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MPs on the federal natural resources committee want Suncor CEO Rich Kruger to answer questions after Kruger indicated the oil giant must lessen its focus on energy transition to ensure maximum profitability.

On Sept. 18, NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced a motion to invite Kruger before the committee “to explain why he believes that the only ‘urgency’ facing the oil sector is to make as much money as possible while increasing production and abandoning their responsibility to help meet Canada’s international climate commitments.”

During a conference call with investors in August, Kruger said the company has a “disproportionate emphasis” on the long-term energy transition and needs to refocus on the fossil fuel giant’s money-making oilsands operations.

The motion was passed by the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources on Sept. 18. All MPs except the Conservatives voted in favour.

“We have a right to know if Suncor is going to be a good corporate citizen at this time of climate crisis,” Angus told Canada’s National Observer in a phone interview on Sept. 18.

Suncor did not respond to Canada’s National Observer’s request for comment by publication time.

“Suncor hits up the Canadian government all the time in meetings and backroom meetings. They hit us up for huge tax credits and incentives to do the work that I think they should be doing,” said Angus. He says the least Kruger should do is be willing to come and explain his vision for the company and fossil fuel burning and how he sees Suncor and other oil companies playing a part in addressing the climate crisis.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said in general, they support Canadian energy company executives appearing to inform committee members “who sometimes seem woefully uninformed” that Suncor and other energy companies have driven the development of renewables and alternative fuels. Nonetheless, she voted against the motion asking Kruger to speak.

Another Conservative committee member, Alberta MP Earl Dreeshen, said it's misguided to “poke the finger at one of Canada’s largest employers” when “forestry issues” and the global energy situation are also in play.

MPs on the federal natural resources committee are inviting Suncor CEO Rich Kruger to testify at committee after Kruger indicated the energy giant will refocus on its oilsands operations to make money for shareholders #cdnpoli #Suncor #ClimateChange

Angus said this is a public interest issue because oil and gas companies are looking to the Canadian government and Canadian taxpayers to subsidize carbon capture technology.

“Talking about the urgency of making more money at a time when people were being burned out of their homes” on the August investor call demonstrated “complete indifference or disconnect,” said Angus.

Suncor is far from the only oil and gas company failing to walk the talk on climate change. Earlier this year, BP swapped out its pledge to cut emissions 35 to 40 per cent by 2030 for a less ambitious promise of a 20 to 30 per cent reduction and Shell will not be increasing spending for renewables this year.

The fossil fuel industry has a well-documented history of denying the existence of climate change and delaying climate action. California is currently suing five major oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute (the U.S.’s largest oil and gas lobby group) over the sector’s decades-long efforts to delay climate action. The lawsuit seeks compensation for damages caused by extreme weather events — like wildfires, droughts and extreme heat — made more frequent or intense by climate change.

This has been Canada’s worst wildfire year on record. As of Sept. 15, more than 17.6 million hectares of land have been burned and more than half of the 923 active fires were classified as “out of control,” according to data published by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Screenshot of data from Sept. 15 published on the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre dashboard.

So far, nearly 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate during the 2023 fire season, Reuters reported in mid-August. Indigenous communities were disproportionately impacted by the wildfires, with over 90 First Nations evacuated since May, more than the previous four fire seasons combined, data analysis by Canada’s National Observer revealed.

While Canadians choked on smoke and fled their homes, oilsands companies continued to record handsome profits, according to Pembina Institute’s Sept. 14 update on industry profits and investments in emission reductions.

The Pembina Institute’s 2023 mid-year update shows oilsands companies — Canadian Natural Resources, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Cenovus and MEG Energy — are on track to record their second-highest profits, just behind what they raked in in 2022. The Pembina Institute says there have been no new investments in reducing oilsands emissions since its last update was put out six months ago.

The oil and gas industry is consistently the country’s highest-emitting economic sector, responsible for 28 per cent of national emissions in 2021, according to Canada’s annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.

Suncor tripled its profits in a single year and announced it will lay off 1,500 workers this year, the motion points out.

Angus told Canada’s National Observer he expects Kruger “will take us up on the offer” to testify before the committee.

“If Mr. Kruger is not interested in coming to speak to parliamentarians, I would be willing to call for a subpoena,” said Angus, referring to the committee’s ability to issue a summons for witnesses who decline an invitation.

“The Canadian public is living with huge levels of climate uncertainty, climate fear, and they need to know that everybody — from corporations to public figures to politicians — everybody is taking this seriously,” said Angus.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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"Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said in general, they support Canadian energy company executives appearing to inform committee members 'who sometimes seem woefully uninformed' that Suncor and other energy companies have driven the development of renewables and alternative fuels."

Evidence?
Few, if any, O&G companies are going to become renewable energy companies. Oilsands majors have no plans to move into renewables. Suncor divested from renewables in 2022.

"This week, Cenovus, Canadian Natural Resources and Imperial Oil all reiterated their stance they have no appetite to build their own wind or solar. Instead, the focus is squarely on being oil & gas companies. …
"'Where we're likely to remain is focused on oil & gas production. 'Don't look for us to become a late-entrant renewable-power developer.'" (CBC, 2021)

"It's difficult for Big Oil to even cast itself as committed to helping the world transition to a low-carbon future, since the investments by them in renewable energy are dwarfed by the money spent on new oil and gas projects." (CBC, 2015)

In solar energy, AB O&G companies are barely on the board. O&G involvement in renewables seems to be limited to pipeline companies. In Alberta, names like EDF Renewables, Greengate Power, and Solar Krafte are prominent. The Greek industrial group Mytilineos recently took over some major solar portfolios in Alberta.
Pipeline companies dabble in renewables.
TC Energy announced its first solar project (81 MW) in 2022.
Traditional utilities are involved in wind power, but O&G names remain scarce. Certainly not leading the pack. TC Energy is the exception, not the rule.

Enbridge has 15% (361 MW gross capacity) of its onshore wind capacity in AB. (2022)
This represents 28% of its Canadian onshore wind capacity and 14% of AB's wind capacity (2589 MW).
Enbridge has just one solar project, which accounts for under 10% of its Canadian solar capacity. This project represents less than 1% of AB's solar capacity (1209 MW). (2023)

Conservative smoke machine in action.

While I await screening of a more substantial comment, I'll post this (we'll see if this one goes to the queue as well).

I think the expectation of enlightened self-immolation from a fossil fuel company CEO is misplaced. It is not the role of industry to determine what is, or is not, acceptable to a society; such responsibility lies with the society itself, generally exercised through the institutions of governance- i.e. regulation and legislation.

1/3
I very much appreciate the work that Charlie Angus does on behalf of the country (and I look forward to actually cracking the cover of his book, Cobalt); however, I'm not quite sure what to make of his expectation that a fossil corporation, not to say any extraction corporation (yes, I'm aware of which riding he represents), has ever been a willing good corporate citizen in going beyond simply keeping their employees and their families, not to mention the local elected representatives, assez content in their company towns, if only to keep business running smoothly, profits flowing, and, as is clearly evidenced in Alberta's oil patch, maintain a self-interested army of supporters to fight the policy battles.

"...and abandoning their responsibility to help meet Canada’s international climate commitments"

I'm curious what he thinks of the responsibilities of the Canadian forest products industry towards global biodiversity? Or, (though we could stay with Ontario examples) looking specifically at one BC example, what responsibilities Teck Resources has for the rivers it uses as industrial toilets?

cont...

2/3
In the end, it's not the corporations' responsibility, is it? Any more than your burger chain of choice has a responsibility to maintain the ecosystems in which their meat supply grazes halfway around the world. Don't blame corporations for the sorry state of our environment, of our civic governance, its institutions and their co-option and capture by corporate interests. Place blame where it lies, with the electorate. Or, alternatively, with the sorry state of human psychological evolution in which we find ourselves*. Or, alternatively, with the nation's colonial founders who set the rules which have been so damned hard to change, in any meaningful way. Or blame whatever it is that resulted in the observation that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism [to which I’ll add] as we practice it.” Of course, all of that blame, in a quotidian context, arrives at the doors of the legislatures.

We’ve had, I believe, at least three opportunities to trial proportional representation in the provinces – twice in BC, once in Ontario (if I recall correctly) – and the electorate rejected the attempts. We want change but we’re too scared to adopt it proactively. Or we leave it to “markets”, an inanimate, invented concept that, we are told, somehow knows better than do governments how the world must function.

cont...

3/3
I think, perhaps, some people take corporate social responsibility (CSR) or, as it's presently branded, ESG, without the necessary wink and a nudge; there are few individual corporate leaders, in my view, who take seriously the entire notion that, first, corporations serve society, and, second, that (democratic) state governance necessarily trumps corporate interests.

All the previous notwithstanding, it is quite likely that corporations actually desire that we, the unwashed, nonetheless believe that we should assign such responsibility to them; by doing so, it furthers the ongoing efforts to diminish and marginalize the role and necessity of civic governance and of governments, themselves.

* I highly recommend taking just a couple of minutes to listen to a recording of the late humanitarian and renowned biologist E.O. Wilson, and his observations regarding emotions, institutions, and technology. It’s instructive.
https://fb.watch/n9JNpfzJwr/?mibextid=NnVzG8

Exemplary commentary, Ken.

A couple of points. I believe there is a nexus between government policy and regulation and public demand. Bringing down the consumer price of electrification, for example, in the form of increased federal subsidies and grants on heat pumps, solar panels, EVs, electrical upgrades to homes, businesses and provincial grids and so on could have a profound effect on lowering emissions across the board.

As they stand, the carbon tax is too low and grants for renewables and energy efficiency upgrades are not nearly high enough. Price is the point where regs hit the economy.

Unfortunately, there are some progressives who call for capitalism to be smashed to bits and use conflicts over oil and climate to justify this call. Multiple millions in book sales by some authors -- who are also jet setting climate fighters attending protests all over the warming planet -- have influenced many, many people to view the solution as one of revolution and tearing down the system instead of enacting intelligent, calculated adjustments in policy and offering affordable alternatives directly to the public.

BC did hold referenda on a proportional electoral system twice. The first one was the most democratic process ever practiced on this issue. A Citizen's Assembly of 100 randomly selected people was given carte blanche to tour the province and gather info on various voting systems around the world. The CA process was completely open and free of government influence, and they concluded after a year of research and high-level input that the Single Transferable Vote was the best option. It garnered a 58% majority in a subsequent provincial referendum.

Proportionality never made it into the BC voting system. Why? Because the premier of the day, Gordon Campbell, and his conservative government (they were misnamed "Liberal") set the bar too high at 60%.

Essentially, a government can obtain a majority of seats with less than 40% of the vote under the existing system and go on to wreak great damage. But changing the system to a far more democratic one needs 60% to pass? Is it any wonder why voters are so cynical and have moved into strategic voting as a countermeasure?

Years later, the NDP held another referendum on proportionality as a sop to the Greens who propped them up at the time, but they jacked the process from the very start. They gave very biased David Eby control with not nearly enough public input and way too much political interference. It failed the vote miserably and set back electoral reform by decades in BC.

It may never happen, but if the feds ever decided to swallow their collective egos and go for genuine electoral reform, BC's original Citizen's Assembly process was the best ever. It MUST be at arm's length from government, MUST be well funded, and the following national referendum MUST be full of integrity to stand up to scrutiny and the test of time. And the approval point MUST be set at the standard, perfectly reasonable 50% plus one vote -- just like every election ever held in memory.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said in general, they support Canadian energy company executives appearing to inform committee members “who sometimes seem woefully uninformed” that Suncor and other energy companies have driven the development of renewables and alternative fuels. Nonetheless, she voted against the motion asking Kruger to speak.
It appears that Shannon is the one woefully uninformed and if you expect to get the truth form the O&G cartel you must be in their employ.
Another Conservative committee member, Alberta MP Earl Dreeshen, said it's misguided to “poke the finger at one of Canada’s largest employers” when “forestry issues” and the global energy situation are also in play.
Redirection as usual form Earl the finger should be pointed at all the dirty destructive industries and maybe even you.
Angus said this is a public interest issue because oil and gas companies are looking to the Canadian government and Canadian taxpayers to subsidize carbon capture technology.
The O&G cartels are also subsidizing politician capture technology.