For someone who likes to talk about the need to move “at the speed of business,” Jason Kenney is being remarkably patient with his public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns. The government of Alberta quietly granted commissioner Steve Allan a fourth extension on his long-overdue homework, originally scheduled to be submitted last July. The delivery date is now a full year later, and Allan is not the only one getting an extension. The government can take up to an additional three months after that — assuming it actually gets filed — before the report must be released to the public.
From the very outset, the inquiry looked far more like an attempt to play the bully than a genuine effort to understand the nature and intent behind the campaigns that have targeted Alberta’s oilsands over the last decade. But after four extensions and an additional $1 million in funding, it’s clear that the only thing it’s turning up is excuses. And regardless of its provenance, the impact of the Tar Sands Campaign that the Allan inquiry is tasked with investigating will look positively quaint compared with the changes already underway in global energy markets.
Last week, for example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) laid out its road map to a net-zero economy that won’t require any additional investment in new oil and gas projects. Instead, the world would see a combination of behavioural changes (lower speed limits, less short-haul air travel) and industrial recalibration towards zero-emission sources of energy. By 2030, the global economy would be 40 per cent larger than today but use seven per cent less energy. Electric vehicles would surge from five per cent of global sales to more than 60 per cent.
That number might be low, if Thursday evening’s launch of Ford’s electric F-150 is any indication. After all, while Tesla may have made electric vehicles cool, Ford will make them popular — and ubiquitous. As Robinson Meyer noted in a piece for The Atlantic, “receipts from F-Series trucks alone exceed Coca-Cola’s annual corporate revenue; that of every major U.S. sports league, combined; or Disney’s global theme-park business.” And after accounting for U.S. subsidies, the F-150 Lightning will cost just $32,000 — less than the comparable gasoline-powered alternative.
That will surely get the attention of the American consumer, and it’s already won plaudits from President Joe Biden. But it’s on the fleet side of the equation where it could prove most transformative. “For the first time,” Meyer writes, “fleet managers will be able to see the location of all their trucks on a map, and they will be able to monitor their charge levels remotely. This combination of lower fuel costs and greater workplace surveillance strikes me as all but guaranteeing the electrification of many corporate fleets.”
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough? According to Ford, the Lightning can store so much electricity that in a blackout — like, say, Texas’s recent experience — it could meet a house’s normal usage needs for three full days. “The Lightning is a technology of resilience, of climate adaptation,” Meyer writes.
But for those who have invested their identities, careers or financial portfolios in the oil and gas industry’s future, this truck and the adaptation it portends is hell on wheels. And when combined with the IEA’s ambitious road map, it creates a threat the likes of which Alberta’s fossil-fuelled government hasn’t seen before — one that a loose coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations, foreign-funded or not, couldn’t dream of replicating.
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So far, it’s one the government of Alberta seems unprepared to handle. “The implication in this report that jurisdictions like Canada should accept massive job losses and negative impacts on public revenues that fund health care, education and social services is unacceptable,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a prepared statement.
Never mind the fact that Alberta has already seen massive job losses as oil and gas companies respond to lower prices with a combination of reduced activity and increased use of automation and technology. Those trends will surely continue going forward, as the global oil market becomes both more competitive and more desperate as demand starts to slow. For Savage, it seems, the best way to contend with this new reality is to pretend it doesn’t really exist.
Her boss, Premier Jason Kenney, was equally unwilling to accept the report’s implications. “The best last barrel of oil will come from Alberta, Canada,” he told reporters. That may be. But one barrel can’t sustain an economy that’s built on selling millions of them every day, and all the war rooms in the world aren’t going to discourage people from buying an electric vehicle when dozens of new models are now coming onto the market. If Kenney really wants to help Alberta’s oil and gas workers, he can start by finally telling them the truth. While he’s at it, he should tell the Allan inquiry to do the same.
Seeing more and more F-150's
Seeing more and more F-150's and other kind of pickup trucks ( electric or not ) on the road is not a cause for celebration.
Building a pickup truck ( electric or not ) takes a lot of resources and energy. Batteries and the hundreds of mini-computers needed to run an electric vehicle are using a lot of what is called "rare earth" minerals. These
minerals, as the production of electric vehicles will ramp up, will get more and more difficult to get (and more expensive). Their extractions are already causing major environmental damages. Workers and people living around those mines ( in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China especially ) are suffering from exploitation and health problems.
Replacing the combustion engine by an electric one will not solve traffic congestion, the expansion of parking space and suburbs. Electric vehicles will continue to run on tires (made of rubber and plastic) which liberates in the air fine particles as they wear down. These particles are polluting the air, soil and water. They can also enter your lungs and caused major health problems.
The solution is not more electric vehicles. The solution is less vehicles on the road, electric and gas powered. The solution is more public transit in cities, between cities and countries.
Couldn't agree more. EVs have
Couldn't agree more. EVs have a massive footprint. Cars also drive urban sprawl. Cars would not be sustainable even if they ran on fairy dust.
Premier Kenney: "The best, last barrel of oil will come from Alberta, Canada”
Contradicted by the AB Govt's own website:
"Western Canadian Select (WCS) is a heavy (high-viscosity), sour (high-sulfur) oil produced from bitumen in Alberta. It yields fewer valuable end products and is more difficult to refine. These factors mean it will receive a lower price in the marketplace."
"Oil prices and value" (Govt of AB)
Does that sound like the "best barrel"?
Ian MacGregor (president and large shareholder of North West Refining) admits that bitumen is sold at a discount because it’s "the worst feedstock".
Dilbit has a much lower energy return on investment (EROI) than conventional crudes.
AB dilbit ranks near the bottom of the heap, not the top.
If the world burns less heavy oil from Canada, that's a global benefit. If the world takes real action on climate, AB's heavy sour barrels — low quality, costly to extract, more expensive to refine, and remote from distant markets — will be among the first to be stranded.
The last barrel of oil will come from the cheapest, least carbon-intensive production. Not Alberta.
Rystad Energy: "Among the top 10 oil and gas producing countries, Canada had the highest CO2 emission intensity per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) produced, while Norway had the lowest."
Canada's average crude carbon intensity is more than twice the global average. Almost double Iran. Nearly triple Russia. More than triple the U.S. Four times Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Five and a half times Norway and the UAE.
"Canada, with an average intensity of 39 kg per boe, has a high share of its production from oil sands, typically emitting three to five times more CO2 per barrel than the global average of 18 kg per boe."
A couple more notes.
A couple more notes.
The low product quality indeed kiboshes the economic argument for raw dilbit exports and massive expenditures on additional infrastructure. Looking at you, Trudeau, TMX Big Daddy. Neither Asia or any other refining sector would be stupid enough pay a premium for a poor quality product, yet CAPP and others keep pushing this unproven narrative in the name of "diversifying" the markets for bitumen and eliminating the so-called discount from American refineries.
What will sell Alberta bitumen is cheaper prices and steady demand, especially those encountered by oil sands companies who own their own heavy oil refineries (many in the US). They enjoyed a huge mark-up over the last few years between their bargain basement heavy oil feedstock and their higher quality products like gasoline sold at retail prices. Ergo the threat of higher prices coupled with the electric Ford F 150 and EVs in general to an oil-dependent economy.
Most of us on this forum would agree that diversifying the Alberta economy away from oil would not just be the ethical route to Net Zero, but would also be a productive exercise to ultimately strengthen Alberta’s economy through diversification and stability over boom / bust.
Natural Resources Canada research puts the per barrel emissions of dilbit at ~60% within Canada, but the remaining ~40% is emitted when its burned in other jurisdictions. That 40% is never included in the national and provincial emissions stats because it represents the more accurate calculation of embedded, life cycle accountability regardless of jurisdictional concerns. Molecules of CO2 and other GHGs do not carry passports.
Excellent commentary, Rene.
Excellent commentary, Rene.
What's really important about EVs is their huge capability of bringing disruptive technological change, negatively to oil producing regions, positively to consumers. Even though their life cycle emissions on the operating side of the ledger are very clean when the power source is clean, the production side remains problematic. Still, it's a net gain in climate efficacy vehicle-to-vehicle even when accounting for rare earths, many of which will instead be mined in Canada over Congo, China and other nations with poor human rights. The prospecting is already occurring.
Moreover, liquid metal batteries used in stationary power storage (capable of larger scales) are set to displace lithium ion batteries because they are cheaper and use common local materials. This will limit lithium to small devices and the non-grid transportation sector.
There is much excitement among urbanists like me with the prospects of electrifying the economy while building more compact, multi-zoned towns and villages over subdivisions. Urbanizing the suburbs and linking them to cities with high-capacity rail transit, elevating urban design to create walkable neighbourhoods with most of the necessities of life within a 15-minute commute by shoe leather, fostering huge reductions in residential energy consumption with Passive House standards, protecting greenbelts and enhancing small farms and market gardens within 25 kilometres of the food demand sphere of our cities, converting lanes on arterials to landscaped pedestrian realms, tram routes and bikeways and so on are part of an array of elements of humane, 21st Century sustainable urbanism.
I believe this is achievable while EVs displace fossil fueled vehicles, but it's key to reduce the total number of vehicles in our cities by a third or more through the above planning measures. That will free up chunks of the egregious amount of land and expenditures on infrastructure devoted to cars for far more important uses like parks, urban food production, housing and so forth.
All it takes is some joined-up thinking.
IF Kenney ever allows the
IF Kenney ever allows the report to be published, will we see it accusing the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Ford new electrics of trying to bring down his government? Poor baby.
The "Conservative Movement":
The "Conservative Movement": Boldly marching backwards to the future!
What will Albertans do when they realize that Stephen Harper should have pushed hard to diversify their industry when he had the opportunity.
Rene Ebacher's comment is
Rene Ebacher's comment is both prescient and sound. Electrification of vehicles is an essential but ultimately obsolete response to the devastation human civilization has on this planet. What it does represent is the merest minimum acceptance of the radical adaptation required to preserve life on earth. Human society has to adapt to the fact that it is NOT the master of the universe - let alone the earth. Humanity requires a symbiotic relationship with all the other living organisms that have evolved alongside us.
The electrification of
The electrification of personal vehicles is at best a brief stopgap. We need to be travelling less overall while moving to mass transit that uses green energy.
The biggest obstacle we face imo is the realization that we cannot live the same way we have since the advent of the industrial revolution.
So...yes we know how to put
So...yes we know how to put the fire out but unfortunately self interest recognizes to do nothing is like throwing gas on the fire! Seems the tactics have changed from deny to delay until all HELL breaks loose! Wake up people! It’s our move!