Canada won’t choose between jobs, energy generation and the environment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told oil and gas leaders in Houston on Thursday. The country will drill for oil and gas, build pipelines, reduce carbon emissions and develop green energy, all at once.
In a pointed rebuke to the U.S. fight between fossil fuel proponents and environmental activists, Trudeau said that Canada can tap oil and gas resources and also pioneer carbon-free technology, biofuels and next-generation electric car batteries.
Trudeau, in a speech in the nation’s energy capital, outlined a path clearly meant as an example the U.S. could follow to oil and gas development, job creation and also aggressive environmental stewardship.
“There will come a day, far off but inevitable at some point, when traditional energy sources will no longer be needed,” Trudeau told the annual CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference at the Hilton Americas-Houston.
To prepare, Canada must develop clean energy. “This creates good jobs. It also helps the planet,” he said. “Innovating, and pursuing renewables, isn’t somehow in competition with those traditional resources. It’s common sense.”
Trudeau largely stuck to his script on Thursday. He has frequently said that Canada must both build the economy and protect the environment.
Late last year, Trudeau proposed a carbon tax, which taxes energy companies for creating pollution, starting next year at about $8 a ton and rising to about $40 by 2022. The country also announced it would phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030.
For his work, CERAWeek awarded Trudeau its Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award. CERAWeek chairman Daniel Yergin, who emceed Trudeau’s talk, called Trudeau a “clarion voice” for energy sustainability and economic prosperity.
Trudeau’s speech also comes at a key time for U.S.-Canadian relations, as U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
The address gave Trudeau an opportunity to make the case for free trade with Canada in one of Trump’s favorite industries, oil and gas.
He highlighted the merger between the Calgary-based pipeline giant Enbridge, and the Houston-based Spectra Energy, which created one of the largest energy infrastructure companies on the continent.
He called the relationship between Texas and Canada “extraordinarily productive,” estimating trade with the state at $35-billion last year, supporting about 460,000 Texas jobs.
And he called the relationship with the U.S. the most successful in the world, “supporting millions of middle class jobs on both sides of the border.”
“We are the number one customer of two thirds of U.S. states – and in the top three for 48 states,” he said.
But Trudeau also outlined a path clearly meant to provide a lesson to Canada’s big brother.
“There is no path to prosperity in Canada that does not include a thriving, vibrant energy sector — both traditional, and renewable,” Trudeau said.
His administration supports new pipelines, such as Houston-based Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line, which crosses the Rockies from Alberta to the Pacific, and TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, recently approved by President Trump, from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
Trudeau criticized the U.S. environmental movement’s attack on pipelines, known as the “leave-it-in-the-ground movement”:
“No country,” he said, “would find 173 billion barrels of oil and just leave it in the ground. The resource will be developed.”
But Trudeau also argued that Canada must ensure oil and gas is developed sustainably.
“Canadians will not accept that we have to choose between a healthy planet and a strong economy,” he said.
“We are showing that environmental leadership and economic growth are inseparable.”