of Energy, where I helped guide the government’s investments in energy technologies and climate science. I found great satisfaction in these roles, helping to define and catalyze actions that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the agreed-upon imperative that would “save the planet.”

But then the doubts began. In late 2013 I was asked by the American Physical Society—the professional organization of the country’s physicists—to lead an update of its public statement on climate. As part of that effort, in January 2014 I convened a workshop with a specific objective—to “stress test” the state of climate science. In ordinary terms, that meant analyzing, critiquing, and summarizing humanity’s accumulated knowledge about the past, present, and future of the earth’s climate. Six leading climate experts and six leading physicists, myself included, spent a day scrutinizing exactly what we know about the climate system and how confidently we can project its future. To focus the conversation, we physicists had spent the prior two months preparing a framing document based on the UN assessment report that had just been released.1 We posed some specific and crucial questions along the lines of: Where is the data poor or the assumptions weakly supported—and does that matter? How reliable are the models that we use to describe the past and project the future? Many who’ve read the workshop transcript were struck by how successfully—and unusually—it brought out the certainties and uncertainties of the science at that time.

 

For my part, I came away from the APS workshop not only surprised, but shaken by the realization that climate science was far less mature than I had supposed. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The deficiencies of climate data challenge our ability to untangle the response to human influences from poorly understood natural changes.
  • The results from the multitude of climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations. A vague “expert judgment” was sometimes applied to adjust model results and obfuscate shortcomings.
  • Government and UN press releases and summaries do not accurately reflect the reports themselves. There was a consensus at the meeting on some important issues, but not at all the strong consensus the media promulgates. Distinguished climate experts (including report authors themselves) are embarrassed by some media portrayals of the science. This was somewhat shocking.
  • In short, the science is insufficient to make useful projections about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.

Why were these crucial deficiencies such a revelation to me and others? As a scientist, I felt the scientific community was letting the public down by not telling the whole truth plainly. And as a citizen, I was concerned that the public and political debates were being misinformed. So I began to speak out, most publicly through a two-thousand-word “Saturday Essay” published in the Wall Street Journal that September.3 In it, I outlined some of the uncertainties in climate science and argued that ignoring them could hinder our ability to understand and respond to a changing climate:

Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on.

That piece drew thousands of online comments, the great majority of them supportive. My frankness about the state of climate science was less popular in the scientific community, however. As the chair of a highly respected university earth sciences department told me privately, “I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, but I don’t dare say that in public.”

Many scientific colleagues, some of them my friends for decades, were outraged that I’d highlight problems with The Science and thus, as one of them said, “give ammunition to the deniers.” Another said it would have been okay to publish my essay in some obscure scientific journal but reproached me for doing so in a forum with so many readers. And a prominent defender of the idea that The Science is settled enough published a response to my Op-Ed that began by calling for New York University to reconsider my employment, went on to misrepresent many of the things I had written, but then, bafflingly, acknowledged that most of the uncertainties I’d mentioned were well known and much discussed among experts.4 It seems that by highlighting those uncertainties so plainly and publicly, I had inadvertently broken some code of silence, like the Mafia’s omerta.

More than six years of study since the APS workshop have left me increasingly dismayed at the public discussions of climate and energy. Climate alarmism has come to dominate US politics, especially among Democrats, where I have otherwise long felt most comfortable politically. The 2020 Democratic presidential primary saw each candidate trying to outdo the other with over-the-top statements about “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” increasingly divorced from the science. The election run-up also witnessed increasingly sweeping policy proposals like the Green New Deal that would “fight climate change” with government interventions and subsidies. Not surprisingly, the Biden administration has made climate and energy a major priority, with the appointment of former secretary of state John Kerry as climate envoy and proposed spending of almost two trillion dollars to fight this “existential threat to humanity.”

 

While I have no informed opinions on the fiscal and policy merits of proposals like the Green New Deal—I am a physicist, not an economist—I do know that any policy should be based upon what the science actually says about the changing climate. Trillion-dollar decisions about reducing human influences on the climate are, in the end, about values: risk tolerance, intergenerational and geographical equities, and a balance among economic development, environmental impact, and energy cost, availability, and reliability. But they must be informed by an accurate understanding of scientific certainties and uncertainties.

This book is an attempt to set us on the road to that understanding. And I intend to do it the only way that a scientist knows how: with documented facts, almost all drawn from the most up-to-date official assessments or quality research literature, presented in their proper context. As the late representative John Lewis, the conscience of Congress, said in his speech about the first impeachment of President Trump:

When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, do something.

https://nationalpost.com/sponsored/news-sponsored/new-book-says-the-climate-is-changing-but-we-may-be-very-wrong-about-how-that-change-affects-us?fbclid=IwAR0--Uckv4fPEz_2oAd2O5A0XnPVSPlzWbTTLHKfPFH_YuIRHh1hp5SXmLI_aem_AcyGdSKT0ZtM_WHJZDfdRxCdKIv1KuE7qEd_CU3qmdlTK83A1bMDeCHpv4OCILjAzHq0roERBsq4VCZAqt_xmn9SL2bFBq2y1I42Sztz0Xd_h1m3Ngjh0k7GaBOMuwXWkUc

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Oil and gas taxes pay for a lot of social benefits 

Governments would need to find $25 billion per year to replace oil and gas revenues

Between 1969 and 2019, Canadian parents received $499 billion in family allowance payments and children’s benefits from the federal government. That 50-year cost was matched almost exactly by $505 billion in revenues to governments from the oil and gas sector. That included everything from oil and natural gas royalties, to property taxes, to corporate and personal income taxes paid by those in the oil and gas sector — except that such taxpayer cash was collected over just 20 years, between 2000 and 2019.

It’s not literally true, of course, that oil and gas revenues went to pay family allowances and benefits. Money is fungible and plenty of other taxes flow into government coffers. There are also many other things that Canada’s governments spend tax dollars on, from health care to highways to heritage and much else.

 

But putting child benefits side-by-side with oil and gas revenues provides a concrete comparison for those who know little about taxes and government spending, or perhaps even mistakenly think governments can spend, spend, spend with little regard for the strength of a major Canadian industry.

Consider another comparison, this time to other major Canadian industries. Real estate and construction are also major contributors to government revenues. Between 2000 and 2019, the real estate sector contributed just over $211 billion in taxes to governments across Canada, or about two-fifths of what oil and gas did. Over the same two decades, the construction sector handed over $298 billion to federal, provincial and local governments, or about three-fifths of what those involved in the natural gas business and the oil industry did.

Add the contributions from real estate and construction together and that doubled-up figure — over $509 billion — barely tops the $505 billion in cash Canadian governments received from oil and gas companies and employees between 2000 and 2019 (the latest year for which data is available).

A few caveats on the comparisons. The $505 billion from oil and gas is just oil and gas taxes and royalties to local, provincial and federal governments but does not include payments to First Nations. Also, we were unable to track personal income tax payments from oil and gas workers to provincial and federal governments between 2000 and 2006. (Statistics Canada was not able to provide us an estimate for those years for oil and gas workers.) In other words, even the half-trillion bonanza of revenue from the oil and gas sector is a conservative estimate.

Here are some other statistics to keep in mind when considering the importance of oil, gas and energy to governments. The broad energy sector includes oil and gas extraction and support activities, as well as utilities, coal and pipeline transportation. Total energy revenues between 2000 and 2019 were $701 billion (including the $505 billion from oil and gas), or more than total federal spending ($685 billion) on employment insurance between 1987 and 2019.

If Canada’s oil and gas sector disappeared tomorrow, as some activists seem to want, and governments were forced to find $505 billion in tax cash for the next 20 years, they might consider raising personal, business, payroll or sales taxes, or some combination of the above. But they’d need to find $25 billion per year to replace oil and gas revenues.

https://financialpost.com/opinion/opinion-oil-and-gas-taxes-pay-for-a-lot-of-social-benefits

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https://www.theprogressreport.ca/where_is_albertas_royalty_money

Analysis: Oilsands companies are still making billions. So why isn't Alberta?

james wilt
posted by james wilt | 0RTs
September 09, 2020

The Alberta government released its latest fiscal update — and it contained one nugget that shows just how screwed we are. In 2020 the government of Alberta expects to raise more money from tuition from college and university students ($1.35 billion) than it will raise from oil and gas royalties ($1.2 billion).   

Non-renewable resource revenues have plummeted, with oilsands royalties dropping from a projected $3.2 billion to a mere $686 million (in total, Alberta will receive $3.9 billion less from resource revenue this year than expected.) 

To the casual reader looking at a huge deficit it may appear that Alberta’s budget has suddenly collapsed, but the hole in the province’s finances has been there all along. Oilsands royalties are dismally low by design, facilitating the theft and privatization of massive resource wealth and incentivizing the development of marginal projects that in turn flood the market with non-upgraded diluted bitumen or dilbit.  

While consecutive governments have told us this arrangement is necessary to keep “the economy” afloat, low royalties have functioned to suppress oil prices through excessive supply—and diminish financial returns for the resources that Albertans “own.” The government’s own data shows how this played out in 2019, when 1.1 billion barrels of oil were extracted from the oilsands.

All of this has happened while the biggest oilsands companies continue to be very profitable, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, the largest oil company in Canada by production, gave more than $500 million to shareholders through its dividend just in the second quarter of 2020. Suncor, the second largest oil company by production in Canada, distributed $320 million to shareholders in just the second quarter of this year

In total, the top 30 oilsands projects in 2019 reported $17.8 billion in net revenues, after all costs were deducted. Yet those projects only paid out $4.6 billion in royalties, or just over one-quarter of net revenues. While these earnings are also subject to provincial and federal corporate income taxes, royalty payments are deductible for income tax purposes.

Royalties are different from income or corporate taxes: they are the amount charged by the government (in this case a province awarded colonial title to stolen land in 1930) for a company to dig up and permanently liquidate a non-renewable resource like oil, gas or coal. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. And royalty rates in Alberta are charged differently for each kind of resource: conventional oil, natural gas and by-products, and oilsands. 

Oilsands royalties are calculated on a project-by-project basis (rather than company-wide) in a fairly complex way, varying based on several factors including the price of oil and whether the project has reached payout, meaning its total revenues have exceed costs. And this complexity greatly benefits oilsands corporations. 

In “pre-payout,” projects pay between 1 to 9 per cent of gross revenues (before most costs have been subtracted) while in “post-payout” projects pay between 25 and 40 percent of net revenues (after costs have been subtracted.) 

The exception to that rule for post-payout projects is if a project declares a loss, or close to it, in which case a gross royalty rate is applied. For instance, Suncor’s original base mine is technically in “post-payout” but reported a loss of $2 billion in 2019—meaning royalties were calculated on its gross revenue (resulting in $171 million in royalties, of $5 billion in gross revenue).

In 2019, most “pre-payout” projects paid 3.4 per cent of gross revenues, while most “post-payout” projects paid 29.5 per cent of net revenues. 

For example, Syncrude’s mine—which generated $6.5 billion in revenue in 2019—is in “post-payout,” meaning it paid 29.5 per cent of its net revenue, a handsome $950 million in royalties to the people of Alberta. But Imperial Oil’s Kearl project is still in “pre-payout,” so it paid 3.5 per cent of its gross revenue, meaning it only paid $129 million in royalties). 

oilsands_story_art.jpg?1599684238

The Syncrude mine and processing plant. Photo by David Dodge

The one cost that pre-payout projects deduct before royalties are calculated is diluent: the extremely expensive substances used to transport raw bitumen (upgraded or refined bitumen doesn’t require diluent and fetches a better return due to its higher quality.) 

In 2019, oilsands projects spent $20.5 billion on diluent—representing almost one-third of project revenue—which wasn’t included in royalty calculations. 

In other words, the failure by many oilsands producers to invest in upgraders or refineries means they have to pay more to ship their product to refineries, with the amount paid then deducted from the amount they are charged. 

For example, ConocoPhillips’ Surmont in-situ project paid $2.5 billion for diluent in 2019, closely followed by the $2.4 billion spent by Cenovus’ Christina Lake project. Those amounts were subtracted from project revenues before royalty calculations were applied.

Meanwhile, projects in post-payout get to deduct all operating and capital costs for a project before royalties are calculated, and often receive a “return allowance” as well that guarantees them a rate of return. The system is designed to maximize returns for companies.

Remember how the top 30 oilsands projects had net revenues of $17.8 billion in 2019? 

If instead of using Alberta’s convoluted royalties formula, a flat 40 per cent rate was charged of net revenues, the top oilsands projects would have paid $7.1 billion in 2019—over 50 per cent more than what they paid. Increase the flat rate to 60 per cent—hey, it’s “our” resource—we would have received $10.7 billion in 2019, or 230 per cent more. 

Of course, in reality such a royalty rate would very likely result in lower production, but given we’re dealing with a non-renewable resource in the middle of a global oil glut, that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. The bitumen isn’t going anywhere. 

It also wouldn’t subsidize new projects by ensuring they pay a lower rate for many years. Investment is a risk. The public should be getting the highest return possible — always.

Unfortunately, the 2016 review of royalties conducted by the former NDP government effectively kept things as they were, despite big promises to ensure “a full and fair return” for Albertans. 

As with before, the top royalty rates (9 per cent of gross and 40 per cent of net) will only kick in if oil hits $120/barrel or more, which is unlikely at this point. The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting $46/barrel oil ($60/barrel Canadian) in 2021.

The reality of the situation is that Alberta should be planning a managed phase-down of the oilsands in an increasingly carbon-constrained world, not maintaining a royalty framework that incentivizes ever-growing production of high-polluting resources that result in next to nothing for the supposed owners. 

Fossil fuel companies are writing off oilsands leases as “stranded assets,” while financiers are refusing to fund new oilsands projects.

Organizers calling for a Green New Deal—along with free transit and other policies that would radically reduce oil consumption—have showed what a just transition looks like. 

These demands can be accompanied by a radical reimagining of royalties as a way to moderate extraction and ensure the remaining wealth from the dying industry benefits the working class, particularly Indigenous communities most impacted by extraction and land theft. 

The existing royalty framework was literally designed by industry. It has served them remarkably well, and government after government has played along. That’s why the United Conservative Party recently introduced legislation that prevents the royalty formula from being changed for a full decade. 

But legislation can be changed. If bitumen is to be extracted from Northern Alberta, it should clearly and irrefutably benefit the public through significantly higher financial returns.

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Quote

"The Progress Report is an independent and proudly left wing media project produced by Progress Alberta.
We reject the prevailing assumption that journalism must be apolitical, neutral or “objective.”

Would never have guessed it.

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Also, I don't recall any eastern province refusing equalization from the money raised by the revenues from this industry. 

I do remember large numbers of easterners coming out to gain employment in the oil patch, when there were no jobs at home, and then paying taxes in their home provinces.

The heading for this topic is more than a tad hypocritical.

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If OPEC is right, someone will want our oil. 🙃

OPEC: Oil will be world's No. 1 energy source for decades
David Mchugh

The Associated Press
Staff
Contact

Published Tuesday, September 28, 2021 9:11AM EDT
 
 
FRANKFURT, GERMANY -- As the world's nations prepare to gather for another climate summit next month in Glasgow, the OPEC oil cartel is reminding that, in their view, crude will continue to be the leading source of energy for decades, especially as the world's less-wealthy countries seek higher growth and standards of living.

OPEC says that more electric vehicles on the road and the push for alternative and renewable energy will indeed usher in an era of declining demand for oil in rich countries.

But the energy needs of expanding economies in other parts of world will still leave oil as the world's No. 1 source of energy through 2045, OPEC said Tuesday in its annual World Oil Outlook.


"What is clear in this year's WOO is that energy and oil demand have picked up significantly in 2021, after the massive drop in 2020, and continued expansion is forecast for the longer-term," the report said. "Global primary energy demand is expected to increase by 28 per cent in the period between 2020 and 2045, with all energies required, driven by an expected doubling in size of the global economy and the addition of around 1.7 billion people worldwide by 2045."

Only coal will see less use, while other sources of energy will see increasing demand, though the share will shift to include a bigger proportion for renewables, nuclear and natural gas, according to the group.

The 340-page report sketches out a future of declining demand for oil in wealthier countries that belong to the 38-member Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, as efforts to fight climate change take hold in the form of renewables and alternative fuels in cars, airplanes and ships. It forecasts that the world's vehicle fleet would grow by 1.1 billion to 2.6 billion by the end of the report's time frame in 2045 -- and that 500 million of those would be electric powered, or 20 per cent of all vehicles.

But growing populations and expanding middle classes in the rest of the world including China and India will mean increased demand for oil between 2020 and 2045, although much of that increase will take place in the earlier part of that period, the report produced by OPEC's secretariat in Vienna said.

Oil will satisfy 28.1 per cent of the world's energy demand by 2045, down from 30 per cent in 2020 -- but ahead of natural gas with 24.4 per cent and coal with 17.4 per cent. Hydroelectric, nuclear and biomass energy sources and other renewables such as wind and solar make up the rest.

A key reason cited for declining energy use in the more-developed world was demography: shrinking and aging populations that usher in lower economic growth.

The report noted that growing awareness of the need to accelerate actions to address climate change have resulted in ambitious new policy intentions to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The European Union, the United States, Japan, the UK, Canada and Brazil have proposed roadmaps to meet new goals.

OPEC, however, noted "considerable doubts as to whether all these ambitious climate-mitigation commitments will be met in the proposed timeframe." For example, the European Union in July spelled out its Fit for 55 package, in which the 27-country bloc vowed to reduce emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. OPEC said that the plan "remains exactly that for the time being, a plan, which still needs to be negotiated and agreed by all EU Member States, leaving ample scope for exceptions and watering-down."

The UK will host the 26th UN climate change conference Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, where national leaders will seek ways to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and limit the rise in global temperatures.

Link to climate barometer and other  CTV News | Newsletters - Email Breaking News Alerts

 

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3 hours ago, Kargokings said:

 

Only coal will see less use, while other sources of energy will see increasing demand, though the share will shift to include a bigger proportion for renewables, nuclear and natural gas, according to the group.

The 340-page report sketches out a future of declining demand for oil in wealthier countries that belong to the 38-member Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, as efforts to fight climate change take hold in the form of renewables and alternative fuels in cars, airplanes and ships. It forecasts that the world's vehicle fleet would grow by 1.1 billion to 2.6 billion by the end of the report's time frame in 2045 -- and that 500 million of those would be electric powered, or 20 per cent of all vehicles.

But growing populations and expanding middle classes in the rest of the world including China and India will mean increased demand for oil between 2020 and 2045, although much of that increase will take place in the earlier part of that period, the report produced by OPEC's secretariat in Vienna said.

Oil will satisfy 28.1 per cent of the world's energy demand by 2045, down from 30 per cent in 2020 -- but ahead of natural gas with 24.4 per cent and coal with 17.4 per cent. Hydroelectric, nuclear and biomass energy sources and other renewables such as wind and solar make up the rest.

A key reason cited for declining energy use in the more-developed world was demography: shrinking and aging populations that usher in lower economic growth.

 

 

The report agrees that oil demand will decrease after 2045, not just because of the incursion of electric and alternative transportation, but because of changing demographics.

I highlighted the last paragraph because it shows that the generation that wanted oil powered transportation is going to be out grown by a generation raised on cleaner modes.

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