OPINION

Global clean tech opportunities abound, just not in Canada

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Global developments suggest a Canadian migration to a green economy is critical to competitiveness. However, if one tries to find Canadian clean tech manufacturing/innovation companies listed on a stock market, one will likely come up with nearly zero, while the number of Canadian-based oil and gas firms offering stocks is seemingly infinite.

Canada has got its priorities wrong.

Canada should invest in electric vehicle transition post COVID-19

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Following the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the globe will be massively investing in, and defining policies for, economic recovery. With all fossil fuel sectors in decline, what better time to make the transition to a green economy?

And what better time for the federal government to develop an electric vehicle (EV) national strategy?

Canada does have a significant electric vehicle sector, primarily lin Quebec, and the beginnings of an EV segment in the Ontario auto industry. The current Canadian EV sector covers the entire ecosystem, such as EV school buses, trucks, urban transit buses, powertrains, batteries and raw materials, and charging infrastructure. This is backed up by world-class research capabilities.

But the piecemeal, one project at-a-time approach doesn’t make any sense when we are up against 400 electric vehicle technology manufacturers in China. In Quebec, there are 147 EV firms, which collectively employ 6,000 people.

Newfoundland offshore drilling: a case of bending environmental impact rules

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Covid-19 has fixated world attention. And what attention is focused on fossil fuels is mostly tuned to Trans Mountain and Keystone XL oil sands pipelines that have made it back into headlines. But there is another Big Oil story in Canada that has fallen through the cracks. This other story is about a shocking bending of all the rules regarding an environmental assessment for fossil fuel offshore exploration on the Newfoundland coast.

On March 4, 2020, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson authorized a derogation of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) to allow exploratory, offshore oil-and-gas drilling on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, pending an online consultation process. Originally, this was to be a 30-day consultation process terminating April 3, 2020, but has been extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been estimated that the area to be explored has a potential to produce 650,000 barrels per day.

Yet public information about the online consultation, in particular the derogation of the IAA, has been well-hidden from the radar screen of those likely to be concerned about the Grand Banks project. The only portrait I found on the political machinations is in a Le Devoir article from March 23.

Wet’suwet’en: The canary in the Canadian fossil fuel cage

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Ad nauseum, mainstream media have focused on the economic consequences of the blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Equal media attention has been dedicated to the complexities of Indigenous ancestral rights in unceded territories and who has the right to speak for the Wet’suwet’en. Rare are those who characterize the impasse as a clash of two economies, the resource-based economy and the green economy.

Jason Kenney got it half right in saying that the standoff is a “dress rehearsal” for future major fossil fuel projects.

Canada falling short in fossil fuel divestment

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Environmental liabilities are the most prominent global investment risks, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020 report.

This report’s short-term risks classified four of the top five hazards as being environmental — extreme heat waves, destruction of ecosystems, pollution’s impact on health and uncontrolled fires.

The five most significant long-term perils are also environmental, the WEF reports, with the latter list comprising extreme weather, biodiversity loss, climate-action failure, natural disasters and human-made environmental disasters.

The global investment community is increasingly internalizing these concerns such that in 2019 investors representing US$11 trillion in the assets from 1,100 financial institutions have committed to divest from fossil fuels.

Batteries not included: Canada unprepared for demise of fossil fuel era

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The federal election results suggest that the first priority of the NDP must be electoral reform to bring to an end the politics of fear and the strategic vote, which favours the Liberals and Conservatives alike.

The second priority must be to engage Canada, for the first time, in an urgent migration to a green economy. The Liberal record on shifting to clean technologies is nothing short of insignificant, one of the worst records among developed countries. Meanwhile, China, and to a lesser extent, the European Union and California, are changing global economic, energy, and transportation paradigms.

In the era of fossil fuel’s global decline, why is Canada hanging onto LNG?

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Liquified natural gas (LNG) is being promoted as a green transition option to replace dirtier fuels. But when renewables are coming in cheaper than new gas- and coal-fired plants for two-thirds of the world, why is this the case?

LNG’s economic prospects are waning because renewables price declines are having a bigger impact than anticipated, and there is an LNG global market glut. The shale gas industry is also experiencing more costs than revenues, and greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the LNG supply chain may be as bad as coal.

But, as with the case with oilsands, Canada chooses to ignore the signs of a global evolution to a green economy at its own peril while heading toward stranded assets.

Yet the Government of Quebec is now promoting an LNG facility north of Quebec City and a pipeline to bring in Alberta shale gas using the same clean energy transition export messages as those used for the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat, B.C. and the Coastal Gaslink shale gas pipeline.

Shell aims to lead Big Oil in pivot to clean energy

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A short list of just 25 fossil fuel producers are responsible for half of all carbon emissions since 1988, according to the The Carbon Majors Report. The report indicates that if fossil fuel extraction continues the same trend over the next 28 years, global average temperatures would rise approximately 4°C by the end of the century.

Diversification may be a matter of survival for fossil fuel companies in the event there is a global acceleration towards complying with the Paris Agreement. That would mean leaving 60 to 80 per cent of reserves in the ground. What are presently assets could turn into liabilities to the tune of $674 billion (USD) now and $6 trillion by 2028.

While getting Big Oil to pivot to clean energy may seem far-fetched, some fossil fuel giants are starting to get serious about reducing their carbon footprint and diversifying towards clean technologies. Shell is one example of the widening fault lines among Big Oil, and a very notable one.

DUBITSKY: LOST OPPORTUNITIES SHOW COST OF CANADA’S MORIBUND CLEANTECH MANUFACTURING STRATEGY

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While General Motors is tying its decision to close its Oshawa, Ontario manufacturing facility to the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles, GM is not the only casualty of Canada’s inaction on clean transportation policy.

Other companies in the space are shifting their activities outside of Canada, opportunities within Canada are being missed, and Canadian cleantech leaders are losing their global competitive advantage, all for lack of a coherent national cleantech manufacturing strategy.

TM4 is one of several examples. The company is a world leader in electric vehicle motor powertrains. But its main manufacturing facility is in China, the world’s largest electric vehicle market, where TM4 products are produced under licence by Prestolite e-Propulsion Systems.

EXCLUSIVE: STALLED U.S. TAILPIPE STANDARDS COULD TRIGGER THE NEXT AUTO INDUSTRY BAILOUT

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The green transition in China, the world’s largest energy consumer and vehicle market, is unfolding at a faster rate, and with greater intensity, than the Industrial Revolution. And China’s shift to clean transportation is the piece of the puzzle that could have the most dramatic implications for North American automakers, and for the global fossil industry.

Transportation accounts for 60% of the world’s petroleum consumption. So you would think the industries and governments that are banking on that business would have taken notice last year, when China’s plug-in vehicle sales exceeded 600,000. Or again, over the last few months, when the country’s year-over-year plug-in hybrid electric vehicle volumes were up 127% in May and 130% in June.