Our allies are pleading for Canada’s abundant fossil fuels, but the Trudeau government doesn’t care

Lee Harding: Trudeau and Canada missing out on LNG opportunityWhen it comes to fossil fuels, the world wants what Canada’s got. The problem is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t care.

Fresh proof came with the recent visit of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the first Greek leader to come to Canada in more than 40 years.

According to Prime Minister Trudeau’s office, Mitsotakis was here to march in Montreal’s Greek Independence Day Parade, discuss “shared interests,” and cut the ribbon as Greece purchased Canadian-made firefighting planes.

However, during an interview with CTV, Mitsotakis said his country would “of course” like to start importing Canadian liquified natural gas (LNG).

“We are a big entry point for LNG, not just for the Greek market, but also for the Balkans, for Eastern Europe. Theoretically, we could even supply Ukraine,” said Mitsotakis.

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“In principle, yes, we are very interested in obtaining LNG at competitive prices.”

Mitsotakis said Greece has built a major facility outside the city of Alexandroupolis to process incoming LNG tankers. He said Greece will pump LNG to the rest of Europe and needs more at home as the country abandons coal.

Much of Europe’s energy has traditionally come from Russia or Middle Eastern autocracies. Over a decade ago, author Ezra Levant made the case for Canada’s “Ethical Oil” as a better alternative. Canada’s status as a democratic state that respects human rights and extracts oil with a minimal environmental footprint is as good as it gets. Mitsotakis, a Harvard-educated investment banker, understands that quite readily today.

“Canada is a country (for) which we share so many values,” said Mitsotakis. “I think we see eye-to-eye on many of the challenges that we face.”

Still, there was no mention of energy exports in Trudeau’s public comments regarding Mitsotakis or official government communications about the visit.

Mitsotakis can take little consolation that his treatment is not unusual, as true as that may be. In the past 18 months, both Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz returned home without official assurances that Ottawa was eager to offer bulk quantities of Canadian LNG.

Kishida came to Canada in January 2023, making no secret of his “high expectations” to reach an LNG export agreement with Canada. Scholz came to Canada in August 2022, hoping to reach an LNG deal. “Canada is our partner of choice,” Scholz said at the time.

Somehow, Trudeau said at a press conference with the German leader that there was no “business case” for LNG exports to Europe. Instead, he took the chancellor to an empty field in Newfoundland that was the chosen site for a future Canadian facility to export carbon-neutral hydrogen.

That will help Germany a little, but not nearly enough. The country turned to Qatar and signed a 15-year LNG export deal.

Canada is currently the world’s fifth-largest producer of natural gas. But, as is the case with oil, facilities to sell it overseas are very limited. Canada has no LNG export facilities currently operating. Any LNG exports to Europe must go through a U.S. export terminal.

While Kitimat, BC will open a major export facility in early 2025, plans to build an LNG pipeline to ports on the East Coast have fallen apart due to high costs.

On Monday, Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean said “onerous” regulatory procedures were to blame.

“With massive natural gas reserves, Canada can no longer wait on the LNG sidelines, burdened by an onerous regulatory system. Our allies and trading partners need us. We must have more LNG export facilities approved and built,” Jean said in a statement.

Jean is right. Canada has scuttled one opportunity after another during the Trudeau era, first by smothering pipeline development with onerous regulations. The Northern Gateway pipeline was banned, with the government citing environmental concerns off the coast of northern British Columbia. However, it’s worth noting that despite these concerns, 50 tankers passed through the same waters every day with exports from Alaska.

Other proposals, such as the Energy East pipeline, were held up in red tape until its proponents decided the project wasn’t worth it. A 30,000-page application went to waste, as did the aspiration for Maritimes refineries to process Canadian products instead of those from the Middle East.

The Trans Mountain pipeline was also mired in delays until the government purchased it, after which its progress continued at a painfully slow pace. Years behind schedule and six times over budget, costing $34 billion, the “long-delayed” pipeline is finally ready for crude deliveries.

Bill C-69, dubbed by former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as the “No More Pipelines Act,” was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last fall. The development is welcome but cannot restore lost time.

Canada is also poorly positioned to seize another significant opportunity – the European demand for oil as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Russia.

The Canadian government appears to be more interested in achieving zero carbon emissions, even when sacrificing economic growth.

Too bad that makes zero sense.

Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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