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Alberta premier’s arguments on increasing oil and gas production ‘logically incoherent’: Wilkinson

Federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's assertion that Canada can achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 while simultaneously increasing oil and gas production is "logically incoherent." Wilkinson added he thinks Smith is not telling Albertans "the facts" about what fighting climate change action will require.

Smith argues carbon neutrality can be achieved in 2050 while also increasing oil and gas production

A man in a suit and glasses stands at a microphone.

Federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's claim that Canada can achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 while simultaneously increasing oil and gas production is "incoherent."

Smith has long argued that carbon neutrality is about a transition away from emissions and not a transition away from oil and gas production, a source of energy she insists will be dominant globally for decades to come.

"I think Premier Smith's argument actually is just logically incoherent," Wilkinson said in interview with CBC Radio's The House that will air Saturday. "Nobody who actually believes in fighting climate change could ever come to that conclusion.

"Ten to 15 per cent of emissions are related to the production of oil and gas. Eighty-five per cent-plus are related to the combustion of fossil fuels that are used in cars and in natural gas furnaces and everything else. You can't have a situation in 2050 where the volume of oil and gas that's being consumed is the same as it is today."

When asked if he was saying Smith doesn't believe in fighting climate change, Wilkinson said he didn't want to be "quite that strong."

"I want to say that I don't understand her argument because it just doesn't … make sense. You must reduce the combustion of fossil fuels where you cannot abate the emissions," said Wilkinson.

The energy minister's comments follow the Liberal government's announcement this week of a regulatory framework to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector — part of the government's efforts to hit Canada's 2030 climate goals and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Smith's office referred to comments the premier made earlier this week at COP 28 in Dubai when asked for comment on Wilkinson's remarks to The House.

Smith expressed outrage at the government's decision to move ahead with an oil and gas emissions cap. She insisted it represents a de facto production cap and an attack on Alberta's economy.

"We are not going to allow our production, which we own, to be shut in by federal edicts. This is not their jurisdiction. We have the right to develop our resources," Smith said in Dubai. "We are developing it responsibly. We're meeting our targets for carbon neutrality by 2050."

A woman in red speaks in front of a red maple leaf.

In an interview with The House in July, Smith said she was alarmed by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault's claim that oil and gas production is likely to drop 75 per cent by 2050.

"This belief does not align with any credible forecast of future world energy consumption," said Smith.

"Instead of seeking ways to sow investor uncertainty and reduce support for Canadian energy globally, the federal government should focus on partnering with Alberta and investing in our national energy sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while simultaneously increasing energy production, jobs and economic growth for Canadians."

Canadian oil and gas production projections

The Canada Energy Regulator's 2023 report looked at what oil and gas production would look like under two net-zero scenarios.

In a global net-zero scenario — where Canada achieves carbon neutrality by 2050 and the rest of the world reduces emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the report projects Canadian crude oil production would fall to 1.2M barrels per day (76 per cent lower than in 2022) and natural gas production would fall to 5.5B cubic feet per day (68 per cent lower than in 2022) by 2050.

In a Canadian net-zero scenario — where Canada achieves carbon neutrality by 2050 but the rest of the world moves more slowly to reduce GHG emissions — the report projects Canadian crude oil production would fall to 3.9M barrels per day (22 per cent lower than in 2022) and natural gas production would fall to 11B cubic feet per day (37 per cent lower than in 2022) by 2050.

For comparison, Canadian crude oil production averaged 5M barrels per day and natural gas production averaged 17.3B cubic feet per day in 2022.

The Canada Energy Regulator projected that if Canada takes limited action to reduce emissions beyond measures already in place and fails to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 — and global actions are also limited — Canadian oil and gas production would increase.

Canada is the first major oil and gas producing country to announce plans to impose an emissions cap on the oil and gas sector.

It's a move the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada says is not required to meet Canada's emissions reduction targets.

"The government really has dropped the ball on this one and its unfortunate," CEO Tristan Goodman said in an interview with The House airing Saturday. "They need to rethink and sort of regroup how they are going to go forward with this and actually look at their entire suite of climate policies and how they all fit together."

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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