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Natural gas heats up

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Over the last 50 years, more Canadians have come to rely on natural gas to heat their homes and commercial spaces. By 2005, half of all Canadian dwellings were heated primarily with natural gas. The new TransCanada natural gas pipeline in the 1950s allowed 26% of homes to heat with gas. The oil shocks of the 1970s and government policies favouring natural gas in Ontario and the Western provinces encouraged wider gas use to heat homes.

In 2005, more than 5.1 million homes were heated with natural gas, at an average annual cost of $1,400. Canadian homes and businesses consumed 2.3 billion gigajoules of natural gas in 2005.

Canada produced 7.2 billion gigajoules in 2005, and exported half of it to the United States: most went to utilities, industries and consumers in the Midwest and Northeast. Expanding in the 1990s, by 2005 gas made up 44% of the country’s primary energy production.

Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan produce 97% of Canada’s natural gas. According to Natural Resources Canada, these three provinces alone account for one-quarter of the natural gas produced in all of North America. Another 2% of Canada’s production comes from Nova Scotia’s and Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore reservoirs.

Employment in the oil and gas industry rose 65% from 1997 to 2006. About 75% of jobs in the industry were in Alberta. These workers are much more likely to work full-time, 95% to 97%, compared with 82% in other industries. They were also less likely to be unionized (9% versus 32%). Their earnings in 2006 averaged $30.36 per hour, compared with $16.73 in the labour market as a whole.