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Low oil prices offer chance to spur G7 energy transition: Canada

[KITAKYUSHU, Japan] Energy ministers of the leading Western economies are discussing ways to create opportunities from the oil slump that include a push for more electric vehicles, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told Reuters on Monday.

Members of the G7 include major auto-producing countries such as Japan and Germany, which benefit from cheaper oil but have been hit by fuel consumption and emissions scandals.

In a push to regain the initiative, Germany last week announced the launch of a 4,000-euro-per-electric-vehicle subsidy.

For G7 member Canada, a major oil and natural gas producer, an oil price fall of some 70 per cent since mid-2014 means economic pain, but the Canadian energy minister said that the slump also opened up an opportunity.

"Prices are low. Investment is down but we see this also as an opportunity to prepare for a transition phase in the energy economy, and we were discussing that over these last two days at the G7 ministerial meeting," he said on the sidelines of the G7 energy ministers' meeting in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan.

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"In the case of Canada, we have tabled a budget in the House of Commons that will invest significantly in this transition through electric vehicles, green technologies, green infrastructure."

Canada still plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) despite low energy prices, a current abundance and the delay and cancellation of some projects.

"Our policy objective is that Canada should be an exporter of LNG both on the east coast and the west, and the geography is favourable to a Canadian-Japanese relationship," he said. "We also have some hope that there will be an LNG industry that develops on the east coast of Canada for export to Europe."

Canada has said it wants to sell oil to Asian economies but has faced difficulty getting crude pipelines built to the Pacific coast. Carr said that the government is trying to turn that around.

"The regulatory process and the way in which the previous government went about trying to get approvals for pipelines didn't work," he said. "So we're going to learn from that experience. We're trying another way... There are several pipeline applications that are currently before regulators. You will know before the end of 2016 whether or not there would be any new pipelines given approval in Canada."


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