A few weeks ago, there was a violent First Nations-Climate Extremist attack on a natural gas pipeline construction site, Coastal GasLink, in British Columbia. In a seemingly unrelated development, last year, German leaders decided to rapidly phase out nuclear energy with nothing to replace it. Also last year, the U.S. acted against approving two pipelines. These three major events in energy politics were propelled by the Global Warming crusade, which seeks to end production and use of fossil fuels.
A very strong Green campaign against resource extraction and transportation has left both Canada and the United States with very limited energy options; options that are getting fewer as time passes. In addition, the world is becoming increasingly dependent on unsavoury regimes, such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, for natural gas and oil.
While Climate Activists and their allies in militant First Nations may cheer when oil or natural gas assets in North America remain undeveloped, the world demand for energy remains high, and is satisfied by sales from those antidemocratic regimes mentioned above. Of course, the low production in North American aids them in selling their resources.
No matter what happens in the U.S. and Canada, fuel is still produced and consumed, with limited influence from those governments that only indulge the ‘net-zero’ fantasies of virtue-signalling crusaders in North America and other Western countries. Also, increasingly these products are transported by trucks and trains because fewer pipelines are being constructed, greatly increasing environmental and safety risk.
The end result is that Western nations are increasingly dependent on unstable, unreliable, and despotic nations and regions for these resources. All of the autocratic states that are producing large quantities of oil and gas are undemocratic, repressive, and have less-reliable rule of law or environmental protection than Canada, the U.S. and European nations with potential to produce oil and gas. Clearly, human rights are less important to the crusader activists than their goal of ‘climate justice’ in the consuming nations.
In 2020, the United States was net energy independent, and supplied other countries with refined oil and natural gas. The hydraulic fracturing and other techniques that unlock the potential of shale and other ‘tight’ formations produce prodigious quantities of natural gas and oil, but since 2020 production has declined rapidly, as permits expired. More wells need to be drilled, but Washington is opposed to this.
The moratorium imposed by the Biden administration on drilling lease sales on federal lands has drastically reduced potential U.S. output. Also, the cancellation of Keystone XL and the court challenges facing the Dakota Access line limits exports from Canada, so more Canadian oil cannot enter the U.S.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the panicky decision to end nuclear power meant increasing reliance on wind and solar power, and, ironically, on coal and natural gas when wind and solar energy fail to satisfy demand. As well, German dependence on the mercies of Vladimir Putin previously led Berlin to approve the Nord Stream II pipeline, a decision it recently rescinded, reversing its dependence on Russia.
The recent spike in oil and natural gas prices in North America has resulted from the restrictions on production in both the U.S. and Canada. This has, unfortunately, filled the Kremlin’s coffers with massive foreign currency reserves because the cost of oil and gas has increased internationally, giving Putin the resources he needed to invade his neighbour. This was foreseeable, as similar energy price increases preceded the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014.
These are the geopolitical effects of obstructing and penalizing the North American energy production and supply systems. Climate fanatics wish for global net-zero use of fossil fuels, but dictators like Putin seek to satisfy the energy needs of many nations while boosting their cash, and thus fund their militaries.
The future does not look promising for Canada and the U.S. unless these two countries change their attitudes and strategy—and quickly.
Ian Madsen is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy