Sandy Garossino’s recent column, “The Serious $70 Billion Climate Plan You’ve Heard Nothing About,” purports to summarize the “extraordinarily compelling case” in favour of the federal government’s recent approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project, based on the pipeline’s contribution to climate action.

I’m not buying it. Let’s take Garossino’s main arguments one at a time:

Trans Mountain is 'a wash' in terms of greenhouse gases.

Garossino claims that in the pipeline’s absence, “the global supply chain would simply reshuffle and move ahead as if nothing happened.” There are both domestic and international aspects to this claim.

Garossino simply ignores the domestic emissions associated with production of the oil that will flow through the pipeline, The federal government’s own estimate is that the pipeline’s annual upstream emissions — i.e., emissions resulting from extraction, processing and transportation of crude within Canada — will be 13 to 15 million tonnes, equivalent to two million cars.

That’s a big deal because Canada’s current climate plan is not sufficient to get us to our 2030 Paris Agreement target. Indeed, the gap has been growing rather than shrinking. Adding another 15 million tonnes of emissions makes it a lot harder to meet our international obligation.

The tarsands have accounted for three quarters of Canada’s emissions growth since 1990. It’s also the sector that accounts for almost all projected growth going forward. Even the celebrated 100-megatonne cap on emissions from the tarsands — which was never legally binding and from which Alberta has withdrawn support — would allow a tripling of tarsands emissions from 2005 to 2030, thus demanding deeper compensatory cuts from other sectors and other provinces.

The longer-term challenge looms even larger. A pipeline is an investment in long-lasting infrastructure. Yet Canada’s 2030 target is just the first step. It will be ever-harder to make the deeper cuts needed after 2030 (if not before!) if we chain ourselves to new pipeline infrastructure and associated heavy oil production expected to operate for decades to come.

Now let’s consider the global context. Garossino’s assertion about the global supply chain recalls Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement — notably made in Alberta, not Paris — that “no country would find 173 billions barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there.”

But that is exactly what we must do.

As with fossil-fuel consumption, we face a collective-action problem in fossil-fuel production. Oil-exporting countries say they support the Paris Agreement, but hold out hope that their oil will be the last drop consumers buy. This is especially unrealistic for Canada: our oil is relatively costly to produce and carbon-intensive to refine, and thus likely to be the first to go.

Oil exporters, including Canada, may just be making a financial bet against the success of the Paris Agreement. Whether oil producers are unduly optimistic or hedging their bets, they have collectively created a growing glut of supply relative to the demand trajectory needed to mitigate climate change.

At best, Canadians will be saddled with stranded assets and economically ill-prepared when global customers shun our exports. At worst, excess supply will continue to depress global fossil-fuel prices, undermining the transition to cleaner energy, to the detriment of future generations.

Parliament recently voted to declare climate change a “real and urgent crisis.” Surely, that crisis calls for leadership, rather than the excuse that everyone else is doing it, too.

Funding the clean-energy transition with oil revenues

Garossino embraces Trudeau’s long-standing argument that Canada needs new pipelines to fund the transition to a clean-energy future. While that has been an abstract argument in the past, in announcing the Trans Mountain approval, the prime minister offered a more specific commitment: that any revenues from the project will be dedicated to the clean-energy transition. A back-of-envelope estimate of future tax revenues from oil production for the pipeline is the basis for Garossino’s claim of a “$70-billion climate plan.”

That figure assumes the tarsands will continue to prosper and thus pay taxes for 20 years. Should that happen, Canada and the planet will have much bigger problems than how to allocate those tax revenues.

But let’s take a step back and consider what’s being proposed: funding a transition away from oil by expanding oil production. That makes as much sense as eating more cake to build up strength to go on a diet.

A necessary political compromise?

Garossino’s final argument is that a pipeline in exchange for climate action is a necessary political trade-off. If Trans Mountain doesn’t go forward, she argues, the Liberals will lose the election to the Conservatives, who will cancel the carbon tax and other climate measures in the national plan (all of which I applaud, by the way).

Will the high turnout of young voters that helped propel Trudeau to Sussex Drive in 2015 survive disillusionment over the Trans Mountain approval? Will suburban voters beyond Alberta (which is surely a lost cause for the Liberals) give the Liberals another chance if Trudeau “puts shovels in the ground” for an old-fashioned, resource-extraction megaproject halfway across the country from their own communities? Will opinions on the pipeline even matter to voters beyond Alberta and coastal B.C.?

Those questions will play out depending on the competitiveness of the parties riding by riding. I don’t have access to granular polling, and I doubt Garossino does either.

My bigger concern is a state of affairs where, in the face of arguably the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced, a proposal to expand oil production to fund climate action is the best Canada’s prime minister has to offer.

For decades, politicians have been wary that voters’ concern for the climate is a kilometre wide and a centimetre deep. Liberal and Conservative prime ministers alike have pronounced that “the environment and economy go hand in hand.”

Those reassuring words have allowed Canadians to believe that we can hold our heads high at international climate meetings, even as we continue to prosper from growing exports of heavy oil.

But assurances that we can fix the climate without inconvenience have lulled Canadians into false complacency. In refusing to acknowledge very real trade-offs, Canadian leaders have failed to build voters’ support for even modest measures that are needed to transform Canada’s economy from fossil fuels.

There’s no question a healthy economy and safe climate can go hand in hand. It does not follow that every economy is sustainable. An economy that is increasing long-term dependence on fossil-fuel exports is not consistent with a safe climate.

The prime minister has often insisted Canadians do not have to choose between the economy and the environment. The Trans Mountain expansion project exemplifies the very real choices we face.

Trudeau has made a choice on our behalf, but Canadians should not kid ourselves that building a pipeline is a climate plan.

Keep reading

Garossino: "There's an extraordinarily compelling case to be made for Trudeau's climate plan, and how the TMX pipeline fits into the bigger picture."

No need to lavish praise on your own argument before you even make it. Make your argument — and let readers judge for themselves. Garossino's glowing self-testimonial predicts a lack of substance and rigor in what is to follow.

Garossino: "the global supply chain would simply reshuffle"
"If I don't sell it, someone else will." Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, the classic drug dealer's defence.

The govt is not short of funds for a shift to renewables.
The problem underlined by climate change, fossil fuel pollution, environmental devastation, etc. is that the costs of burning more fossil fuels exceed the benefits. If fossil fuels generated net wealth, no need to shift away.

Fossil-fuel boosters would have us believe that the path to renewable energy and a sustainable future runs through a huge spike in fossil-fuel combustion and emissions.
Yes, let's double down on fossil fuels so we can fund action on climate change. Let's sell munitions to fund world peace. Expand the tobacco industry to build cancer clinics. Let the govt sell crack cocaine to build rehab clinics. We need a healthy asbestos industry so we can fund research into mesothelioma.
Pure sophistry. This disingenuous argument completely ignores reality. In fact, the opposite will happen.

The proponents of this argument never explain how and when the shift to renewables would ever take place. If previous fossil fuel revenues did not boost public investment in renewables, why would that change in future?
In fact, expanding fossil fuel infrastructure locks in fossil fuels for decades and DELAYS renewables. If the oil industry goes all out to protect its profits now and obstructs climate action, how much more will it resist once it expands its investment? Feeding the fossil-fuel monster only whets its appetite.
Govts are not now and have never been short of funds for renewables and sustainable infrastructure. It is a matter of political will and priorities. Governments have simply chosen to invest their resources elsewhere. Including on fossil fuel subsidies. There is no reason to believe that will change anytime soon.
Govts are throwing billions of dollars in subsidies at the fossil fuel industry. One solution is to divert those funds to renewables or end energy subsidies altogether.
Headline from June: "Feds spend $275 million on $40-billion LNG Canada project, including cash to buy gas turbines"

Who believes that if we just give the industry more money and more power that it will voluntarily surrender its profits and cease operations?
Industry-captured politicians and governments serve industry. Therein lies the problem.
The solution is to break the economic power and political stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. More of the same just gets us more of the same.
The answer is to put the real, full, true price on pollution. Climate change is the biggest market failure in history. Market failure requires a market solution.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Naomi Oreskes (CBC Radio, Sep 14, 2017): "It's such an idiotic argument, it's really hard to give a rational answer to it. If you are building pipelines, you're committing yourself to another 30, 50, 75, 100 years of fossil fuel infrastructure. If we're really serious about decarbonizing our economy, it means we have to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure."

Garossino's campaign for TMX is hopelessly disingenuous.

All good counter-arguments to Garossino's fluff "Liberal Party" spin piece.
And they don't even get into the lack of markets for the tar crud, the catastrophic effects of the when, not if bitumen spill in the Salish Sea (or a river), and the blatant disregard for reconciliation and the rights of affected First Nations on unceded lands who will never consent.

Thank you Kathryn Harrison! Brilliantly put.

Thank you for an excellent response to Garissino's trash. Much as the Conservatives will undo any positive measures and ignore the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas production, Trudeau shouldn't get a free ride by way of response. Spouting platitudes as Trudeau does will not fix the problem and in some ways makes it worse. At least it would be plain to see that Canada isn't even trying to meet its Paris targets.

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau have lost any credibility. They pander to the Oil giants, the backroom bullies, the polluters, while pretending to have strong ethical principles. If the NDP and the Greens joined forces, there could be a spark of excitement among voters, but we all know that a coalition is a long way from happening.

With the appearance of the Garosino article, I thought I'd lost my favourite Canadian online news source .
Welcome back to scientific sanity and away from yet another timorous counting of beans. Trudeau is in the hands of Bay Street's handlers as proven by last year's moral slippage on electoral reform and purchase of a pipeline without the consent of anyone who's followed the evidence-based science of atmospheric survivalists.

You'll never shut down oil consumption by attempting to shut down oil production. The "drug dealers argument" in fact has 70 years of rock-solid historical fact behind it: even making the stuff illegal and putting producers in jail did nothing but drive the price up (a little) and stimulate the creation of cheaper alternatives (crack).

You'll shut down oil consumption by providing oil alternatives. That will take enormous amounts of money for new infrastructure (the motor inside every car, boat and aircraft counts as societal infrastructure), quite a lot of it for energy.

As Prof. Vaclav Smil puts it, "Every wind turbine ever built, was made of steel smelted with coal, put in a hole dug by a backhoe burning diesel, filled with concrete baked with natural gas."

We cannot build the Green New World with the technologies of the future, because it isn't here yet. We must use the technologies we have. Everybody should focus on reducing consumption, it's the only thing that keeps carbon from getting in the air. Attempting to reduce production doesn't work; if it did, it would just drive the price up a bit and stimulate the next discovery after "fracking" - the invention responsible for literally millions of barrels a day of production shifting from Asia and Africa back to North America, and a sharp drop in price.

We can reduce consumption a *little* with personal sacrifice and efficiency, but not nearly enough. We can only reduce it enough by building alternatives.

The "necessary political compromise" is a world-wide problem. Ask Macron about increasing diesel prices.

What do you think a glut of fossil fuels will do? Cheap fossil fuels displace and delay renewables.

You wrote: "The 'drug dealers argument' in fact has 70 years of rock-solid historical fact behind it: even making the stuff illegal and putting producers in jail did nothing but drive the price up (a little) and stimulate the creation of cheaper alternatives (crack)."

The "drug dealers argument" does not hold up in court. It's not a valid defence.
Bans on asbestos, PCBs, DDT, CFCs, and restricting tobacco availability and advertising to youth all work.

You put your finger on it: "… stimulate the creation of cheaper alternatives (crack)"
Carbon pricing depresses supply and demand at the same time -- and "stimulate the creation of cheaper alternatives". A realistic carbon price works at both ends. Carbon pricing is both a supply- and demand-side solution. Making it more expensive to produce fossil fuels and to consume them. Making renewables the preferred option that much sooner. Accelerating the shift.

Of course, the goal is to reduce demand at the same time. Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry also obstructs demand-side solutions, e.g., by opposing carbon taxes and lobbying against renewables. Big Oil continues to obstruct climate action and create delay to protect profits.
-Big Oil just spent millions of dollars on a campaign to defeat a carbon tax plan in Washington State.
-Fossil fuel and utility companies spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to shut out renewables from the market.
-Millions of dollars more on climate-change-denial campaigns.
-Millions more on lobbying to delay or weaken regulations.

"In the three years since world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on reducing GHG emissions, the world’s 5 largest oil & gas companies have spent more than $1 billion on misleading branding and lobbying related to climate change."
"Oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion undermining climate action since 2015, report says" (National Observer, March 21st 2019)

If you want to cut demand, tell the fossil fuel industry to cease its obstruction. Then there would be no need for supply-side solutions.
Otherwise, we need to use all levers at our disposal to reduce emissions.

The optimal solution is to put the real, true, full price on fossil fuel pollution. Remove all subsidies. The flow of capital will shift rapidly. Energy markets will be transformed overnight.
But critics of supply-side climate policies also tend to be the loudest opponents of demand-side policies like carbon taxes. Fossil fuel boosters oppose all significant action on climate change. Since the fossil fuel industry also resists carbon pricing, govt must pursue other means.
A portfolio of supply-side and demand-side policies is effective in other policy areas (e.g., curbing tobacco use). No reason not to use both arms of the scissors.

"It’s time to think seriously about cutting off the supply of fossil fuels" (Vox, May 31, 2018)

Roy Brander wrote: "We cannot build the Green New World with the technologies of the future, because it isn't here yet."

The shift to renewables will take as long as we choose. We can make the transition slower or faster. What we cannot afford to do is delay for decades by doubling down on fossil fuels.

Global investment in renewables is ALREADY outpacing investment in new fossil fuel power projects.
This trend will continue if only because renewables already beat new fossil fuel projects on cost.
Progress would accelerate even faster if not for the intransigence of the fossil fuel industry.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) New Energy Outlook 2019:
"Wind and solar are now cheapest across more than two-thirds of the world. (2019)
By 2030 they undercut coal and gas almost everywhere.
Batteries, gas peakers and dynamic demand help wind and solar reach more than 80% penetration in some markets.
They can do that without additional subsidies for solar and wind."

"By 2050, solar and wind will supply almost 50% of the world’s electricity, with hydro, nuclear and other renewable energy resources providing another 21%. Coal will be the biggest loser in the power sector, with its share of global generation plunging from 37% today to 12% in 2050.
… BNEF forecasts that many nations can cut power-sector emissions through 2030 in line with goals set in Paris to limit the increase in world temperatures to 2 C. And they can do that WITHOUT additional subsidies for solar and wind, BNEF said.
Since 2010, the cost of wind power has dropped by 49%, and solar has plummeted 85%, according to BNEF. That makes them cheaper than new coal or gas plants in two-thirds of the world. Battery storage costs have dropped 85% since 2010."
"The World Will Get Half Its Power From Wind, Solar by 2050" (Bloomberg, June 18, 2019)

"Renewables are winning the economics battle against new coal and gas, stunning study shows"
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported on Tuesday that renewables are now the cheapest form of new electricity generation across two thirds of the world — cheaper than both new coal and new natural gas power.
Yet just 5 years ago, renewables were the cheapest source of new power in only 1% of the world, explains BNEF in its New Energy Outlook 2019.
Equally remarkable, BNEF projects that by 2030, wind and solar will "undercut existing coal and gas almost everywhere."
In other words, within a decade it will be cheaper to build and operate new renewable power plants than it will be to just keep operating existing fossil fuel plants — even in the U.S.."
(Think Progress, 2019)

My comment was too long as it was. (A lot of ground to cover.) Your TWO notes were definitely TL;DR, sorry.

I'm not sure how you think a pipeline causes a "glut" while ignoring the drop from $140 to $50 that resulted from a deliberate Saudi plan to drive the frackers broke, but failed because frackers found even more economies. That had about a thousand times the effect of a pipeline. You're looking in the wrong place for a solution.

There. That's what a brief comment looks like.

Straw man. I never claimed that one pipeline creates a global oil glut. If oil producers follow Canada's example and boost production, that creates a glut. We saw the results in 2014. Future price crashes will be even tougher on Alberta.

Comments are too long? How did you make it through Dr. Seuss's "The Cat in the Hat"?
I'll gladly read lengthy factual informative comments including supporting quotations from relevant sources over logical fallacies, invented facts, simplistic slogans, and one-sentence climate myths. Debunking always takes more space.

Thanks, Geoffrey.

Thanks, Kathryn, for laying out those very good arguments. I wondered if Ms. Garossino's arguments were made to stimulate refutations, or to highlight the contradictions between the "official story" and the facts offered by her own writers' articles.

FWIW, I've many times sent e-mails asking for numbers: to the PM, the ministers in charge of environment, climate change, resources and oceans, my MP and other parties' critics. Because the devil is always in the details. I got only canned replies.
It's bad enough that we don't have the $$ figures, but emissions figures are completely absent from any government rationales, as though they're beside the point.

Trudeau promised taxpayers that the "gas tax" will be returned to them as refundable tax credits; unless he can miraculously spend the same money twice, there's nothing there to be used on climate change initiatives.
Clearly he's not one to recall subsidies to the oilpatch, which *would* in fact free up existing $$ for clean conversion ... and make the big-polluting users at least pay for their own use. But they, like the FF industry, pass on costs to consumers, anyway. So where's there any actual incentive, anywhere?

Of course, nothing prevents the FF industry from moving into development of clean energy, does it? But given their lies (clean coal, clean oil, safe pipelines/shipping), who should trust them to use clean energy subsidies for actually clean energy? And it's become clear Canada has no effective laws around truth in advertising.

For all the PR the feds keep giving us about being "world climate leaders," we just are not. We *do* rank high up on some lists. Canada produces 1.6 times world-wide per capita GWGs. And the tarsands provinces produce more than double that per capita "share" of Canadian GWGs. Not to mention virtually cancelling out completely virtually all the emissions reductions of the rest of the provinces, (pretty much on target for 2020 goals), including some already close to 2030 targets.
That's using FF industries' GWG emissions numbers (shown to err on the "wrong" side); that's not counting methane emissions; that's not counting the huge CO2 output of wild fires.
Worse, many countries produce far below average per capita emissions, some below per capita 1.5C goals already. To get a fix on real WG contributions we'd have to learn to count all our GWGs, and then compare the stats of fully industrialized nations -- and there, we fare far worse, both in totals and reductions.

Let's just hope other insurers follow Zurich Insurance's lead, and refuse to insure any new GWG expenditures, and make TMX construction (and new LNG projects) uninsurable, making political "leaders'" promises moot.

As for Trudeau's pledge to offer multinationals operating in Canada subsidies for their reductions worldwide, there's an old maxim I hold to: Sweep your own doorstep first."

All of which begs the whole issue of credibility. One might claim Trudeau really doesn't know the truth, one might claim he's saving the banks and the pension funds. But the extent of his backing down on election promises (on the strength of which he won last time around) and outright lying (most famously in re Wilson-Raybould) ... who in their right mind could believe anything that comes out of that sunny-smiling mouth?

JT fears that his puppetmasters will not back him & he will not win the election if he doesn't get the pipeline going. Now there is an organization in Canada wanting in on the pipeline revenues at 51%, so the money he said that would go to green energy....will not.

Wow. Thanks, Dr. Harrison, for this succinct and powerful rebuttal of Ms. Garrossino's presentation of the Liberals' claims for their climate change "plan." And thanks, National Observer, for providing a public forum for such excellent contributions to political and policy debates. The argument that we must finance the building of the new, post-carbon economy by prolonging the life of the old, fossil-fuelled one must, I think, also be countered by pointing to the alternatives. Financing the green transition calls for some major fiscal reforms as well as a turn to public banks. Capturing corporate and private income wealth that is currently evading taxation, increasing top marginal tax rates, and eliminating government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are all necessary measures. Public ownership of new green sectors should be on the table for consideration, as it will permit us to capture all of the revenue from, e.g., renewable energy generation. New work on the use of democratically-governed public banks and their potential role in green investment should be getting more attention. We need to be working on all options to generate the revenue and loan capital needed to accelerate the replacement of fossil fuels with renewables and energy conservation, as well as investment in other green sectors and human services. Another reason to do so is to generate ecologically sustainable livelihoods, income security, and a good quality of life at a much faster pace. Right now, the populist far right parties are exploiting conditions of structural unemployment, precarity, and uncertainty to promote their xenophobic, ultra-nationalist agendas. In Alberta, the UCP holds out the (false) promise of a return to the "boom" years of 2000-2014, based on oil and gas exports. To counter this parochial, hopeless nostalgia for a past that will not (and must not) come again, we need a program of concrete alternatives. Phasing out the oil sands calls for a national strategy that includes a just transition for workers.

I have read the K. Harrison article , the original Garissino article which sparked the Harrison one and the Geoffrey Pounder response to both. I agree with Harrison and Pounder that jacking up oil production, particularly of that tarry crap from Fort Mac, in order to raise funds to further alternatives is broken logic . BUT, guys! Give your heads a shake! It’s POLITICS that we are expecting to solve this crisis ! “ The art of the possible” as someone put it. The old pat-my - back , I’ll -pat -yours-shuffle. You know that Trudeau can’t just ignore the ENTIRE PROVINCE of Alberta with all those votes. And not just the provincial residents! There’s all the small 3,5,10,20-person companies across the entire country that provide services, materials, expertise etc. to the oil industry . In every province . The tentacles of the industry reach far into the nation. Which brings me to my main point; there has to be a PLAN!!! Trudeau’s plan is ,maybe, a start. But he has to deal with the political realities. I speak of the reality inhabited by the “little guy”. All of is across the country who are largely ignored by not only the politicians but by that portion of the citizenry that enjoys an income in excess of $60,000 a year gross . We are the unheard. While you theorists are expounding on the applicability of this or that and proposing better ways for the Feds to spend the tax money, WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT TO THE NEXT PAYCHEQUE! I live in small-town Nova Scotia, almost rural, in fact. Taxes are lower here than in the towns. But I have to drive 20 km to work. And another 20 back home. Hardly anyone can just walk to work like my dad did 50 years ago. I borrowed heavily to install a heat pump because my electric baseboards cost me $300 a month to heat my 1100 sq. ft. house. It saved me $100 a month but now NS Power wants to jack up my bill at least 2.5 per cent a year for the next 3 years. Has had increased and decreased weekly but I know that over time the trend will be upward. Food is on the rise: try as we might, groceries for our three family members is routinely at least $ 120-135 a week. My car is 15 years old. My kids pay their entire university tuition with part-time jobs and student loans. The NS Student Loan people didn’t even bother asking for parental contributions. My entire family clothes itself by shopping at Frenchy’s used clothing stores. Our underwear and socks come to us as Christmas presents. And we are WELL OFF compared to a lot of others.
We don’t have alternatives! You talk about electric cars( $35,000 to $60,000 or more !) ,Solar panels on roofs( $200-&400 a panel) , and the list goes on. Stuff we can’t afford.
A lot of us know the situation is bad and getting worse. We live in tune with the natural roles and we note the changes in climate and weather patterns. We’re not stupid! We know something has to be done but WE NEED AFFORDABLE ALTERNATIVES! We still have to get to work! Eat! Clothe ourselves!
A lot of men and women from “down east here” work in Fort Mac or Calgary or Alberta generally because they can support their families with the “big money” to be made out there. A lot of others pulled up stakes and moved out there to put down roots where the money was good. Any plan for getting off oil( a patently clear and urgent necessity ! ) has to start with figuring out how you retrain someone who is making $100,000 at a camp or $18-20 an hour at Tim Hortons , what do you retrain them for and how do you convince them their standard of living won’t nosedive ! There’s a Michelin plant ten minutes away from my home. A guy who went to work there 25 years ago told me about year ten of his tenure there that” It’s tough there, shift work and bad air and what-not but it’s better than pumping gas like I did before!” There’a a lot of that kind of don’t look back , it might get you attitude out there, too.
You can’t just talk about getting off oil or cutting subsidies or taxing the wrong people, the little guy. Discourse , serious discourse., means including EVERYONE in the conversation and the planning because , sure as hell, we will be the ones most drastically affected by any rash move by the big shots! Give us affordable alternatives! Make the big boys pay, not the little guy ! Make a plan that includes all! And Ms. Harrison, I sure you didn’t mean to imply that you were OK with Mr. Scheer forming the next government! Were you?

Good points. Except Liberal seats in AB are probably forfeit anyway. Albertans would not credit Trudeau even if he built a billion pipelines. Trudeau stands to lose even more seats in the Lower Mainland.

No one ever suggested that we shut down the oilsands tomorrow and throw thousands of people out of work.
The plan has always been a managed decline of the industry: a phase-out over time with a just transition for workers. Oilsands expansion takes us in the wrong direction.
Indeed, both the AB and federal govts have come up with transition plans for coal workers. Neither govt has devised a similar plan for the oil industry.

Why hasn't the AB Govt come up with a "just transition" for oil workers?
That question was put to Premier Notley at the AB Teachers' Association meeting Oct 13, 2018:

Q) "You talked about the coal industry and how you have a plan for supporting those industry workers til 2030 when it becomes kind of obsolete I suppose. I'm just wondering is there is a plan long-range to support the oil industry as it, I mean yes it will grow in 20 years but it may start to deplete but what is the plan there?"

Notley's response: "With the coal plan, because we very definitively said we're phasing out coal by this day and we identified the plans and we knew what was going to change as a result of our policy we were able to identify the workers who were going to be impacted and so we put together a just transition plan, roughly $40 million dollars that's set aside. With respect to the energy industry it's a slower process, I actually believe that should [we] be successful in getting this pipeline built as well as the other two that I think the industry itself is going to be able to fund its own transition, support its workers, provide other opportunities. We, of course, all many of us, suffered significant losses in 2015-2016 because of the price drop and the commodity drop and it wasn't just oil workers, it was the people who's jobs depended on oil workers to have, you know, money so since that time we've done a number of things to stimulate economic growth and to try to find and to try to support those workers. As you probably know since last year, last summer 2016 the Alberta economy has created 90 000 new jobs so we are making good headway there but there's no question that the other thing that's going to support workers in the oil and gas industry is the ability to support the industry as it transitions itself to a smarter way of doing business and finds new roles for the workers there. So, that's sort of my answer."
GP: Notley doesn't have a just transition plan for the oil industry, because she neither envisions nor supports a phase-out or decline of AB oil production. Her notion that the industry is going to manage and fund its own transition is laughable.

Someone else commented:
"There have been plans mooted for gainfully employing oil and gas workers to clean up the huge mess on the land left by the oil and gas sector. Here is one of them:
The Notley NDP had an obligation to present that honest appraisal when they were first elected and then develop a realistic plan to cope with the future including putting in place the Stelmach royalty review findings. They blew that generational opportunity and now Kenney is trying to turn the clock back to the 1970s."

Hi Glenn,

First to say that there are no easy answers and cast great suspicion on anyone telling you that such unicorns exist.

Having said that, everything is relative - compared to folks south of our border we're pretty darn lucky to have our healthcare and accessible uni for our kids. Move south one more border and you'll find people fleeing their homelands with just the clothes on their backs and crossing rivers and deserts at great risk to do so.

And having said all of that, full disclosure, I haven't yet walked in your shoes yet either - my car isn't 15 years old yet, and my kids aren't in uni yet. But what I'm really hoping for, as we tackle this climate emergency is that we can all share the burden equally. That it won't just be you, or me - it will be the bank manager, the factory owner and the prime minister his or herself that will put the shoulder to this. I think at this point that that is the only way that we will get done "what is required".

I find two problems with this discussion.
We are focusing on the economic and energy issues relating to bitumen as though this 'climate emergency' business isn't real. Is it real or not? Are we facing an existential threat or not? Do we have 11 years to cut our overall emissions by half and then a scant 20 more to become carbon free - or not?

If we are in a climate emergency then the whole foundation of this discussion is flawed. As Churchill, who knew a few things about emergencies, put it, "Sometimes it is not enough to do our best. We must do what is required."

We know what is required but we seemingly lack the will to do what is so critical. We shirk and squirm and look for something, anything that will take us off the hook, delay action, kick the problem down the road.

We know that 85 per cent of proven fossil reserves, the global reserve, must be left in the ground if we're to have a decent chance of averting catastrophic climate change. How can anyone make the case for ramping up production and export of the highest-carbon fuels whether thermal coal or bitumen.
It is our bad luck that our hydrocarbon bounty is not low-carbon. There is no alchemy to change that. For the sake of our grandkids, for the sake of their peers around the world, the high-carbon fuels must be left safely sequestered in the ground.

The second problem I see is this debate about the prime minister's claims that flooding the world with toxic, high-carbon, low-value bitumen is what will fund our green future.

The obvious problem is that Mr. Trudeau is simply not credible. He buys votes by telling us what we most want to hear and, once he has those votes, ignores his promises. How is it possible to have a useful debate over what he says?

His vaunted carbon tax? Those who crunch these numbers opine that, to be effective, that tax would have to be in the range of $130 to $140 per tonne. What is this government's initiative - 25 per cent of that minimum threshold? That's laughable. And to be effective it would have to be levied on fossil fuel exports also. No chance of that. It's a Potemkin measure at best and a reflection of this prime minister's sincerity.

Eventually we will have to pay an enormous price for refusing to do what is required. Our day of reckoning is probably at least a couple of decades off. Others are not so lucky. The global warming we seem bent on worsening is already bringing dislocation, suffering and death to the poorest and most vulnerable humans in far off parts of this planet. We may not treat them as our fellow humans but they are. It is telling that their plight is never a factor when Canadians debate our energy policy. What does that say about us?

I agree completely. Mother Nature doesn't give a fig about human constructs, like words, it simply reacts to what we are doing right now, not what we promise to or intend to, or try to, or to attempt what we feel is politically possible, but to what we actually do.

Right now we're dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, and having crested 411 ppm this past May, are showing no signs of letting up. And though we shouldn't be surprised about will come next, many will be. It seems that at a basic philosophic level most humans believe that we are somehow above and separated from nature - that it has somehow been created for us by a higher power, to endlessly exploit.

It should be obvious to everyone that this could not possibly be the case. And yet here we are. And this is what we're arguing about - how an existential crisis will magically allow us to negotiate with it.

Trudeau has no credibility on this file. Who does? Maybe Elizabeth May. But one person cannot unwind all that is broken in the last fifty years that has marching, like indoctrinated zombies towards a cliff. Twenty years from now as the ground speeds towards us, will some of us still have time to build wings, or will we just flap our lips and arms as we are presently doing, or maybe just prefer as others are also presently, to turn over and look up, hopefully, at the sky?

I would like to leave a link to David Corn's piece in Mother Jones today, "It's the end of the world as they know it."

Corn writes about the psychological burden being endured by climate scientists who see what should be a serious climate debate being captured by those who would turn it into an energy matter. As they watch us ignore them they're burning out, falling into depression or worse.

One of them has a term for the sort of discussion we're having here, "bystanderism." It is applied to people who claim to get climate science but refuse to act on it. If you go to Parliament Hill on both sides of the aisle in the Commons bystanderism prevails.

As a lay person I stay in touch with a few climate scientists. I had read that they're open and accessible and they are. They seem eager to discuss their science, answer questions, offer insights to anyone willing to reach out to them. One of these is Colombian-born Camilo Mora who heads a climate research lab at the University of Hawaii. The Mora lab has produced some amazing research.

I mention him because I want to leave this one comment that I believe we need to have in our minds when we so airily debate Canada's bitumen economy:

"In the first world, people don’t know how rich they are, and they don’t realize what is happening in the rest of the world. And for me that’s a driving force. It’s scary to think about climate change because when we start damaging physical systems and the carrying capacity of physical systems to produce food, people will react to this in a terrible way. I’m telling you, I have seen it in my own country."

I'm not there yet, but not as far off as I once was, back in the days when James Hansen was first raising alarm bells. Back then it felt like a problem that we could easily solve with some moderate political will and a few course corrections here and there, and that our political leaders would meet and agree and be up to the task. It felt like we were collectively smart enough, and that provided we kept working away, living our lives and voting thoughtfully that we had enough runway and enough would be done in time to avert catastrophe.

First Mr. Mulroney and then Mr. Chretien's Liberals talked a good game, but did, essentially, nothing. For a decade. And then along came Mr. Harper, who seemed so focussed on the day-to-day calculus of pumping up his base and 'winning' now, without any thought of anything more distant than the next election cycle. And another decade passed. And it occurred to many of us, now much more concerned, that our current crop of politicians were in no way interested in legacy, only just for winning now, for power now's sake. And that our governing system had been so far gamed in favour of executive power that parliament was not so much a chamber of equals than a show put on by the executive in which facts no longer mattered. And that folks had become so sick of having to vote against something to have their votes count, and lobbyists influence so strong that the policies of the natural governing parties were so strikingly similar, they differed mostly only in tone, that they had lost faith in their ability to change the game and address climate in any substantive way.

And then along came electoral reform - a chance at renewal and re-levelling. And who would have believed it could even be part of an electoral platform and then even part of a winner's mandate?

And then what happened? An earnest effort by a few followed by a bunch of Machiavellian crap and some shameful finger pointing and an even more shameful lack of leadership. That was the moment when I lost hope that we had a political leader in this country with the wherewithal to fix this.

Since then I've been dreading election day. What to do? Waste a vote on principle? Vote for least worst? Vote against worst? I'm sure that the Liberals are hoping on the latter. And for many of us they may be right. That doesn't make me any less depressed, any less angry. And a Liberal win would not lessen my current dread a single bit.

As I see it, the only way out now is for all parties to stop treating this as a partisan issue and develop common, agreed upon policy and strategy. Wouldn't that be a sane, though apparently novel way to address an existential threat?

Let the partisans continue to play their machiavellian games but somehow keep them away from climate, take that off the table and leave the policy and action that will save the world for our children to the experts.

That is actually precisely what the Green Party's Mission:Possible proposes: a unity, all-parties cabinet to deal with the crisis.