Canadian Pundit Ezra Levant Talks "Ethical" Oil
In his book, “Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands,” popular Canadian Conservative pundit and media personality Ezra Levant discusses how Canada’s vast reserves in bitumen oil sands is the favorable option to oil produced from nations with unethical social paradigms. In an exclusive interview with Energy Digital, Mr. Levant shares his insights on the topic of “ethical” oil.
For Energy Digital readers who have not read your book, what is “ethical” oil?
Ethical oil is oil that is produced in a manner that is environmentally responsible, peaceful, treats workers well and respects human rights. It is the opposite of conflict oil, which unfortunately comprises most of the world's oil production.
Oil sands development has the potential to raise Canada to the position of number one producer in the world. Do you foresee such a prestigious position increasing the country’s political power internationally? What effect would this have on OPEC’s market domination?
Oil sands production is expected to max out at about 5 million barrels a day, which is about half of Saudi Arabia's production, let alone other OPEC dictatorships. Even if the oil sands were to produce 10 million barrels a day—which no one contemplates—it would still not be enough to displace OPEC, given that the world buys and sells about 85 million barrels of oil each day.
It would be a huge economic difference for Canada; it would allow the United States to replace their conflict oil imports with ethical oil imports; but it isn't enough to slake the thirst of emerging Asian economies, particularly China and India.
The oil sands will make a difference, as all new supply will—it will be a brake on the world price of oil. And we'll take a larger slice of the market. But we'll never be able to put the Saudis, Iranians and other Persian Gulf suppliers out of business.
Do you think that Canada has a moral obligation then to deny “unethical” countries access to Canadian reserves?
No. That would be tantamount to putting economic sanctions on any country that's not a democracy—that’s not in our national interest. It is likely in our national interest, for example, to have China replace its conflict oil imports from Sudan with ethical oil imports from Canada. Unfortunately, given the size of Chinese demand, and the size of OPEC supply, unethical countries will continue to be a fact of life. Adding ethical oil to the world market is a marginal improvement, but not a total solution to the world's problems.
While the oil sands hold proven reserves estimated to last well over 150 years, exploitation has increased exponentially. When coupling this with other exponential trends, such as increased international oil and plastics consumption, as well as general population growth, do you think the predicted lifeline will hold true?
I do. There are about 170 billion recoverable barrels of oil in the oil sands. Production today is about 1.5 million bpd. That's about 300 years. Triple the production—as plans suggest we will—and that's still a century of production.
But that doesn't treat the fact that there is ten times more oil "in place"—that is, there are another 1.7 trillion barrels of oil sands oil that we can see, that we know is there, but that is just not recoverable at today's prices and with today's technology. I would predict that over time technology will evolve to allow us access, on a commercially viable basis, to more of that oil.
While Canada is pressing the U.S. to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline for delivery of Canadian diluted bitumen, Canada has yet to build a pipeline connecting the oil-rich western provinces to the Atlantic eastern provinces, which still rely on foreign oil. What are your thoughts on this?
Most Canadians do not know that we import half of our oil—including from conflict jurisdictions like Russia, Algeria and even Saudi Arabia. I think Canadians would find this shocking—which is why I propose country of origin labeling for gas pumps, like we have for clothing, food, toys, etc. That's not a trade barrier—it’s information that can empower consumers to know the real market alternatives. If the choice is between conflict oil and ethical oil, I think consumer demand would lead those pipelines to be built east, not just south and perhaps to the west coast.
An anecdote: last year I spoke with Denis Coderre, then the Liberal critic for natural resources. I told him that Montreal imported conflict oil; he replied that no, in fact they imported their oil from... Maine! It's true, the Portland to Montreal pipeline supplies much of Montreal's oil. But it doesn't come from the vast oilfields of Maine—it’s conflict oil from around the world shipped by tanker to Maine, and then laundered through an American pipeline on its way to Canada. So Mr. Coderre was being willfully blind to the ethical character of his oil. I'm sure it helps him sleep to think he's burning Maine oil, rather than Sharia oil from Saudi Arabia.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.