Is Canada an ‘energy superpower?’

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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]I[/mk_dropcaps]N 2006, AT THE OUTSET of the federal Conservatives’ first term in power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper famously proclaimed Canada, “an energy superpower.” At the time, most analysts dismissed the idea given that the country only had one client for its energy exports: the United States. Now, nine years on, with multiple projects in the works to take Canada’s energy resources to markets beyond North America, the idea deserves a second hearing.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Could Canada really become an energy superpower? The short answer is “no.” Being an energy superpower means that Canada could influence prices in international energy markets. But global oil production is in the order of 95 million barrels per day. Canada produces less than four million barrels per day — and only about three are destined for international markets. We are a marginal producer at best.

More importantly, being an 
energy superpower would mean
 Canadian governments were will
ing to use energy resources as a stick or a carrot in global affairs.
 They would increase or decrease
 exports to countries or regions to
 reward or punish them for actions 
in matters of defence, security and human rights. Given that Canada has a competitive market-based system for energy production and export, it is difficult to imagine politicians being willing to intervene in that way. Energy companies — not to mention provincial governments — would quickly cry foul.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”600″ crop=”true” lightbox=”true” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” title=”Prime Minister Stephen Harper proclaimed Canada an “energy superpower” in 2006.” desc=”THE CANADIAN PRESS /TOM HANSON” caption_location=”outside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Nonetheless, it is worth thinking beyond economics when it comes to Canadian energy in the world. Canada could become an “energy power” — not in the hard power sense of aggressively imposing its will on other countries, but in the soft power sense of persuasion and influence, of energy diplomacy. Over its history as an energy producer, Canada has amassed extensive expertise in developing and transporting energy resources. Likewise, it has considerable expertise in creating policy and regulatory systems to produce and transport energy safely, efficiently and sustainably. These attributes make Canada a highly sought-after advisor by developed and developing countries alike.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]It is worth thinking beyond economics when it comes to Canadian energy.[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]In a world where many countries are becoming energy producers for the first time thanks to new techniques enabling the profitable production of shale oil and gas, there will be a growing need for the transfer of technology and know-how on both the industry and regulatory fronts. In this context, Canada could readily position itself as an “energy diplomat,” sharing its industry and regulatory expertise to the benefit of international development, trade, security and diplomacy.

Achieving such a status is not a given. Canada’s energy system is not perfect; its reputation has suffered internationally on the environmental front. Governments need to do a better job of getting the message out about what they are doing on climate change. They also need to do more to merit the mantle of “responsible resource developer,” such as establishing a price on carbon that applies across the country.

Improvement on environment and climate change, twinned with support for technology, policy and regulatory transfer internationally, could position the country as a leader in energy diplomacy. Not only would this assist Canada’s international partners to strengthen development, standards of living and economic growth, it would also bolster global energy security and create opportunities for energy companies in Canada to expand their operations elsewhere. Moreover, it would underscore for Canadians that energy can be more than an economic driver; it can advance development, diplomacy and security as well.

The beginnings of energy diplomacy are already under-way. In Alberta, the ministry of energy and the Alberta Energy Regulator are beginning to move on this front. In Quebec, Hydro Québec has long engaged in these sorts of efforts. But a more concerted, comprehensive and targeted approach by Canadian governments is needed for the country to take advantage of the full range of opportunities for Canadian energy in the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]by Monica Gattinger, associate professor and chair of the Collaboratory on Energy Research and Policy at the University of Ottawa’s School of Political Studies[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” url=”/resources/energy-exchange-magazine/issue-4/” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”true” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″ animation=”scale-up”]Read more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Energy Exchange magazine[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]