The world continues to watch the situation in Eastern Europe. Russia has shown that they are not above annexing foreign territory in a bid to destabilize Ukraine. The Russians have claimed that they are moving to “protect” an area with an ethnic Russian majority, but to be perfectly clear – Russia is motivated by natural gas.
Ukraine is strategically important for Russian economic interests. Russia has pushed hard to install and maintain friendly regimes in Ukraine since they declared independence. A subservient Ukrainian Government means that Russian oil and gas companies have access to Europe. Russian control over Crimea also maintains Russia’s control of the Black Sea, and secures access to markets in the Mediterranean and beyond.
What Russia is doing is a clear demonstration of why development of natural gas is so important for British Columbia. Our allies in Europe are dependent on Russian gas, so speaking out against Russian bully tactics on the international stage puts them in a very vulnerable position. Russia has shown in the past that they are not afraid to use energy as a bargaining chip to force their way. In 2006 and 2009, Russia shut their natural gas pipelines to Europe as a pressure tactic against a pro-EU Ukrainian Governments.
Russia is not shy about using their natural resources as political weapons against their enemies, or even to force allies to be more compliant. That is what they did in 2009, and now the European Union is put in a difficult situation where the supplier of 40% of their natural gas is working hard to force the defeat of EU allies in Ukraine, despite popular Ukrainian desire for more cooperation with Europe.
In contrast, Canada offers stable, democratic governments at all levels. British Columbia offers world-class infrastructure and ethical access to resources. The BC Peace Region is the hub of Natural Gas growth in Canada, with projects such as TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink, and Prince Rupert Gas Transmission lines, looking to get our product to port in a safe and environmentally responsible way. Customers of BC natural gas do not have to worry, as Europe does, about energy being cut off as a means of political extortion, and neither do they have to worry about being seen to collude with dictatorial or violent regimes.
Europe is only now realizing that reliance on Russia for energy is risky. Russia is trying to recapture the influence it had on the world stage during the Soviet era, and has demonstrated that they can and will turn off supplies to Europe as political leverage. European nations are looking for alternate suppliers of energy, and they are looking across the Atlantic for solutions. BC is well positioned to take advantage of increased foreign demand in natural gas. The oil and gas sector is building its’ way to the coast, as the industry seeks markets beyond the United States.
British Columbia is the only province with a coastline and the political will to develop the natural gas industry. Eastern provinces, like New Brunswick and Quebec, are saying ‘no’ to natural gas development. They seem to be unwilling to take advantage of Canada’s international reputation and high environmental and social standards. BC has no such qualms, and has prospered because of it. Northeast BC remains open for business, and as Russia has proven – reliable and democratic energy suppliers are a rare commodity.