Chemical Valley Visited by Senate Committee Examining Low-Carbon Economy
Sarnia Observer (November 16, 2016) -- Fossil fuel refiners in Canada are working hard to reduce greenhouse emissions, says the chairperson of a Senate committee that visited Sarnia Tuesday as part of its study of Canada’s transition to a lower-carbon economy.
Senator Richard Neufeld, chairperson of the Senate's Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, and three other committee members toured the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, spoke with industry representatives and the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, and visited Imperial Oil, Nova Chemicals and BioAmber during the stop in Sarnia.
"They know they have to," Neufeld said about industry's awareness of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"But they also know now that south of the border there's not going to be that push to it."
The election of Republican president-elect Donald Trump is widely expected to impact how the U.S. acts on climate change.
"So they are nervous, and rightfully so," Neufeld said..
Concerns about Canada's ability to compete with other petrochemical production regions, such as the U.S. Gulf Coast, have been heard across the country, as well as in Sarnia, Neufeld said.
Industry is saying “if you tag us with too much stuff, too many costs, we're not going to be competitive with the U.S.,” he said.
If it's cheaper to operate on the Gulf Coast, industry and jobs will head that way, Neufeld said.
What isn't widely known in Canada is the size of petrochemical industry in Sarnia's Chemical Valley, the senator said.
"It means a whole bunch to this area, and it means a whole lot to all of Canada, to make sure we maintain these jobs, this investment, and actually increase the growth."
The committee's study of the costs and impacts of transitioning to a lower-carbon economy was launched in April. It plans to release interim sector reports, and a final report by the end of September 2017, with recommendations for the federal government on how best to achieve Canada's emission reduction commitments.
The committee's tour continued on to Hamilton on Wednesday.
Neufeld said the committee has found mixed feelings in the country about the move to reduce carbon use.
“There's some that think you can just leave all the oil and gas in the ground tomorrow and we'll be fine,” he said.
But, he added, “Oil and gas is going to be with us, I think, for a long time yet, until technology takes us to the place where we can replace, with something else, what oil and gas provided us now.”
Neufeld, who was British Columbia's minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources before he was appointed to the Senate, said he believes there is a lack of understanding by Canadians about how intertwined oil and gas are with their lives, including the clothes they wear, the medicines they take and many other products they use.
"If you look about any room, if you took oil and gas away, you wouldn't have that room," he said
Neufeld said Canada must reduce 291 megatons of emissions by 2030 to meet its current targets.
"I guess if you say it fast, it doesn't sound like much," he added.
But even if all oil and gas use could be eliminated today, "you still won't hit that target," Neufeld said.
"It is going to be a tough target, and after 2030 it's tougher yet."
Neufeld said he was impressed with what the committee saw and heard at the Research Park in Sarnia.
"They have a lot of talent around there and work very well with people who have ideas, and want to get over that big chasm to get the idea to commercialization," he said.
Neufeld said he was also interested to hear about Nova Chemical's move from using heavy oils to natural gas liquids at its Corunna facility.
- Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer