On April 7, 2016, Premier Philippe Couillard and four of his
ministers unveiled Quebec's 2030 Energy Policy.
As discussed in our April 8 overview post, this initiative is a "green"
policy that sets ambitious de-carbonization goals.
The last chapter of the Policy deals with fossil fuels (pages 57
to 62). Page 58 refers to "social oil". What is social
oil? A quick search of the internet does not show prior uses in
French or English. The expression appears to be the work of a
clever government wordsmith.
The Policy states that about 10% of the world's oil
consumption is used to make a multitude of products, e.g., drugs,
plastics, automotive parts, textiles, road surfaces. This is oil
that government considers useful and beneficial, hence the
expression social oil (we will call it "good oil"). The
Policy strongly implies that good oil must be distinguished from
the other kind of oil, i.e., oil that is burned.
The Policy does not quantify Quebec's consumption of good
oil but it does state that the Quebec plastic sector alone employs
20,000 and has a turnover of $5.3 billion (2013). The inference
here is that good oil is necessary both socially and
The fact that the Policy opens the discussion on fossil fuels
with social oil is reflective of the need for government at all
times (i) to carefully choose its words when speaking about oil in
Quebec, and (ii) to ground in fact any discussion about
hydrocarbons. In other words, the population's environmental
aspirations must be tempered by reality and this requires a
didactic effort on the part of government. What may be known and
accepted elsewhere is not necessarily known or accepted in
The Policy acknowledges in its opening pages that in 2030,
despite Quebec setting some of the world's most ambitious GHG
reduction targets, 39.1% of Quebec's energy requirements will
still come from oil and gas. Hydrocarbons will thus be part of
Quebec's energy future for some time to come.
Note that the share held by natural gas in 2030 in the overall
mix remains unchanged from 2016. In most jurisdictions natural gas
is seen as a beneficial transition fuel whose consumption is
expected to rise in the next decades. Government appears to have
other objectives. Except in very limited circumstances (e.g.,
isolated northern communities) Quebec does not seek to replace oil
with natural gas. Rather, Quebec aspires to reduce oil consumption
primarily with energy efficiency and renewable electricity.
The Policy has been generally well received across the board,
including by established environmental groups. The only group
openly upset at this time is Quebec's wind power supply chain.
It was hoping for additional wind power projects to provide it with
a market in the immediate future. The government's answer at
this time is that Hydro-Québec has a surplus and that the
industry should look outside Quebec for customers. Needless to say
this answer has failed to satisfy the industry and it appears that
government will have to don its thinking cap once more.
These green credentials now give government leeway to proceed in
a deliberate and surgical manner with hydrocarbons, including their
transportation. In other words, project analysis should from now on
concentrate on project risks and benefits rather than be distracted
by larger societal issues outside of a project's control.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The Government of Alberta recently announced a number of policy changes that will impact the Alberta Electricity Market, composed of its generators, transmitters, distributors, retailers, electricity consumers and wholesale electricity market.
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