Opinion: Oil is dead? Not a chance

It was a statement that dripped with political idealism.

Elizabeth May, the long-time leader of the federal Green Party, proclaimed that “oil is dead” Wednesday. A short time later, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said that the “tar sands” are “condemned.”

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Both think funds should be directed towards renewable resources rather than supporting the energy sector, which is facing a twin threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and a glut of production.

May thinks governments around the world should use the pandemic as an opportunity to reorganize the energy mix.

Both seemingly want to prolong the economic struggles associated with COVID-19. And it would take a very long time for this new-look, no-oil economy to actually be effective.

We need oil. The energy sector is a very big part of our economy. It has been a big part of our economy for decades, and it’s going to be a big part of our economy for decades to come, regardless of what certain common-sense deficient people think.

The people who work in the oil and gas sector are some of the hardest-working, resilient and dedicated people you’ll meet. They put in long hours in an essential industry, and while they’re well-compensated for their efforts, nobody has ever accused an oilfield employee of not earning their keep.

This is an incredibly tough time. Oil prices were going to suffer because of the oversupply issues. COVID-19 only added to the problem. Now we had a supply glut at a time when people aren’t travelling much.

But they will travel again.

It’s great that we’ve heard provincial premiers stand up for the energy sector. It’s great that Saskatchewan and Alberta have stepped forward with support measures. And it’s nice that the feds have stepped forward with money for oil and gas well cleanup, although it would have been even better if they would have done that a few years ago when the need emerged.

As for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he says he disagrees with May and Blanchet, but it would have also been great to hear him talk a little bit tougher when addressing May and Blanchet.

Eventually, Trudeau’s going to have to come up with a lot more than just money for oil well cleanups and methane reduction. There’s going to have to be a stronger influx of cash for the oil and gas sector.

You have to wonder what May and Blanchet will think of that.

May deserves credit for lasting as long as she has, and bringing some semblance of relevance to the Green Party. She’s taken the party about as far as she could, or as far as anyone could, for that matter.

And as the sun sets on her time as the leader of the Greens, she’s given us one of her last memorable sound bytes. She’s wrong, but we’ll remember what she said.

As for Blanchet, he has brought relevance back to the Bloc Quebecois, a party that looked to be on the brink of extinction less than a decade ago. We saw in the last federal election how skilled and formidable he can be.

But he seems to be the latest leader from Quebec who favours shunning Alberta oil, even though we all know what that means: more oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries that don’t have our standards.  

Ultimately, oil and fossil fuels are going to be around for a long time. We have the resources. We produce it in an ethical manner. Our environmental standards are far more demanding than other oil-producing regions.

We can do the smart thing and take advantage of the resource that we’re blessed with to meet our needs and the needs of the rest of the world for decades to come. Or we can let other nations do it, we can use their oil, and our country can be weaker for it.

Ultimately, oil is going do be relevant for much longer than Elizabeth May and Yves-Francois Blanchet could ever hope to be.


David Willberg is the editor of the Estevan Mercury. He can be reached at editor@estevanmercury.ca.

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