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Canada must act as Europe’s energy ‘tragedy’ shows ‘cautionary tale’: Cenovus head

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‘Just Transition’ has wrong name, right idea on jobs: Cenovus head
‘Just Transition’ has wrong name, right idea on jobs: Cenovus head – Jan 22, 2023

The head of Canadian energy giant Cenovus says the country needs to be “front and centre” in meeting the world’s natural gas supply demands amid an “unfolding tragedy” in Western Europe.

Cenovus President Alex Pourbaix, speaking in an interview with The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson, said the transition off of oil and gas is going to take “decades.”

Meanwhile, the European Union continues to face the prospect of a severe energy crisis over the coming years as Russia continues to weaponize its supply of natural gas to the region.

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While the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said Europe has sufficient stockpiles of gas to get through the winter, it warned that the situation could grow dire if governments don’t act fast.

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That’s where Canada could step in, according to Pourbaix.

“We have the gas. We should be supplying the world’s needs,” he said.

“We’re watching an unfolding tragedy.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced repeated questions since the summer about whether Canada intends to ramp up its liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to help its partners in Europe. However, speaking in late August, the prime minister said it all depends on the business case.

“There are a number of potential projects, including one in Saint John and others, that are on the books for which there has never been a strong business case because of the distance from the gas fields,” Trudeau said in late August, standing alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“We are looking right now and companies are looking at whether the new context makes it a worthwhile business case to make those investments.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says strong ‘business case’ needed to increase LNG exports to Germany'
Trudeau says strong ‘business case’ needed to increase LNG exports to Germany

Canada’s best bet for helping Germany, Trudeau added at the time, is to “continue to contribute to the global market.”

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As the months passed following Trudeau’s comment and Europe’s energy situation has worsened, Pourboix told Stephenson it now serves as a warning.

“I think that is a cautionary tale about the risks of attempting to move away from fossil fuels before you have replacement technologies that are in place to fully take the place of of oil and gas,” he said.

“But we have this extraordinary resource in the country.”

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Pourbaix pushed back on Trudeau’s argument that there may not be a business case for expanding LNG infrastructure.

“The resource is there. The infrastructure is largely there — and we’d have to build some incremental pipeline to get to the East Coast — but once it’s there, that natural gas can be liquefied and can get anywhere in the world,” he said.

“This is a concern that’s going to be with us for decades. And I can’t think of a better country than Canada to be supplying that need.”

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