Filling in the gaps from AB’s energy minister update

Alberta’s new energy minister had a lot of positive things to say about Alberta’s oil and gas sector. But what about everything he left out?

Earlier this week, Alberta’s energy minister Pete Guthrie issued a statement on January’s energy sector update and the future of Alberta’s energy sector.

Naturally, Guthrie focused on just the numbers that paint Alberta in the best light possible, so I thought I’d go through some of the statement and fill in what’s missing.

Alberta’s energy sector is incredibly resilient and is poised for a strong 2023. At this time, even in a volatile market, most analysts expect Alberta to see more energy production, more innovation and more jobs this year.

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I’m curious what “strong 2023” means. If it’s based on the numbers he’s about to share, then that may be misleading.

Also, I’m curious how “more innovation” can occur along with “more jobs”, given that innovation means finding ways to increase productivity while reducing or maintaining spending. Increasing jobs means increasing spending.

Also, Alberta has seen record oil production since the UCP have been in power, yet has lost nearly 20,000 jobs in the sector during the same period. In April 2019, the month the UCP took power, there were 146,700 people working in the “forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas” sector. This past December, that number had dropped to 128,400, a loss of 18,300 workers. So increasing oil production doesn’t mean necessarily that jobs will increase, too.

The numbers tell the story. Rig counts were up 48% last year over 2021 and set to increase further this year.

Sounds pretty impressive, right? But look what happens when we look at rig counts over a longer period than just one year.

Sure, active rig counts were higher last year than they were in 2021, but they’ve been stagnant overall during the UCP’s entire time in office and lower than what they were under the NDP, let alone under the Progressive Conservatives.

Plus, 2021 was still recovering from the shutdown in 2020, so comparing 2022 to a recovery period isn’t going to be that impressive.

Alberta’s crude oil and equivalent production was up four per cent in 2022, and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is scheduled to be completed later this year.

It’s true, but once again, let’s look at the 10-year trend.

As you can see, crude oil production increases every year, so this claim is a non-starter. It’s just the nature of the industry, not specific to the UCP administrator.

On that note, consider how much oil production has increased under the UCP. In April 2019, the month the party took power, Alberta produced 16.97 million cubic metres of crude oil and equivalents. This past November, that number had increased to 18.89 million m3, a difference of 1.92 million m3, or 11.31%.

Compare that to the increase Alberta saw under the NDP, which saw production at 12.46 million m3 the month they formed government. By their last November in office, Alberta was producing 17.77 million m3. That’s an increase of 5.31 million m3, or 42.6%.

That means that Alberta’s production levels increased at a faster rate under the NDP than they did under the UCP. So, I’m not sure a 4% increase last year is anything to set off fireworks for.

The total revenue value of Alberta’s energy exports increased by about 67 per cent, to about $148 billion from January to November 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

Okay, but once again, this has very little to do with the UCP. As we have already pointed out, production is up, which means we’ll have more product to ship, and increasing how much product we ship will increase the value of those exports.

Not only that, but the price of oil started at $75.21 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate in January 2022, peaked at $123.70 a barrel two months later, and finally settling at $80.55 at the end of November. The monthly average for the period between January and November was $94.79.

And when the price of the product your shipping is higher and your shipping more of it, of course your revenue is going to be higher. Again, neither the price of oil nor production levels have anything to do with the UCP.

In the coming year, we will continue to lead the country in practical steps to reduce emissions and keep energy affordable. Alberta’s renewable energy sector is the fastest growing in Canada. We are advancing carbon capture faster than any other province, with 25 carbon storage hub proposals selected for exploration and work underway looking at small scale and remote opportunities in the future. All of this work is being done while more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions have already been captured.

The wording in this is weird. Are they saying that carbon capture is part of Alberta’s renewable energy sector? Because it’s not. Carbon capture is a way to delay when carbon enters the atmosphere by capturing at the point of production, transporting it, then storing it underground. It’s not a form of energy in itself, let alone a form of renewable energy.

Also, those 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions amount to total emissions captured since 2015. That averages out to 1.43 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. And when you consider that Alberta emitted 256.5 million tonnes of CO2 and equivalent emissions in 2020 alone, that’s not really that impressive.

Alberta captured only about 0.56% of the emissions it generated in 2020.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “Filling in the gaps from AB’s energy minister update”

Once again, thank you for providing useful context and fact-checking to government communications, or should I say “spin”.

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