OTTAWA — Suncor remains totally committed to eliminating its carbon footprint in less than three decades, the company’s CEO said on Oct. 16 on Parliament Hill.
But Rich Kruger was accused by some MPs of greenwashing his industry’s efforts to address climate change, including after he said he hadn’t yet read in detail the fine print on new federal regulations to cut emissions from gasoline and diesel.
The regulations took effect July 1, requiring gasoline and diesel producers and importers to offset their emissions through various investments, such as replacing power sources at oil extraction sites with renewable or lower-emitting energy, investing in the production of biofuels like ethanol or investing in electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
Bloc Quebecois MP Mario Simard tried to have Kruger explain the cost the new clean fuel regulations will have on his company, whether those costs will be passed on to consumers and how they compare to Suncor’s main climate investment of installing a carbon capture and storage system.
“I’ve not studied the regulation in my six months in the job here,” said Kruger.
Simard scoffed at the idea, saying in French that either Kruger didn’t really care about climate change enough to pay attention to the regulations, or he was a bad manager.
Kruger pushed back to say that he was aware of the regulations he just hadn’t looked at them in detail. He also said the company was meeting them as required.
The early stages of the regulations have a limited impact on most companies, which were already doing enough to meet them. They become more stringent each year through to 2030.
Following the meeting, NDP MP Charlie Angus said he simply doesn’t believe Kruger doesn’t know the cost of the regulations.
“Someone in Mr. Kruger’s capacity, who has been top dog in some of the biggest oil firms in the world, knows what’s going on in the industry,” said Angus.
“And this is a major battle zone right now between the provincial government in Alberta, where he’s based, and the federal government. It will have implications for us meeting our climate targets. And he hasn’t read them? It’s simply not believable.”
Kruger was at the House of Commons natural resources committee to explain comments he made to shareholders in August about reducing his company’s emphasis on the transition to lower-emitting energy sources.
Kruger said his comments were misinterpreted as Suncor ending its commitment to curbing its carbon footprint, when the focus is really on ensuring the company is making profits now to be able to afford the required investments in decarbonization.
He said it’s about making sure the company is healthy both now and in the future, and only investing in areas where the company can be competitive.
“Our commitments on being part of the transition have not changed,” he said.
The company sold off its solar and wind power assets last year before Kruger took over as CEO. But he said Suncor is investing in clean fuels with its large ethanol plant in St. Clair, Alta., and with plans to build carbon capture.
He said last year the company invested $540 million in decarbonization efforts.
Suncor is part of the Pathways Alliance, a consortium of oilsands companies joining together to invest in carbon capture. The technology has been in limited use to date but is a critical part of Canada’s emissions targets.
Liberal MP John Aldag said Suncor’s planning sounds like a company trying to pump out as much oil as it can while it still can.
“It seems like you’re trying to get every last dollar out of that oil and gas sector,” he said.
Kruger said the fact is that oil and gas will remain part of world energy sources for decades to come and even if Canada produces less oil, that doesn’t mean the world will consume less oil.
“The question for me is where the investment will be made,” he said.
“I think oil and gas has a long life ahead of it, it’s how we do it that will make it more socially acceptable.”
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