Canada Wallows on LNG Sidelines, Paralyzed by Ottawa’s Onerous Regulatory System

When it comes to fossil fuels, the world wants what Canada’s got. The problem is, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t care. Fresh proof came with the recent visit of Kyriakos […]
Published on April 8, 2024

When it comes to fossil fuels, the world wants what Canada’s got. The problem is, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t care.

Fresh proof came with the recent visit of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the first Greek leader to come to Canada in more than 40 years.

According to the office of the Prime Minister Trudeau, Mitsotakis was simply here to march in Montreal’s Greek Independence Day Parade, discuss “shared interests” and cut the ribbon as Greece purchased Canadian-made firefighting planes.

But, during an interview with CTV, Mitsotakis said his country would “of course” like to start importing Canadian liquified natural gas (LNG).

“We are a big entry point for LNG, not just for the Greek market, but also for the Balkans, for Eastern Europe. Theoretically, we could even supply Ukraine,” said Mitsotakis.

“In principle, yes, we are very interested in obtaining LNG at competitive prices.”

Mitsotakis said Greece has built a major facility outside the city of Alexandroupolis to process incoming LNG tankers. He said Greece will pump LNG to the rest of Europe and needs more at home as the country abandons coal.

Much of Europe’s energy has traditionally come from Russia or Middle Eastern autocracies. More than a decade ago, author Ezra Levant made the case for Canada’s “Ethical Oil” as a better alternative. Canada’s status as a democratic state that respects human rights and extracts oil with a minimal environmental footprint is as good as it gets. Mitsotakis, a Harvard-educated investment banker, understands that quite readily today.

“Canada is a country (for) which we share so many values,” said Mitsotakis. “I think we see eye-to-eye on many of the challenges that we face.”

Still, there was no mention of energy exports in Trudeau’s public comments regarding Mitsotakis, nor in official government communications about the visit.

Mitsotakis can take little consolation that his treatment is not unusual, as true as that may be. In the past 18 months, both the Japanese prime minister and the German chancellor returned home without official assurances that Ottawa was eager to offer bulk quantities of Canadian LNG.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came to Canada in January, 2023 making no secret of his “high expectations” to reach an LNG export agreement with Canada.

In August 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz came to Canada hoping to reach an LNG deal. “Canada is our partner of choice,” Scholz said at the time.

Somehow, Trudeau said at a press conference with the German leader that there was no “business case” for LNG exports to Europe. Instead, he took the chancellor to an empty field in Newfoundland that was the chosen site for a future Canadian facility to export carbon-neutral hydrogen.

That will help Germany a little, but not nearly enough. The country turned to Qatar and signed a 15-year LNG export deal.

Canada is currently the world’s fifth largest producer of natural gas. But, as is the case with oil, facilities to sell it overseas are very limited. Canada has no LNG export facilities currently operating. Any LNG exports to Europe would have to go through a US export terminal.

Kitimat, BC will open a major export facility in early 2025, but plans to build an LNG pipeline to ports on the East Coast have fallen apart due to high costs.

On Monday, Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean said “onerous” regulatory procedures were more to blame.

“With massive natural gas reserves, Canada can no longer wait on the LNG sidelines, burdened by an onerous regulatory system. Our allies and trading partners need us. We must have more LNG export facilities approved and built,” Jean said in a statement.

Jean is right. Canada has scuttled one opportunity after another during the Trudeau era, first by smothering pipeline development in onerous regulations. The Northern Gateway pipeline was the only one the nation banned, citing environmental concerns off the coast of northern B.C., despite the fact that 50 tankers passed the same waters every day with exports from Alaska.

Other proposals, such as the Energy East pipeline, were held up in red tape until its proponents decided the project wasn’t worth it. A 30,000-page application went for not, as did the hope that refineries in the Maritimes could refine Canadian products instead of those from the Middle East.

The trans mountain pipeline was also bound up until the government bought it, after which its progress still went painfully slowly. Years late and six times over-budget at a cost of $34 billion, the “long delayed” pipeline is finally ready for crude deliveries.

Bill C-69, dubbed by former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as the “No More Pipelines Act”, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last fall. The development is welcome but cannot restore lost time.

Canada remains poorly positioned to capitalize on another historic opportunity–the European thirst for oil as it tries to distance itself from Russia. Unfortunately, this problem seems more convenient to Ottawa than not. The Canadian government seems more interested in having zero carbon emissions even if that means zero economy. Too bad that makes zero sense.

 

Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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