Amid European countries being asked to cut their gas use in the face of ongoing uncertainty around energy supply from Russia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s been in talks for months with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about “how Canada can be a solution.”
“There are things that we’re trying to do in the very short term, as we look at this coming winter and the challenges that Germans are going to be facing with Russia choosing to weaponize the source of gas and oil for them,” Trudeau said Thursday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a callout on Wednesday for all European Union member countries to reduce gas consumption by 15 per cent in the months ahead, to ensure adequate storage for a “safe winter” as they brace for the potential that Russia cuts off key natural gas supplies.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore in any event, whether it’s a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” von der Leyen said.
Europe has been facing an energy supply crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin has been using countries’ reliance on Russia for oil and gas as what officials are viewing as a form of retaliation over sanctions imposed in support of Ukraine. This has resulted in considerable reductions to the flow of natural gas, leaving countries clamouring to shore up reserve supply.
“In the short term, yes supply chains around the world are looking at how we can deliver more oil and gas to Europe in the immediate,” Trudeau said. “But also how we move off of oil and gas from Russia, or from anywhere much quicker than before. So we’re seeing it as sort of a double-barreled issue.”
As The Canadian Press has reported, Canada has previously said domestic producers could increase their output by the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil and natural gas per day by the end of 2022, to help offset reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Scholz has expressed interest in Canada becoming an energy alternative, and is planning to visit Canada in August “to secure key partnerships on energy security, critical minerals and clean technology,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office issued following the two leaders’ meeting at the G7 Summit in Germany in June.
Trudeau’s comments were made in response to a question from a reporter in Nova Scotia about the potential for LNG projects in that province to advance, given the current situation in Europe.
“I will say that we are looking at a number of different proposals around that,” Trudeau said, declining to speak to any specific potential LNG export facilities in that province or others, of which there aren’t currently any in Canada.
While not a new suggestion from the federal government, precisely how and when Canada would be able to supply LNG to Europe has not been articulated.
Though, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson recently told Bloomberg News that Canada was eyeing accelerating the conversion of an LNG import facility in New Brunswick that if pursued by its private owners, could start supplying Europe within three years.
The prime minister went on to suggest that the projects down the line could be used to export hydrogen, a clean fuel alternative.
“In the medium term, we know that Canada for example, is going to be a reliable, strong energy partner in the delivery of hydrogen,” Trudeau said. “So even as we’re looking at trying to get off fossil fuels… Knowing that we can invest in LNG infrastructure in the short-term that will then be useful for hydrogen in the medium and long-term, means that we can meet both those short-term challenges and long-term challenges.”
The prime minister said that Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas can’t continue, “because the billions of dollars that is sent to Russia for its oil and gas is then used to continue this illegal war against Ukrainians.”
Canada has been under fire in recent weeks from Ukrainians, their supporters, as well as the federal opposition parties over the decision to grant an exemption to Russian sanctions, permitting Siemens Canada to return one and allow for continued repair of a handful of other Russian-owned turbines used in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that supplies natural gas to Germany.
Canada faced pressure to see the turbines returned, with Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom claiming it needed the equipment or the already reduced gas flow through the pipeline could further restricted, something Putin continues to threaten, according to The Associated Press.
In their criticism over the move, the federal Conservatives accused Trudeau of looking the other way while Russia funds its war with the profits from the energy it sells to Europe, and called for Canada to “step up” when it comes to providing natural gas.
“The Liberal government has failed to recognize Canadian energy as vital to both our economy, as well as Canada and Europe’s collective security. Though the fifth-largest natural gas producer in the world, Canada has failed to step up in this time of extraordinary crisis,” said the Conservatives in a statement reacting to the Nord Stream 1 permit.
The federal government has defended the decision to return the turbines as a difficult one, but one that was necessary to ensure Germany and other European allies were able to “stay steadfast and generous in their support of Ukraine,” which would become more difficult to do if their economies were feeling the impact of reduced energy resources.