It has been an interesting week. On the morning of May 6, I held a press conference in West Block before the weekly in-person session of Parliament opened. I spoke about how virtual Parliament is working, and Green recommendations to make it work better.

When we got to questions, the first one was CBC’s Julie Van Dusen. She asked about a possible bailout to Big Oil. And I explained that the evidence was coming in thick and fast that oil’s day was done. And she zeroed in on: “Are you saying oil is dead?”

“Yes,” I said, “oil is dead.” I went on, at length, about concerns for the people of Alberta. I stressed the need to invest in Alberta and to diversify its economy. Just the day before, the CFO of Royal Dutch Shell had told shareholders that the demand for oil “might never come back.” I didn’t think it should be a surprise that investing in the oilsands was not something our government should do.

Of course, it is something the Liberals promised never to do in the 2015 election campaign. It was something former prime minister Stephen Harper promised to stop in 2009 at the G20 summit in Cincinnati.

Still, the assumption from media seems to be that it is only a matter of time before the feds roll over and give Big Oil $20 billion. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is so used to calling the shots that it had the gall to ask for huge levels of financial bailout, plus weakened environmental protections, and getting rid of Lobbying Act requirements.

What seems to be ignored in the way in which we talk about such a bailout is that economists fear that bailing out Big Oil will worsen our chances of economic recovery post-COVID-19. And no one wants to point out it will worsen our chances for the survival of human civilization.

Within hours, and then for days, I have been attacked as though I had declared war on Alberta and its citizens. No surprise really. Premier Jason Kenney attacked me as “divisive.” Heartlessly kicking Alberta when it was down. Gerry Butts tweeted that I was being “mean.” Numerous Conservative politicians, including one MP, said my goal was to “destroy Canada.” And I avert my eyes from the invective on social media.

I was not making a prediction. I was not expressing an opinion. I was reading the writing on the wall.

Reporters defending the oilpatch, such as CTV’s Molly Thomas on “Power Play,” said that the oil and gas sector is 11 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Amazing. The reality is that it is 5.6 per cent of GDP.

"I was not making a prediction. I was not expressing an opinion. I was reading the writing on the wall." Elizabeth May

People claimed I was ignoring a workforce of 500,000. The workforce is large and important, but actually it is 169,000. And to the exaggerations, I must add that frequently repeated claim that the oil and gas sector results in around $8 billion annually in taxes. The accurate figure is around $2 billion (combined federal and provincial revenues).

So against an onslaught of oil and gas propaganda, I keep trying to get out the facts.

The International Energy Agency report this week was stunning. The only energy commodity not being pummelled in the pandemic is renewable energy. Sure, it would have done better if not for COVID-19, but the market forces are clearly moving away from fossil fuels. Global demand for coal, oil and gas is plummeting. And so are the prices for oil and gas. The only energy product in demand is renewable energy, which will grow 5 per cent in 2020 to produce 30 per cent of the world’s electricity by year end.

More writing on the wall came from a massive study released by the Oxford Review of Economic Policy. A team of economists, with lead authors Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Nicholas Stern, interviewed more than 200 experts from central banks and economic policy and energy analysts from G20 countries. They took all the information they gathered, laid out against measurable indicators, to determine the strongest economic policy to avoid a deep post-pandemic depression. Their prescription for post-pandemic recovery is to invest in renewable energy and retrofitting buildings to maximize energy efficiency. Trying to support fossil fuels would be far less effective.

So maybe, oil is not dead. Maybe, like Farm Boy in The Princess Bride, it is only mostly dead. Maybe Miracle Max can save it.

But if we are in the business of working on miracles, let’s make them good ones: eliminate poverty, guarantee food security, ensure decent working conditions and fair wages for our front-line workers, re-localize our economy and rely on energy sources that won’t destroy our future.

We’re at a critical moment. It is time to read the writing on the wall

Keep reading

The article provides some good information. The comments on Oil and fossil fuels in general are interesting; however, suggest there is a much better way to sell the movement away from fossil fuels. I believe we need a solid effort to put a plan in place to begin moving away from fossil fuels. The planning and action needs to start in earnest now not tomorrow. All we seem to get at the moment is words and more words, not solid action. This current economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 is providing an excellent opportunity to take positive action. Canada has spent many millions on pipelines. This money will be wasted if the projects are not completed. They must be the last projects of this kind. No new projects need to be started in the oil sands. The political parties in this country all need to get on side and push government to develop legislation that encourages industry to invest in renewable energy.

Now is the time to get on with the transitioning away from fossil fuels.

I fully agree with John Atkinson. The problem I have always had with Elizabeth May "reading the writing on the wall," is that her reading leaves significant gaping holes in her understanding of the complexity of a transition from oil to renewables.
For example, as US scientist Stan Cox points out: "A leakproof, declining cap on fossil fuels is a necessary step to constrain global warming and stabilize the ecosphere, but doing so will have huge economic repercussions..." In his new book, 'The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can", Cox outlines achievable ideas for a climate solution that addresses glaring gaps in most transition articles, including those by dodgy Green New Deal enthusiasts; and, dare I say, by commentary from politicians who are long on advice and very short on a responsible, "Big Picture" understanding of the complexity of our existential crisis.
An excerpt from Cox's book is available on my website under the title "Why we must quickly transition from fossil fuels, and how it can be done with a Green New Deal" . (ShortLink: )

The money already spent is wasted already, whether or not the pipelines are ever finished.
So is the money spent on purchasing the existing pipeline, whose capacity has since some time before COVID-19 not been fully subscribed.
What isn't moot is the current situation and future expenditures. Neither is defensible in terms of greening the nation's energy supply.
Real numbers are important. So is reckoning whys and wherefores: it'll be hard to get uneducated 'sands workers to understand they were being paid for the job, not for their value as human beings.
I remember when 500,000 industrial jobs were lost in S.Ontario, in less than a year, at the same time as jobs all across the country dissolved. That was before the internet, let alone before social media, and many people never knew that what hit them was any different from anything before.
What my generation remembers is that one's fortunes rise and fall on the tides of work for humans. It's hard for the quite-young-and-well-paid (overly so, some might say) to understand (let alone accept) that in the whole scheme of things, they, individually, were never important ... it was the role, not the man, and when the role's are all gone, the play's over.

While the argument might be made that some oil will still be needed, its worldwide market has shrunk considerably. The players that continue in this game will no longer include Alberta's expensive bitumen producing enterprises. Canada has a history of hedging its bets when it comes to oil. Recent spending by the federal and Alberta governments for fossil fuel companies and pipelines is $20B+. These billions of dollars could have be used to create jobs and help get us out of a looming recession/depression. Instead our governments continue to squander money on a dying industry.

The NRCan site to which we are directed appears to contradict Ms May’s numbers.
“In 2018, Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 282,000 people and indirectly supported over 550,500 jobs
Canada’s energy sector accounts for over 10% of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Government revenues from energy were $14.1 billion in 2017“

The oil industry is not synonymous with Canada’s energy sector.
CAPP and oily politicians frequently conflate oil & gas with the energy sector as a whole — inflating oil & gas stats by taking credit for contributions from other sectors, such as nuclear, hydro, coal, and renewables.

The table "Employment in Canada’s energy sector" indicates 169,358 jobs (0.9% of the total) for oil & gas.
The graphic "Energy’s nominal GDP contribution for Canada" indicates 5.6% direct contribution to GDP from oil & gas.
As NRCan states, "Oil and gas extraction’s contribution diminished to 30% [of the energy sector's total] in 2018 with utilities increasing their share, representing 29% of energy tax revenue and $2.1 billion."
30% of the energy sector's total amounts to $2.17 billion (against average annual govt operating revenues of $152 billion in the five-year interval 2013-2017).

Ms. May's amended figures are correct.

Your NRC stats are used as propaganda. "Energy" is a word that should never be used as a proxy for "fossil fuels." Hydro, wind, nuclear and solar power are not fossil fuels, yet they are classified and measured as energy.

The Bank of Canada calculated that Alberta's oil industry contributed only 3.4% to Canada's GDP in late 2019. That figure was a pre-glut ~6%, and a sub 3% pandemic level today. The glut was, in an important way, created by Alberta overproduction before 2014, itself a product of mismanagement in that there was rampant concurrent US shale production that every industry analyst saw, but failed to plan for and inevitable downward slope in prices. They missed basic Econ 101.

Good on Elizabeth May for telling truth to power. Isn't that the media's job?
Alarming that Canada's mainstream media parrot CAPP's propaganda (lies). The oil lobby and industry-captured politicians shamelessly exaggerate the oil & gas industry's contribution to the economy and govt revenues, while disregarding (externalizing) health and environmental costs. When the bought-and-paid-for media join in on this deception, we no longer have a functional press. Hopelessly irresponsible.

Doug and the destroyers here in Ontario, along with literally ripping out completed wind turbines and setting us up for massive law suits, just finalized buying 3 gas plants from TC energy for $3B dollars on April 29. That purchase didn't even make the news. that's how the owned-by-the-rich media do-not-report-on gifts-to big business rolls. Can you imagine if Doug had invested $3B in retrofitting homes?? the fuss that would have gone up.
I am left with only schadenfreude hopes to comfort me that Doug will be left holding the bag when the gas (selling well below cost now) industry implodes this year or next. Conservatives must pay for their woo woo magical thinking that fossil fuels are the way to a solid future society. Or will we start shovelling money to the gas industry next to keep it going rather than buying cheap and much less polluting hydro from Quebec?? Doug recently rebuffed that offer which would have saved the tax payer/citizens of Ontario much for efficiencies----VERY selective application of that criteria eh Doug/ bankers?
I understand that at today's price, heating a home with gas should cost $25 a YEAR
I don't think Enbridge has gotten the memo yet. My monthly bill is still over $200
Looking forward to that efficiency. :)

The key number missing from the "oil is dead" statement is what expected year it is dead? It may be dead possibly 50 or 100 years from now if ever. There is some basic facts that prove oil and gas will be around for a very long time. Canada alone has 35 million registered vehicles with about 2 million new car sales per year. Not sure the percentage of those are electric but it is a long ways from 100%. Do not see planes converting to electric any time soon. Wind and solar both need 100% back up power until extremely significant discoveries are made in storage technology. Even if this storage technology is developed the wind and solar capacity needs to be at 3 times the capacity to develop enough to keep the system charged while they are at low production. This would be thousands of square kilometers of solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines. There is a nice green view for you. Keep in mind that this would be for current requirements. When you add all the extra load currently supplied by oil and gas energy it would be several multiples more.
Anybody use a plastic product today? As you use any plastic product try and consider what other material it could be made of that would not have as low environmental effect as plastic. Once the full effect of some new recycling processes are implemented there will be no other product as environmentally friendly.
Also imagine no Canadian oil production. We would be at the total mercy of foreign oil producers. We are seeing the effects of it right now with low prices. Imagine the effects of high prices.
The employment number is probably correct for the extraction portion of the oil and gas industry. I believe Elizabeth is not including all the processing jobs that are created from oil and gas. This would include all petrochemical production that supplies materials to all types of manufacturing. All rubber production and uses. Fertilizers, paints and coatings, pavement, flooring and carpet and several other whole categories of products. The extraction part of oil and gas is the smallest part.
I am not condoning reckless and uncontrolled production. There is a reasonable and responsible place for oil and gas products.
The only solution for electricity production is nuclear. The new technology coming out in the very near future will be the answer.

Just because the paint I put on my fence yesterday is made partly from petroleum (with a big part of it being perfectly renewable linseed oil) doesn't mean that bitumen will "always" be with us. The common rationale you and other oil industry apologists follow always revert to "oil will be part of the transition" and such logic, so let's see YOUR Transition Plan already.

Those of us who have taken high speed rail in the EU and transferred effortlessly to Metro systems and then to very walkable neighbourhoods know that the future is electric . We lost count of the numbers of wind turbines whipping by in the French countryside by while sipping a post-lunch glass of red on the Eurostar. If farmers were offered additional income for leasing postage stamp-sized pieces of land to wind turbines within 5 km of a high-speed rail and clean power transmission corridor, that affords 10,000 km2 of land per 1,000 km of corridor for wind generators. A no-brainer on the flat, windy Prairies, especially when key technologies are soon released, like cheap liquid metal batteries that are scalable to industrial levels, that level out intermittency to stable base-load, and that have attained stunning performance ratings in the lab for years.

Apparently, high speed rail knocked the majority of short and medium-haul flights out of the sky in the EU decades before this pandemic. City centre-to-city centre travel and extensive networking is so much more convenient than flying, and that is the key in Canada. Pairing up fairly close cities, building more cheaply on the easy geography of the flat Prairies, and taking advantage of the Windsor-Quebec City corridor with a population as large as London-Paris are key considerations.

And EVs? Have you seen the mountainous investment levels sunk into retooling the factories by VW, GM, Toyota and all the other majors? Even during the pandemic, the investments remain, so says companies like GM. What does that tell you?

To most people that signifies as revolution is underway.

I agree that what you propose will work in the GTA to Montreal area where you almost have the population density of France. But for the rest of Canada it is not practical yet. Germany to Spain 1700 km.
Toronto to Vancouver 4600km. Population France, Germany and Spain almost 200 million.
When you look at our country as a whole we do not have the same dynamics as most countries. Compared to the size of our country we have VERY small pockets of medium density population. I don't believe we have any area to be considered high density on a world scale.
Our low population also brings in the very misleading numbers being regularly used. Be aware of the "per capita" numbers. The total amount is the only number that is real and this very seldom referenced because we would actually look very good in the world picture. I believe we are 1.6% of ghg contributions. If you seen a Sale sign that said 1.6% off would that make you rush in for that deal? It is insignificant. But I strongly believe we can contribute to the technological development of the products required to reduce emissions.
Including the further development of our Nuclear energy program. By the way, France backs up most of their Wind and Solar with Nuclear.
Have a great day.