Biden's halt on LNG exports presents new opportunity for Canada

The Biden administration recently paused the approval of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, which will force U.S. allies to explore alternative sources of LNG, opening the door for Canada. In fact, if Canadian policymakers remove certain regulatory hurdles, they can help position Canada as a leading global provider of clean and reliable natural gas while also helping create jobs and prosperity in British Columbia, Alberta and beyond.

Following Putin's invasion of Ukraine, President Biden committed to supplying steady LNG to the European Union, aiming to reduce reliance on Russian gas. By 2023, the United States had become the world's top LNG exporter, with several European countries importing more than half of America’s LNG exports. However, President Biden also pledged to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels so he’s paused LNG exports to appease his environmentalist constituency ahead of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

But this pause comes at a crucial time for European countries grappling with energy shortages and rising prices. Last year, energy-intensive industries in Europe scaled back or halted production amid soaring energy prices, and Germany, Europe’s largest economy, narrowly avoided a recession caused by energy supply shortages. To keep the lights on, European countries have been forced to revert to coal-fired power plants, an energy source that contributes more CO2 emissions than natural gas.

Following the U.S. decision, European and Asian countries (including China) are exploring alternative LNG suppliers, again creating a potential void that Canada could fill. Japan and Germany have already turned to Canada.

Canada’s vast natural resources hold the potential to make a significant positive impact on global energy security, reliability, and emissions reduction by reducing reliance on coal. Despite possessing “the most prolific and lower-cost North American gas resources,” as emphasized by McKinsey’s recent report, development in Canada has encountered challenges largely due to government regulatory barriers. Presently, Canada lacks any operational LNG export terminals, unlike the U.S., which boasts 27 such facilities. The LNG Canada development in B.C. is slated to become Canada's first operational facility, expected to begin exporting by 2025.

The absence of LNG export infrastructure in Canada has led domestic natural gas producers to depend on U.S. LNG facilities for exporting. However, with the recent halt on approving new LNG projects south of the border, there’s an urgent need for Canada to establish its own infrastructure if we’re going to seize this opportunity to be a global LNG supplier.

Forecasts indicate steady and growing global demand for LNG. McKinsey’s recent report anticipates an annual increase in global LNG demand of 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent to 2035. And according to the latest report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), limited new LNG production means supply will remain tight.

Despite promising opportunities, various government initiatives including CleanBC (the B.C. government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,) the Trudeau government’s emissions caps on the oil and gas sector, and federal Bill C-69 (which added more red tape and complexity to the assessment process for major energy projects) have created uncertainty and deterred, if not outright prohibited, investment in the sector.

Canada has an opportunity to provide clean and reliable natural gas to our allies, help improve the world’s energy security and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The federal and provincial governments must remove regulatory barriers to allow for the needed infrastructure and investment in the LNG sector, which will also provide jobs and prosperity here at home.

Julio Mejia and Elmira Aliakbari are analysts at the Fraser Institute. Top of Form

Subscribe to 'The Buzz' with Peter Mansbridge sent every Saturday morning. Subscribe for FREE!  Subscribe