With a barrel of Canadian oil now going for the same price as a cup of coffee, some renewable energy experts say it’s time for a different approach to building Canada’s energy sector.
They say the massive job losses and economic turmoil hammering the oil industry could be at least partly offset by a more aggressive shift toward renewables, energy-efficiency retrofits and other sustainable infrastructure.
“There are very practical reasons it would make sense,” said Martin Boucher, of the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
Western Canada Select crude oil has been selling for less than $5 a barrel since the coronavirus-imposed travel bans and business shutdowns caused demand to plummet more than a month ago. Even last week’s deal between OPEC and other world powers to cut supply by 10 per cent failed to ignite crude prices. On Friday, WCS was listed at $2.87.
“Only gradual increases in crude oil prices are expected through all of 2020 as these factors persist, which could lead to record levels of expected global oil inventory builds in the first half of 2020,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its most recent forecast.
Simply put, the global demand for oil has plunged and oil producers are putting it in storage in the hope of better prices. It will take a long time for that to change.
Others believe the price could go even lower, and Canada could soon see negative prices. Oil producers who’ve run out of space to store their nearly worthless product “will be paying people to take away our resources,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said this month.
That may seem like good news for consumers filling their cars or trucks at the gas station for 60 cents a litre, but it’s a huge loss for the oil-heavy economies of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Revenue from non-renewable resources like oil could drop as much as $1.2 billion this year in Saskatchewan alone, according to government forecasts released Friday.
Boucher and others say COVID-19 has caused this most recent price crash, but it’s not the only dark cloud hanging over the industry.
Since the July 2008 peak of more than $110 per barrel, the WCS price has steadily declined. In February, before the COVID-19 restrictions were announced, WCS had already dropped to $27.
Trade wars and production increases by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and other global powers, the lack of pipeline capacity in the landlocked Canadian Prairies are combining with labour-saving technology to decrease prices. That will not change in a post-coronavirus economy, they say. These aren’t things anyone in Saskatchewan or Alberta can control.
That’s why those urging Canada to keep tackling climate change say the post-coronavirus economy must include a more rapid transition to renewables and energy efficient upgrades.
“Stimulus and recovery measures in response to the pandemic must foster economic development and job creation, promote social equity and welfare, and put the world on a climate-safe path,” Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said in a statement this month.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $1.7 billion to clean up orphan oil wells, in a move that could create up to 5,000 jobs in Alberta alone. He also announced new money for methane reduction from the oil and gas industry, which will help Canada meet its international commitment to reduce methane emissions as well as fostering environmental innovation.
Boucher, who teaches energy transition policy, said this approach will provide far more jobs per dollar invested than investing in the oil industry. He said shifting even a small percentage of the investment and government support currently going to the oil industry would make a big difference.
It could begin with more energy-efficient retrofits of homes and businesses – better windows or thicker insulation, he said. Most of this work would be labour-intensive and done by local contractors and businesses. Profits would stay in the community and homeowners would benefit from lower fuel bills.
“These are simple approaches, but they’re domestic. They don’t put us in a situation where we’re overly exposed to the ebbs and flows of oil and gas,” Boucher said.
Saskatoon energy consultant Jason Praski agreed. Praski and Boucher said Saskatchewan is increasing its renewable energy capacity, but much more could be done. Solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy from wood and crop waste could all deliver government tax revenue and jobs, they said.
“Saskatchewan’s got so much potential,” Praski said.
Praski said many people have already warmed to these ideas, but the ongoing coronavirus situation could help convince others.
“I think the whole pandemic is helping us pay more attention to each other and look after each other, and the climate change crisis is really a similar problem, it’s just longer term,” Praski said. “As we think about this whole thing, rethinking our lives, you know, it may get us all thinking a little closer toward doing the greener thing if we can.”
No one from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was available for an interview.
Saskatchewan’s Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre was not available for an interview but an official sent a written statement detailing more than 500 megawatts of pending wind and solar projects across the province.
It reaffirmed the province’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 through these projects, as well as other methods such as carbon capture or possible small modular nuclear reactors.
Last week, Eyre announced COVID-19 relief measures for oil companies, including an extension of drilling leases. She pledged more help in the coming days for oil and gas and mining companies. It’s unclear whether that will extend to renewable energy.
30-day limit on prescriptions in Ontario expected to end by July 1; Ontario completes more than 20000 coronavirus tests in a day for the first time – Toronto Star
The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.
9 a.m.: Pope Francis cheerfully greeted people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, as he resumed his practice of speaking to the faithful there for the first time since a coronavirus lockdown began in Italy and at the Vatican in early March.
Instead of the tens of thousands of people who might have turned out on a similarly sunny day like in pre-pandemic times, perhaps a few hundred came to the square on Sunday, standing well apart from others or in small family groups.
Until June 3, people aren’t allowed to travel between regions in Italy or arrive from abroad for tourism, so the people in the square came from Rome or places in the region.
Noting this was the first time he could greet people in the square for weeks, Francis said that “one doesn’t emerge from a crisis the same. You either come out better or you come out worse.” He said he’d be back to greet them next Sunday in the same place at noon, smiling and pointing down to the vast square far below his studio window.
8 a.m.: India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.
Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.
Overall, more than 60 per cent of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.
There are concerns the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.
7:45 a.m.: Russia reported 9,268 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time in a week that the daily tally exceeded 9,000, but the lowest death toll in several days: 138.
Overall, Russia has recorded 405,843 cases and 4,693 deaths from COVID-19. The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad.
7 a.m.:Ontarians who rely on prescription medication will hopefully see an onerous COVID-19 precaution lifted by the end of June.
A 30-day limit on prescriptions was brought in by the Ontario government in the early days of the pandemic in an effort to prevent drug shortages. Spokespeople for Ontario’s seniors community and the province’s pharmacy industry say they expect the limitation will be lifted within the month, returning to the usual 90-day maximum by July 1.
“It’s been a difficult policy,” said Justin Bates, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “We stand by the policy, we think it was the right thing to do, but I think everybody’s hopeful that we can get back to 90 days and to a normal cycle of quantity.”
11 p.m: The Toronto Raptors issued a statement late Saturday, as protests escalated across North America in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in Minneapolis after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes.
The Raptors put out the statement hours after thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday demanding justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, three days after the 29-year-old woman fell to her death from a High Park highrise, in an incident that is now under investigation by Ontario’s civilian police watchdog.
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Saturday, 7 p.m. Ontario’s regional health units are reporting 320 new COVID-19 infections, according to the Star’s latest count.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the health units had reported a total of 29,212 confirmed and probable cases, including 2,316 deaths. The daily counts have fallen from a spike that saw totals above 400 cases per day most of last week.
Saturday’s tally included 123 new cases in Toronto and 114 more in Peel Region; together, the two health units accounted for nearly three-quarters of the province’s new infections.
According to a provincial database of COVID-19 cases, nearly 80 per cent of the 3,933 Ontarians with an active case of COVID-19 reside in the GTA, with nearly 85 per cent of those in Toronto or Peel Region.
Canadian airlines could ‘fail’ if forced to refund passengers
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says that Canadian airlines could go bankrupt if the ailing industry is compelled to refund passengers billions of dollars for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I have said many times that I have enormous sympathy for those who would have preferred to have a cash refund in these difficult circumstances. It is far from being an ideal situation,” Garneau told a press conference earlier today.
“At the same time, if airlines had to immediately reimburse all cancelled tickets, it would have a devastating effect on the air sector, which has been reeling since the COVID 19 pandemic started.”
Garneau was doubling down on a message he delivered to the House of Commons’ pandemic committee on Thursday, when he warned MPs that if airlines “had to reimburse at this time, some of them could fail.”
The minister said today it’s his responsibility to help Canada’s airlines survive the pandemic.
“It is so essential for this country,” he said. “This is the second largest country on Earth, with its distances and remote areas, and we expect and need an airline industry in this country.”
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Watch | Reporters question Marc Garneau about airline ticket refunds” data-reactid=”38″>Watch | Reporters question Marc Garneau about airline ticket refunds
But his response isn’t sitting well with Canadians struggling financially during the pandemic who argue it’s their right as consumers to get their money back for flights they never took.
“It’s very disappointing and frustrating,” said Tammie Fang, a health care essential worker in B.C. “My rights as a consumer have been put aside to help balance the airline industry.”
Fang works at a New Westminster hospital assisting with open-heart surgeries. She said she spends much of her spare time calling and emailing Air Transat seeking a refund of roughly $500 for a flight to Toronto she never took. She describes it as an extra burden during an already stressful and financially challenging time.
“It’s disheartening,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much effort we have to put in.”
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Airlines’ survival versus consumers’ rights” data-reactid=”43″>Airlines’ survival versus consumers’ rights
Canada’s airline industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and most of the country’s airline fleet is sitting idle at airports across the country. Airlines are losing 90 per cent of their normal revenue streams and some have put their operations completely on pause.
At the same time, pressure is mounting on the federal government to step in and force airlines to pay back passengers who also are struggling financially. Two petitions with more than 30,000 signatures combined have been submitted to Parliament in recent weeks calling on the government to demand that airlines tapping into taxpayer-funded government supports reimburse grounded passengers.
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Billions tied up in refunds” data-reactid=”66″>Billions tied up in refunds
For the most part, Canadian airlines are offering those passengers travel vouchers redeemable for two years. Air Canada also announced last week that it’s allowing people to transfer their tickets to others, which could permit ticket holders to sell them. The Canadian Transportation Agency has said offering vouchers could be a reasonable measure in the current circumstances.
Garneau’s office said it would cost airlines billions of dollars to refund customers. When CBC asked Transport Canada for specific numbers, it was told the figures the government receives from airlines amount to proprietary information that it isn’t authorized to release.
Air Canada’s books are open, since it’s a publicly traded company. It has about $2.6 billion tied up in ticket sales for future travel over the next year.
On March 16, the airline said its current liquidity level was $6.3 billion — a record level — and its balance sheet was solid. Since then, Air Canada has said it’s burning $22 million a day in operating costs and plans to reduce its workforce by 50 to 60 per cent. The company said a dramatic drop in demand during the pandemic caused the airline to slash its flight capacity by 95 per cent.
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Government in talks with airlines and consumers” data-reactid=”75″>Government in talks with airlines and consumers
Outside Rideau Cottage today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated a message he’s delivered in the past — that the government has to strike the right balance between keeping airlines afloat and preserving consumers’ rights.
“I hear clearly the concerns that Canadians have around their air tickets,” said Trudeau. “We will continue to work with the industry and with concerned groups of Canadians to ensure that we find a fair way through this.
“But I know Canadians at the same time want to make sure we continue to have an airline industry after this very difficult pandemic.”
The government is in talks with airlines and is looking to see what other countries have done with travel refunds. It’s expected to deliver an update on the file in the coming weeks.
Source: Yahoo News Canada
Edited By Harry Miller
Saint John's cruise ship season officially cancelled as feds extend ban – CBC.ca
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau has extended the cruise ship ban until at least Oct. 31, meaning no cruise ships will be arriving in Saint John this season.
In a press conference Friday, Garneau said cruise ships with overnight accommodations and capacity of over 100 people, including passengers and crew, will be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until then. The ban was previously set to expire in July.
Port Saint John CEO Jim Quinn said this ban extension means an end to this year’s season for Saint John.
“[It’s] not totally unexpected,” he said. “We respect … the decisions that the government makes because it’s all about protection of our population.”
Quinn said the port was expecting record-setting cruise revenue in 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions nationally and internationally have already cost the city 80,000 visitors. That’s about half of the expected visitors the cruise ships were set to bring.
There were 51 calls still on the schedule between July 31 and Oct. 27.
“The government has said that cruising will not be taking place in Canada before Oct. 31. So I guess… that means there will be no cruise vessels coming into Saint John this season”
In response to a question about what the federal government is planning to help the tourism sector, Garneau said the minister responsible for tourism, Mélanie Joly would be the best person to answer that question.
“I agree with you there will be a serious impact on the tourism industry, especially for cruise ships,” he said. “This is something that is important for some provinces in our country, unfortunately, because we have decided to minimize risk.”
“There will be economic impacts.”
Quinn said the port is hoping there will be a vaccine by the time next season starts. But it’s still too soon to prepare for a cruise ship season if there is no vaccine by 2021.
“It’s too early for us to contemplate that in terms of doing anything with next season,” he said. “The cruise lines are very focused on doing all of the right things and to ensure that safety procedures and protocols are in place to regain the confidence of of the cruising public and officials and communities that they visit.”
He said next season is a full twelve months away “so a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then.”
He said there are no scheduled Port Saint John layoffs, but the port won’t be hiring the usual seasonal and temporary workers involved with the cruise ship visits.
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