While the term “Just Transition” sounds innocuous enough, it is anything but. It represents a plan based on the presumption that the world will no longer need petrochemical products in the near future. Proponents of Justin Trudeau’s “Just Transition Act” view energy transition as being a black and white issue. They feel that petrochemical production must be halted altogether as soon as possible while we seek new means of energy generation. This ideologically driven approach to policy is certain to irreparably harm Canada’s energy sector while doing little to mitigate climate change.
Producers in Canada’s energy sector are well aware that the old way of doing things is finished. They also understand that Canada remains blessed with some of the most abundant energy resources on earth. Rather than throwing up their hands and working under the assumption that we will be shutting in our petrochemical resources, our energy producers have been taking a pragmatic approach through embracing the principles of a circular economy.
In a circular economy, producers no longer are simply focused on extracting, refining, and selling an energy product. The age-old principles of reduce, reuse and recycle are now being applied with resource extraction. Companies are now looking at the entire cycle of their operations and with technological advancements, net-zero emission goals are within reach.
Carbon that once was released into the atmosphere is now captured. Rather than viewing carbon as a waste product to be disposed of, researchers are finding ways to turn it into an asset.
Carbon dioxide is already being used for enhanced oil recovery projects. This reduces water and steam injection and naturally sequesters the carbon underground.
Technology is being developed that can use carbon in concrete, plastics, and liquid fuels. Captured CO2 can be used to accelerate algae growth which can be used as feed-stock for food, biofuels, and plastics.
We are just beginning to see the potential uses for captured carbon and new applications for it are being discovered all the time.
To foster continued innovation in carbon technology, industry leaders and investors need to be confident that they can get a long-term return on their investment. Why invest in new technology when the government appears to be poised to shut down the industry that it will apply to?
It will be nothing less than a tragedy if Canada shuts down one of its core industries based on ideological and political motives. We have an opportunity in front of us to be technological leaders in the production of net-zero emission petrochemical products. Both the economy and the environment will suffer if we allow our petrochemical sector to be shut down rather than cleaned up. The world will continue to consume fossil fuels from nations with low environmental standards while our domestic energy prices will skyrocket.
We need to move away from binary thinking when it comes to the future of petrochemical production. There is a third way and it isn’t transition, it’s transformation. The petrochemical industry is embracing positive, forward-thinking change. If only the government would let the industry get on with it.