In the face of the climate emergency, this is the time of our Phoney War. Most of us know the battle for our lives must soon get underway, and most of our leaders — in government and industry — are now talking tough on climate. But in deeds, they aren’t there yet.

Among the many barriers we face to a genuine climate emergency plan is a fossil fuel industry that has insidiously used its economic and political power to stall meaningful action. If this story has a villain, it is the oil and gas corporations and their leaders (not their workers) who outright lied for decades about the truth of climate change, and more recently have done everything in their power to systematically delay and divert the need for climate action. The fossil fuel industry, in pursuit of its financial self-interest and preservation, has become expert at preying on our fears, misgivings and desires.

Allow me to add into evidence some recent examples of the “natural” gas industry making mischief with needed climate action. To appreciate why what I’m about to share is so enraging, a little context: Many do not understand that the natural gas we burn in our homes and buildings (for heat, hot water and stoves) is a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs), accounting for roughly 12 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions. Consequently, fuel-switching our buildings to electricity — mainly by means of high-efficiency electric heat pumps and induction electric stoves — represents a vital and urgent piece of decarbonizing our society and driving down GHG emissions. But natural gas utilities are employing a bag of tricks to slow the move to electrify our buildings.

Exhibit A: Political campaigns to block electrification

Two weeks ago, E&E News exposed leaked documents that revealed many of North America’s major gas companies have been scheming to block electrification. Specifically, Eversource Energy, New England’s largest utility, in an industry presentation in March divulged it is the co-lead convener of an alliance with the straight-shooting name, “Consortium to Combat Electrification.” According to one of the leaked slides (shown here), the consortium, established in August 2020 and housed within the Washington, D.C.-based “Energy Solutions Centre,” includes 15 utilities, including two Canadian members — Enbridge (the largest gas provider in Canada, servicing mainly Ontario and Quebec) and FortisBC (British Columbia’s principal gas distributor, serving about 95 per cent of gas users in the province). As B.C. is my home, I’m going to pick on FortisBC for much of this piece, but consider them illustrative.

In a second leaked slide, the consortium notes: “Natural gas (fossil fuel) in for fight of its life.” They are right about that. Hopefully, anyway. But they have no intention of going quietly into the night. Rather, consortium members are exhorted: “Everyone needs to contact legislators in favour of NG (natural gas),” and “Renewable Natural Gas is coming (likely will save NG business).” The slide says partners “have to continue to work together to grow this market.” The messages here cannot be accused of subtlety. They rightly see efforts, particularly at the municipal level, to ban or phase out the use of natural gas in buildings as an existential threat. “The fear of losing market share to non-fossil alternatives terrifies the gas companies,” Greenpeace climate campaigner Keith Stewart wrote in a post about the revelation, “but it should delight the rest of us.”

FortisBC was quick to issue a media release stating the presentation “does not accurately reflect our position on electrification. As a utility with both gas and electric infrastructure, FortisBC sees an important role for both the gas and electric systems to deliver lower-carbon energy to British Columbians. We believe a cleaner future is not an either/or scenario when it comes to energy — it’s ‘all of the above.’ We see gas and electric infrastructures as complementary…” Many of the other consortium members issued similar disclaimers.

But as Stewart notes, the consortium’s PowerPoint presentation “says all the usually quiet bits out loud.” As he told me, “It’s always fascinating to compare the political strategy documents of these companies with what they tell the public. We should not be extending them the benefit of the doubt on any of their green claims.”

Among the many barriers we face to a genuine #ClimateEmergency plan is a fossil fuel industry that has insidiously used its economic and political power to stall meaningful action, writes columnist @SethDKlein. #ClimateAction

FortisBC and Enbridge are regulated monopolies — they are the only companies equipped to deliver gas within their jurisdictions, and as such, we effectively grant them a licence to print money. The gas distribution system in B.C. used to be a Crown corporation until it was privatized in the mid-1980s (Fortis acquired the company from a previous private firm in 2007), which means a good chunk of the core infrastructure was publicly built.

Adding to the frustration, ratepayers in Ontario, Quebec and B.C. are effectively paying for these campaigns to block electrification through their utility bills, whether they like it or not. Heck, we all effectively subsidize this mischief, as contributions to consortiums such as this and related political lobbying efforts are considered a pre-tax business expense, notwithstanding that the lobbying and advertising campaigns seek to block and weaken society’s climate policies.

Exhibit B: Thinking of leaving gas? Think again

Last year, my family made the big switch. We abandoned our gas-fuelled space and water heating, installed an electric heat-pump system, swapped the gas stove for induction electric, and with great pleasure shut down the gas line to our home and cancelled our account with FortisBC. It was a complicated undertaking requiring research and perseverance, and even after provincial and municipal rebates, still expensive. But once done, it felt great — like we’d made an important change that was healthier for our family and better for the planet. And we’d done what the B.C. government wants people to do — fuel-switching is central to the province meeting its CleanBC climate plan target.

But then, a few months later, we received the letter below from FortisBC. Well, the red ink text we added, in an irate effort to “fix” the letter and share it — widely ­— on social media.

Causing FortisBC some grief on social media was satisfying. But the question remains — why the hell is Fortis sending letters like this to households that have just done what the B.C. and city governments are asking people to do (and contributing thousands of dollars in rebates encouraging them to do so)? Indeed, why is Fortis permitted to send such letters?

Exhibit C: Efficiency over fuel-switching

Fortis isn’t merely trying to win customers back. It is vigorously doing what it can to keep them from leaving gas in the first place. Ironically, the very CleanBC government website that lists provincial rebates for electric heat pumps also promotes Fortis rebates for households that purchase high-efficiency gas furnaces, boilers and fireplaces (and lists FortisBC as a program sponsor). Say what? Have a look yourself here.

Indeed, just a couple months ago, FortisBC was celebrating record take-up of the rebates it offers for high-efficiency gas products. In contrast, the number of households claiming the B.C. government’s rebates for electric heat pumps has been abysmal. Last month, the Sustainabiliteens (a local youth climate group) received the response below to a freedom-of-information request about how many people claimed heat pump rebates in 2020. It turns out my family was sadly one of only 709 households to do so.

FortisBC also has a program that places “senior energy specialists” within cash-strapped municipal governments across the province. The advisers are employees of the city, but their salaries are paid for by Fortis. The Climate Action Partners program, as it’s known, has been taken up by Surrey, Grand Forks, Kamloops, District of Squamish, District of Saanich, and others. As Fortis explains it, “We provide the funds for the Climate Action Partner to hire a senior energy specialist who will help their new employer reach their climate action goals, whether that’s reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency and/or fostering green energy solutions in their community.” Sounds good, and I’m sure the energy specialists employed are good people committed to lowering GHGs. But to what extent are they encouraging efficiency improvements over fuel-switching? Or pitching natural gas over electric vehicles for municipal fleets? Certainly climate-conscious local governments should exercise caution and stay attuned to such concerns.

Why on earth is the B.C. government hocking rebates on behalf of Fortis? Why is the company so keen to offer rebates for people to purchase new high-efficiency heating systems? And why is FortisBC so keen to embed energy advisers within municipal governments? True, this new equipment will lower GHG emissions. But, more importantly for FortisBC, once purchased, that’s a house or building or vehicle that will not be fuel-switching to a non-fossil fuel for a good 15 years. And that’s the point. For Fortis, this is a growth strategy. The problem for the rest of us is that improved efficiency can’t get us to carbon zero, as the climate emergency demands — only fuel-swapping to non-carbon sources can do that.

FortisBC knows it needs to develop convincing climate programs. Yes, it has a “30BY30” plan to “help reduce our customers’ GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.” But it clearly wants to keep the gas system in place, albeit with a larger share of renewable gas. It has a growth strategy that seeks to expand natural gas use, and so long as that remains true, all its “clean” initiatives are a side show.

Companies like Fortis have a choice. They can quickly seek to reinvent themselves as carbon-zero energy companies. Already, Fortis’s parent company is both an electricity as well as a gas utility. It could table a plan to wind down its fracked gas division, replacing it with a focus on district energy heat recovery and geothermal systems and renewable electricity. But so far, that’s not the path it is choosing.

“It’s going to be an ugly fight,” says Kai Nagata, communications director with the non-profit action group Dogwood, which campaigns on climate issues and has run workshops encouraging people to fuel-swap. (Full disclosure: I’m on Dogwood’s board.) “Fortis is a cornered animal. That’s what the consortium documents reveal. But it’s them or us. It’s their shareholders or our kids. Their future requires more houses tying into gas lines and our future requires the opposite.”

The simple reality is this — if the number of new buildings tying into gas and the number of existing buildings upgrading their gas systems continues to be larger than those switching to electric heat pumps or other non-carbon fuel sources, then we’re not going to hit our climate targets. With trends like this, we’re fried.

It’s time to push back

The problem isn’t merely the fossil fuel corporations that distract us with incremental solutions. More troublesome at this late stage of the crisis are our political leaders whose dominant impulse is to seek to appease the oil and gas industry. They want to compromise and win the industry’s goodwill. They fear the economic power of these companies. They worry if they fail to grant them adequate concessions, we — and they — will suffer the consequences. This climate emergency moment sees too many leaders keen to pre-emptively declare that “peace in our time” has been found with the fossil fuel industry. But surely those days are over.

This fight for our lives has been entirely too polite. It’s time for our leaders to take the kid gloves off, and for the rest of us to demand it. At this late hour, if the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and Canada’s oil and gas companies are not feeling deeply anxious about our climate plans, then they are not plans worth having. The calmness with which Canada’s fossil fuel industry has responded to every federal and provincial climate plan we’ve had to date tells you all you need to know about their effectiveness.

Rather than appeasing the fossil fuel industry, what would it look like for our government to meet this moment head on? A few proposals:

  1. Ban all new building hook-ups to gas — next year! We need a moratorium on new gas infrastructure, both major gas lines and minor ones.
  2. We need the government to expedite getting all existing public and commercial buildings off gas within the next few years. That needs to be mandated. And the government needs to enhance rebates and lower the costs for existing homes to both fuel-swap and improve their envelope efficiency.
  3. Ban fossil fuel advertising (ads for fossil fuel vehicles, gas stations and oil and gas companies) and end the sponsorship of CAPP and its members from sports and cultural events. Why do we allow these companies and industry associations to sponsor government conferences, such as the Union of BC Municipalities convention and the Lower Mainland Local Government Association? Why does a monopoly provider like Fortis or Enbridge need to advertise?
  4. Remove fossil fuel corporate representatives from governmental climate advisory bodies. The B.C. government’s Climate Solutions Council includes reps from Teck Resources and Shell. I’m sure they are nice people. But these bodies operate by consensus. Give these corporate reps a fair hearing, but our climate plans shouldn’t require their agreement.
  5. As regulated monopolies, our governments should flex some muscle and set clear conditions with respect to allowable conduct by the fossil fuel companies we permit to operate in our communities. And when those conditions are violated, there must be consequences. If these corporations are engaged in alliances to weaken climate policies, haul them before a legislative committee to explain themselves publicly. If, as the gas companies claim, the Consortium to Block Electrification does not represent their views, then Greenpeace’s Stewart proposes that we make them enclose a disclaimer — one singing the praises of electrification — within every utility bill they mail to their customers (hey, everyone opens those letters). If they are conspiring in political campaigns to block electrification, dock them from lobbying access to public officials. If these companies are shown to be acting against society’s climate goals, fine them. If it persists, pull their licences. Meaning, make their political strategies inoperable.

In the end, the fossil fuel companies can be expected to do what they are hardwired to do — protect and enhance shareholder value. The onus is on our elected leaders to demand something different. To our ministers of energy and environment, in every part of this country: you hold vital portfolios at a historic juncture. Be the champions this moment requires. Stop playing so nice and show a little grit. It’s an emergency.

For more on how the fossil fuel industry blocks climate progress, see the work of the Corporate Mapping Project, which has systematically exposed the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry in Canada, a dynamic the project refers to as a “regime of obstruction.”

Keep reading

Good job to expose Canada's climate villains. Keep at it.
The fossil fuel industry spins a wide web. The institutional centres of climate obstruction in Canada extend far beyond industry itself: governments, parties, and politicians on both sides of the aisle; industry-captured regulators; finance (banks and insurers); corporate Canada; the courts; the RCMP/CSIS; mainstream media; extractionist think tanks; climate denial outfits (e.g.; Friends of Science); academe; school teachers; corporate environmentalists and some big ENGOs; and some indigenous groups.
Add public inertia, apathy, and ignorance. A logjam that a responsible media speaking truth to power could help loosen.
No one should underestimate the inertia of the system pushing us toward climate disaster — or the challenge that lies ahead.
We need to be the irresistible force that meets the until now immovable object.

I'm for the "no more gas connections", actually the most-radical notion in the piece. But it's a gigantic money problem, and it requires a forthright acknowledgement that somebody has to front up $20,000 for every heat pump across the middle of the country (where it hits -40C sometimes), and you have to dig the pipes over 10 feet down. About half the 10 million homes in Canada would need it, you're talking 200 billion.

We'll never get started on "gigaprojects" like that, without the utilities working with us. Designating them as "villains" is not the way to get there, only the way to please the NO audience. They aren't "villains"; they're people trying to make money. Corey Doctrow has very cleverly connected two disciplines, and identified them as "slow AIs", artificial intelligences, programmed to make money. Even the CEO is trapped in the program; if he doesn't act to make the most money, the board will replace him with somebody who will. They aren't villains, either; they have orders to maximize returns for my (or your) pension fund.

They correctly claim to not be villains if they are following the law. If the law permits them to do X, then we are ALL responsible for X. Calling them villains, and not their customers who are the ones turning up the theromstat, the ones spending an extra $20,000 for an extra bathroom rather than a heat pump, suggests projection of guilt onto hate figures, rather than acceptance of your audience's own complicity, and need to change.

I'm all for a no-more-methane-installations law. But to pass it responsibly, there has to be this huge, multi-hundred-billion-dollar national program to convert a significant part of the economy; thousands of heat-pump-installation companies must be founded and built, and a whole industry needs to be openly condemned to shrink and vanish...which requires its own program so that the employees are not simply discarded as human waste. (Or do you think of those gas-pipefitters also as "villains" who deserve to starve? Why would the CEO be a "villain" and not the blue-collar guy actually turning on the gas?)

You can't get on with any of that progress, while you're mired in a fight, insulting people. Here, your giant complaint is that:
a) some villains formed a club and showed each other villainous powerpoints;
b) you got sent a letter that offended you.

The one bit of information you had to share that would have really interested me, that I hadn't heard before, was the COST of your conversion away from gas. Your omission, while calling it "expensive" suggests that my first sentence was correct, that the real "villain" here, is the cost of solving this problem.

Mr. Brander says we are all complicit. (Well, some more than others.) This is the industry's main line of argument. Deflecting blame onto consumers.
Fossil-fuel addiction goes far beyond the individual. Society is structurally dependent on fossil fuels. No cure for individuals is possible until society is transformed. A focus on individual behavior distracts from the systemic changes the problem requires.

Who are the chief obstructionists? The fossil fuel industry. Not consumers.
What consumers demand is energy. When they flip the light switch, they expect the light to come on. Where the electrons come from is immaterial. No one marches in the street demanding electrons from coal power, nuclear, hydro, wind, or solar. As long as the car goes from A to B, who cares about the motor?
If you can do all the things you want to do without polluting the air you breathe or destabilizing your climate, why hesitate? Who will refuse cheaper, more efficient, less polluting energy solutions? Fossil fuel companies. But they reject renewables not because they are superior technology, more efficient, cheaper, and less polluting — but because doing so threatens their livelihoods and impairs their profits.

As a society, we need to change the menu of energy options and price them properly so that consumers can make rational, more sustainable choices.
Systemic problems require systemic solutions.
Individual lifestyle changes matter, but they are not the whole ball game.
Hard to take a bus if it isn't there.
This is where government comes in.

Changing our transportation systems, urban design, and power grids are large-scale enterprises, requiring community resources and commitment:
- Building cities for people, not cars. Making neighbourhoods walkable.
- Investing in public transit and cycling infrastructure.
- Access to amenities: schools, shopping, grocery stores, parks, recreation.
- Affordable housing based on net-zero designs and district-energy systems.
- Utility-scale renewables require utility-scale uptake, and inter-regional tie-in.

Climate change represents the greatest market failure in history.
Who can correct that market failure if not government? Hence, carbon pricing. Not a problem individual citizens can remedy.
Subsidies and externalized health and environmental costs have created an uneven playing field. Only govts and economy-wide carbon pricing can solve the problem.

Good luck getting the fossil fuel industry on board with climate action:

"Earth, Wind and Liars" (NY Times)
"Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman: "In the long run, these tactics probably won’t stop the transition to renewable energy, and even the villains of this story probably realize that. Their goal is, instead, to slow things down, so they can extract as much profit as possible from their existing investments.
"… Every year that we delay the clean-energy transition will sicken or kill thousands while increasing the risk of climate catastrophe.
"The point is that Trump and company aren’t just trying to move us backward on social issues; they’re also trying to block technological progress. And the price of their obstructionism will be high."

Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway: "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming"
"Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is 'not settled' denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. 'Doubt is our product,' wrote one tobacco executive. These 'experts' supplied it."

"The oil mogul brothers, the greatest potential beneficiaries of the Keystone XL pipeline, have used their immense financial resources to support groups that advocate delay and inaction on climate change. Indeed, most of the residents in the Potemkin village of climate change denial receive or have received Koch funding. Prominent recipients include Americans for Prosperity, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting climate change-denying politicians; the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which was instrumental in blocking GHG emission regulations during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations; and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has pushed state bills seeking to undermine environmental regulations, deny the risks of climate change and undermine efforts to incentivize renewable energy."
"Deniers club: Meet the people clouding the climate change debate" (Washington Post, Sep 16, 2016)

Some people still pretend that fossil fuel companies have a major role to play in the energy transition. In fact, many of the largest players have no plans to switch to renewables. An energy transition is the last thing they want to see. For those fossil fuel companies with marginal renewable holdings, the advent of renewables and the decline of fossil fuels threatens to strand the vast bulk of their assets, imposing severe financial loss.
"It's difficult for Big Oil to even cast itself as committed to helping the world transition to a low-carbon future, since the investments by them in renewable energy are dwarfed by the money spent on new oil and gas projects." (CBC)

AB's oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its clean-up liabilities: north of $260 billion. Milk governments for endless subsidies. Dump cleanup costs on taxpayers. Privatize the profits, socialize the costs. No mere mantra. That's the oil industry's business model. Voodoo economics.
Put a realistic price on carbon — make oil & gas producers and consumers pay the full environmental and health costs of fossil fuels — and the industry would cease operations overnight.

Mr. Brander is correct. Selling your grandchildren down the river is not illegal. Lying to the public for decades is not illegal. (Misleading investors is another matter.) Imperilling civilization is not illegal. Promoting ecosystem collapse is not illegal.
Just unethical.

The tobacco industry misled the public for decades about the dangers of tobacco. Was that illegal or just unethical?
The fossil fuel industry borrowed Big Tobacco's tactics.
Will history praise our neoliberal heroes for protecting profits and maximizing returns — or condemn the climate criminals for sinking the ship, tossing the life-jackets overboard, and sabotaging the lifeboats?

This is pretty much wrong from start to finish. First, looking out solely for your own profit does not absolve you of being a villain. By that logic, if someone kills their spouse for the insurance money, they're "not a villain". If someone is willing to do me harm in order to get gain for themselves, they're a villain. If they're willing to literally take down human civilization in order to get gain for themselves, they're not just a villain, they're basically a supervillain--we're hitting Dr. Evil territory here.

Second, while there are times when it is a good idea to be co-operative, when the other side is already beating you up is not one of those times. We've spent 40 years pretending we don't need to fight the fossil fuel industry in order to eliminate fossil fuels. Leaving aside the obvious logical disconnect there, how's that been working out for us? Well, they've indulged in massive disinformation campaigns and lobbying efforts for that whole time, with a whole lot of success, which has put us in grave risk of climate catastrophe. And you say we should just ignore all that and treat them like some kind of partner while they keep doing more of the same. I think it's time to take a page from their book. They play to win. They have tarred environmentalists as terrorists for decades, and influenced policing and intelligence agencies to do the same. If we're going to win, we need to face the basic fact that that requires the fossil fuel industry to lose, which makes them the enemy and we have to take them down. Ideally with a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers. Sure, my heart bleeds for the fossil fuel executives and owners and the fate of their stock portfolios, but we're saving the world here.

Finally, your clever minimization of what's going on. When executives show each other powerpoints, THINGS HAPPEN. How do you think policies get enacted? You have meetings to plan it. You develop presentations about what needs to be done. Only then can you spend money and do it. So this powerpoint is all about developing (yet more) propaganda for the purpose of making sure transition away from a major variety of fossil fuels DOES NOT HAPPEN. And the letter the article's author received is an example of precisely that propaganda, and in case it had escaped your attention, it was a form letter--which is to say, everyone who tries to stop using that fossil fuel will be propagandized. And even there, it is just a minor example of the general pattern, which is very well known and ranges from mainstream media advertising and co-operation deals to PR firms and think tanks generating fake facts to campaigns of social media bots, plants, and sock puppets to masses of well paid lobbyists. None of this pattern of behaviour is in dispute. Really, how hard is this?

There is one point that's true: Installing a heat pump is really expensive.
So, it needs to be made cheap and then heavily promoted. New natural gas heating needs to be made expensive and heavily un-promoted.

One option that the article perhaps should have suggested but failed to: Take Fortis BC public again, so it can be more readily wound down. If it were me, first I'd jack up the carbon price and pass some major regulations to make it nearly impossible for Fortis BC to make a profit. When this causes its value to tank, THEN the public sector should buy it for pennies on the dollar.

It's begging the question to say that somebody is Evil, despite their actions being legal. (Murder for insurance is not, hence your example is nonsense.) The question is not whether it's still Evil in your opinion, the question is, WHY IS IT LEGAL? The legality throws back the accusation upon us all. Why legal, if Evil? You're absolving everybody else, defined since ancient times as "scapegoating."

"When executives show each other powerpoints, THINGS HAPPEN. "
Hahahaha, very funny. Or, you've never worked for a large corporation. I have. 90% of them go nowhere.

People have chosen to switch up from cars to SUVs and Vans, because they make moving kids around easier. Engineers made the engine 30% more efficient, but vehicle weights went up 30% in the same time, so the same gasoline is now purchased per person. Houses went from 1200sf to 2000sf, so despite more-efficient furnaces, we burn the same methane. Car companies certainly do run SUV ads, but not because the fossil fuel industry tells them to. They just want to sell more iron for their own profit. Airlines tout distant vacations, but for their own reasons, not Exxon's. And, absolutely, the Mexicans did not build 100 hotels in Cancun because Shell wanted more flying to happen. (My family used to go camping for vacations. I flew twice as a child. That 1960s travel-level is a memory for middle-class kids today.)

It's on everybody. The National Observer didn't even note that Greyhound left Canada the other day, for lack of business. Everybody switched to flying. But taking note of such things reminds readers that it's the customers that do the burning, fossil fuel companies just fill their requests.

I read a National Observer story two years ago, about Indigenous women installing solar panels, and one remarked, "I'll hop on a plane and go cross-country any time to install a solar panel". She didn't suggest taking the bus. That would save, literally, a tonne of carbon on the round-trip: 0.2T for the bus, 1.2T for the plane. But, of course, three days on a bus each way; it didn't cross her mind. Fossil fuel companies did not make her think that way about it.

Greta Thunberg actually DOES think correctly about these issues, and everybody celebrated her, but mostly went right back to their same lifestyles. Vehicle sales, housing sizes, and vacation choices were unchanged.

You really want me to believe that people did all that consuming because fossil companies mind-controlled them with advertising? I switched to bicycle commuting 20 years ago, and most others did not. It's not because my tin-foil hat worked.

Oh, yeah, I forgot my other gripe. For heaven's sake, interview an expert. A Canadian national treasure, Dr. Vaclav Smil is maybe the best expert on Earth about energy costs, impacts, industrial issues, and the difficulties of transition. He's written about 40 books. I had to wait six months in line for his "Energy: A History" at the VPL, because they're expensive (textbooks, mostly) and in huge demand.

Vaclav Smil did not get a heat pump. In that last book, he noted the expense of going from a 92% efficient furnace to a 97% efficient, and he paid that, several thousand...but not a heat pump. Probably because he lives in Winnipeg, I'm sure, and the cost would have been over $20K, retrofitting a dig, and maybe a professor has $9K, but not $20K, the same as people would buy an eV, but can't afford it just now.

An article by Dr. Smil on why he didn't go heat-pump (you can bet there's an elaborate and accurate spreadsheet) would really clarify how difficult this problem is.

But nobody calls Dr. Smil. Not on the left, not on the right. I've seen articles about how world-famous he is (among engineers and economists) but he's never called for a quote on an issue.

I could write that about any NO article on climate; this one got picked because the author inexplicably called up a friend from his own club that I've never heard of. Calling professors, instead, would really add some credibility around here.

I'm not gonna say engineers are irrelevant. Technology is important, developing good technologies is important. But the core problem is political. Engineers have no special expertise where that rubber hits the road.
(Another part of the core problem is economic. Unfortunately, the discipline of economics is largely dedicated to serving those who would worsen the problem, so for the most part we can't go to economists. You have to find rebel economists, basically. And public policy experts, who understand economics from the perspective of how to make it do what you want rather than how to bend and spread 'em for whatever "the market", read "rich people", want)

All about the money. Conversion is expensive to a more expensive energy and in the case of Heat pumps, future replacement costs.
Anybody saying Wind and Solar is cheaper and reliable is not including the 100% backup power required or the future storage system. Ask yourself how many future Hydro power locations are available?
Nuclear is the most viable solution.
But also let us not forget the most important omitted fact. Eliminating ALL Fossil fuel emissions (which will never happen) would reduce the World contribution by 1.6%. Woohoo! The World will be celebrating (or not even notice) and we will still be dealing with all the emissions from the other countries. Your focus is too small and the impact insignificant. Promoting the development of the technology to reduce emissions such as our Canadian Nuclear programs is better path than trying to make everything more expensive for general public.

On the contrary. Canada has a small population of top-ranking emitters. High emitters are the problem. If other nations followed our example, global emissions would skyrocket.
Canadians have an outsize carbon footprint. At or near the top of the list.
Draw squares on a world map, with each square representing 40 million people. The square we call Canada has higher emissions than just about any other square on the map.
Draw squares on a world map, with each square representing 4 million people. The square we call Alberta has higher emissions than just about any other square on the map.
If Alberta were a country, its per capita emissions would be higher than any other country's in the world.
The energy hogs and big emitters live over here, not in the developing world. Canada and the West have exported much of their emissions by outsourcing their manufacturing to the developing world.
Canadians' carbon footprint is 3x the global average. Canada's trajectory takes the world over the climate cliff.
Using Canada's nominal (under-reported) estimates, 147 countries emit less GHGs than AB's oilsands industry. 169 countries emit less GHGs than AB. 183 countries emit less GHGs than Canada.
Historically, the industrialized West is responsible for the bulk of (cumulative) emissions and global warming thus far. Canada ranks #9 on that list.
At 1.6% of global emissions (just 0.5% of its population), Canada ranks 10th in overall emissions. (We rank nowhere near tenth in population.) If Canada is "too small to matter," what message does that send to the 183 nations with smaller carbon footprints than ours?
Climate change cannot be stopped if only the biggest nations or top emitters reduce emissions.
China, India, and the U.S. cannot solve the problem alone. Even if the top 3 emitters reduced emissions to zero, that would still leave about half of global emissions on the table. Unless smaller national emitters do their part as well, global targets remain out of reach.
"All nations contributing less than 2% of emissions are, cumulatively, more important than India or China. It absolutely does matter that these nations reduce their emissions."
Canada's ecological footprint is over 5 planet Earths. The average Canadian lives far beyond the planet's carrying capacity. We have a big footprint because we are energy hogs and huge resource wasters, with extravagant consumption habits. We have countless opportunities to reduce discretionary energy use and waste.
Canadians contribute disproportionately to a collective problem; we need to contribute to the collective solution.

Nuclear is neither viable nor desirable. It has four strikes against it:
- it is very expensive
- it would take too long to bring nuclear reactors operational to have the needed effect to combat global warming
- most options include reprocessing used fuel to separate the plutonium, the more of which exists the more likely enough gets into hands which could make atomic bombs.
- the highly radioactive waste from the nuclear reactors has to be stored and cared for indefinitely.

Heat pumps are fairly expensive, it's true. And, like gas powered heaters, they need replacement every so often. Probably, like gas powered heaters, more often than they ought to need because the companies that make them are out for a profit so they build their stuff to fail after a while. Planned obsolescence is alive and well and pervasive. Looks to me like still slightly longer life on average than a gas heater. But they are more expensive. Too bad. We're gonna have to subsidize them until they aren't, because this is important stuff.

Wind and solar ARE cheaper. They do need some storage backup. Not 100% though; it's clear from places where wind and solar have gotten so big they dominate that it's not as bad as the propagandists like to claim. Still, a fair amount. But they're STILL cheaper. And they keep getting cheaper yet. And so do the batteries for storage backup.
But if you want to compare to nuclear--hah! Last figures I saw, nuclear power costs FOUR TIMES as much as solar--so even if you double the solar figure for storage, it still costs HALF AS MUCH as nuclear. And without the nuclear waste, stored on the public dime, and all the other problems. Nuclear power requires massive subsidies to operate at all; for instance, private insurance companies refuse to insure nuclear power plants because a high end payout would bankrupt them, so the government does instead. I can't believe anyone can complain about things being expensive from one side of their face and then advocate nuclear, by far the most expensive energy on the planet, with the other. Honestly, were you able to hold a straight face while you were typing?

1.6%? Sure. And so? Point me at the country that produces 100% of the world's emissions, we'll have them do the conversion and the rest of us can relax. But the fact is, most other countries ARE reducing their emissions. We're currently an outlier, the only G-7 country whose emissions have gone up instead of down. Even the Americans are rolling up their sleeves and doing something. Among the industrialized countries, we're basically the malingering whiner that's doing diddly, shirking while everyone else works--and you're speaking for the malingering whiner position.