Canada Ramps Up Oil Output to Meet Europe's Energy Needs
European nations, heavily dependent on Russian oil and natural gas, have sought to wean themselves off of Moscow’s natural resources.
Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of natural resources, announced on Thursday that Canada would increase its oil production by 300,000 barrels per day, an increase of roughly 5 percent over its current production level, in response to the ongoing tensions in Eastern Europe.
“Our European friends and allies need Canada and others to step up,” Wilkinson said. The Canadian official was in Paris for a summit of the International Energy Agency (IEA) at the time of the announcement. Wilkinson’s announcement comes as European nations, heavily dependent on Russian oil and natural gas to supply their electricity and heating needs, have increasingly sought to wean themselves off of Moscow’s natural resources in protest of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the European Union (EU) has taken the opportunity to advance its plans to develop sources of renewable energy, including wind and solar, it continues to import oil and gas from Moscow, which supplies roughly 40 percent of Europe’s annual energy demand.
“They’re telling us they need our help in getting off of Russian oil and gas in the short term, while speeding up the energy transition across the continent,” Wilkinson continued. “Canada is uniquely positioned to help with both.”
Oil prices shot up around the world after the United States imposed sanctions on Russia, including banning Russian oil from U.S. markets. Canada is the fourth-largest oil producer in the world, with its oil fields concentrated in northern Alberta, and it exports most of its oil to the United States. Canadian politicians have called for the country’s oil production to be expanded in order to meet new European demand.
At the same time, any prospective supply increase has been controversial within the country, with some environmental groups arguing that increasing the flow of oil from Alberta would have negative effects on the environment and hasten climate change. Instead, these voices have argued that prioritizing green energy development, including wind and solar, would decrease reliance on both Russian and Western oil over the long run.
Some skeptics have also argued that Canada lacks the physical infrastructure to mount a major increase in oil production, as production is now consistently high.
The Canadian government is scheduled to release a report on how it intends to cut carbon emissions over the next decade—a report that environmental activists hope will make note of the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.