By now, we’ve all gotten used to conservative governments saying one thing and doing another. But few have plumbed the depths of hypocrisy that Alberta’s UCP government is mining right now with its contradictory approach to managing the province’s energy assets and their environmental impacts. While oil and gas continues to get the freest of passes, the province’s successful wind and solar industry is being held to the highest possible standard. If you didn’t know any better, you might think Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party was trying to sacrifice the province’s future in order to protect its past.

It wasn’t that long ago that Alberta’s wind and solar was booming with activity and investment. According to the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, Alberta was home to more than 90 per cent of all new renewable capacity in Canada last year. That activity wasn’t a reflection of subsidies or government support but instead, the high quality of Alberta’s wind and solar assets and an electricity market that encouraged its development. It meant thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment, most of which was concentrated in more rural and remote parts of the province. And then, without any warning, the government put a stop to all of it.

Its seven-month moratorium expires today, but it will be replaced with a bunch of new regulations — red tape, as conservatives otherwise call them — that tell landowners where and how they can build wind and solar projects. The regulations will create large buffer zones around “pristine viewscapes,” ban wind development on top-tier agricultural land, and require project developers to put down deposits against the cost of reclaiming and remediating their facilities after the end of their useful lifespan.

On their own, these new regulations aren’t automatically onerous, even if they fly directly in the face of the government’s libertarian values. But when you compare them to the regulatory regime in place for other forms of energy development, the weapons-grade hypocrisy here becomes immediately apparent. As the Pembina Institute’s Simon Dyer said, “I imagine Alberta would be the only jurisdiction in the world to consider renewable energy riskier than oil and gas development.”

Alberta’s direct and documented exposure to the risks associated with oil and gas development makes that position even more untenable. There are tens of billions of dollars — possibly hundreds of billions — worth of environmental liabilities associated with its growing collection of oilsands tailings ponds, which the companies responsible for filling them have done almost nothing to address. There are billions more worth of unreclaimed and abandoned conventional oil and gas wells dumped on the public by the oil and gas industry.

It gets worse. Despite record profits in the industry over the last two years, municipalities are owed more than $250 million in unpaid property taxes by oil and gas companies, a bill that actually grew by more than $40 million in 2023. “That’s not a regulator, that’s a cheerleader,” said Paul McLauchlin, the president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, in an interview with the Globe and Mail. If you truly are acting on behalf of Albertans as it relates to the oil and gas industry, and you’re allowing this behaviour to exist on the landscape, it’s quite shocking.”

And yet, for some reason, the government is focusing its regulatory attention on wind and solar. The oil and gas industry still doesn’t have to post a deposit when it drills new oil wells, and it doesn’t face any restrictions on its activity based on the type of agricultural land it’s exploiting. Indeed, while wind and solar project proponents have to come to a voluntary agreement with landowners, oil and gas companies can compel them to provide surface access for their operations. Calling this a double standard doesn’t do the differences here justice.

There are no restrictions on oil and gas development in “pristine viewscapes,” of course. As conservation specialist Phillip Meintzer noted, “Suncor plans to mine the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex starting in 2025. It has one of Alberta's largest & most beautiful patterned fens which took 10,000+ years to form. Should McClelland not be protected as a ‘pristine viewscape??” And while it’s not oil and gas, there’s the province’s ongoing flirtation with the Australian coal mining companies that want to carve up the Rocky Mountains, perhaps the most iconic viewscape in the entire country.

As the Pembina Institute’s Jason Wang, Courtney Smith and Scott MacDougall argued in a position paper, “The inconsistency between the treatment of the renewable energy sector and the oil and gas sector is especially concerning given renewable energy lowers costs to consumers, generates stable revenues for landowners and municipalities, creates job opportunities, and is a critical solution for addressing the climate crisis. This contrasts with the oil and gas sector’s troubling legacy of unfunded liabilities, and orphaned and abandoned assets. The Alberta government should make it a priority to improve its rules for the sectors with the largest issues, which need the most substantial reforms.”

In Danielle Smith's Alberta, wind and solar are buried under mountains of red tape and regulation while oil, gas, and coal mining get a free pass. Even Don Quixote would have a hard time tilting at windmills this shamelessly.

Instead, it seems determined to do the opposite. And while that will frustrate urban Albertans who want to see their province start taking climate change seriously, it should infuriate the rural Albertans who overwhelmingly voted this government into office. They’re the ones who will pay the highest price here, both in terms of lost economic opportunities and the impact that will have on their community’s finances. According to new analysis from the Business Renewables Centre Canada, rural municipalities in Alberta would bring in $277 million in annual tax revenue by 2028 if all the projects scheduled before the moratorium proceed. With these new rules, and the market design ones that have yet to be released, it’s a safe bet that some of that money — and maybe most of it — is now gone.

Those investments will get made in different jurisdictions, where the wind blows and the sun shines but the government isn’t determined to hamstring the companies that capture the energy they create. None of the UCP’s new rules for wind and solar will do anything to slow down the global energy transition, much less prevent their economic consequences from being visited upon Alberta. But its double standard on red tape and regulations will serve as a useful reminder to future generations of who was really in charge at the time — and what really mattered to them.

Keep reading

Smith's podium slogan "Protecting Alberta's electricity future" should have read, "Protecting Alberta's fossil fuel future".

Interesting how fossil fuels get a free pass to rape and pillage the landscape and they are worried that renewables affect the pristine views for the people in Alberta. What a total pant load of nonsense by Smith and her Minister. Smith must truly think people are that dumb not to see through her smoke and mirrors and is just putting further road blocks to renewables while allowing the fossil fuel industry free rein to rape & pillage the same pristine landscape views. (rofl) 

There've been rumours that Danielle Smith and her office manager/ Svengali, Rob Anderson, don't trust wind and solar. Heck, Smith herself has said it in public, many times. The rumour is that Anderson hates windmills and thinks they're "ugly."

That, plus the fact Smith is an unrepentant, unreformed zealot for the fossil-fuel industry, means renewables are gonna get treated like the oilpatch should be. Thousands of abandoned, leaking oil wells are "business as usual" and "we're used to it" and--especially!—we’ve learned we’re helpless against the all-powerful oilpatch. Farmers just shrug it off because there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

But wind and solar? They're the new guys. We're not "used to it" from the new guys. Let's blame them for all the crap we put up with from the oilpatch. All the old anxieties come oozing out because this time, we might not be totally helpless.

I think that's why farmers and county reeves got nervous about renewables. Really, think about it. What harm can some concrete footings--even big ones for wind turbine towers--do to a farm field? Fence it off and plow around it! Small footings for solar panel arrays might be pulled up with a moderate-size crane or maybe even just a backhoe. And concrete doesn't leak oil, salt water and fossil gas forever because some slack-a$$ crew chief couldn't be bothered to plug the well bore properly!

No, these new regulations--especially the 35 km "exclusion zone"--are nothing more than prejudice on the part of Danielle Smith and her backers--and especially her handlers.

While all this is true, I think you're being too kind in a fundamental way. Smith isn't in the end doing all this because she has a true if misguided belief that she's doing the right thing. She's doing it because she was paid in the past and will surely be paid a bunch more in the future, revolving door style. It would be illegal for her to be getting personally paid right now, but I wouldn't rule it out. Still, even if there's a temporary gap in her remuneration by the oil and gas industries, she remains quite literally their paid agent.

While all this is true, I think you're being too kind in a fundamental way. Smith isn't in the end doing all this because she has a true if misguided belief that she's doing the right thing. She's doing it because she was paid in the past and will surely be paid a bunch more in the future, revolving door style. It would be illegal for her to be getting personally paid right now, but I wouldn't rule it out. Still, even if there's a temporary gap in her remuneration by the oil and gas industries, she remains quite literally their paid agent.

No one knows what to do with so much raw emotion, especially in politics and our public life, and especially when that emotion is our most "negative" rather than our most positive. The fact that progressives have long been called "bleeding hearts" was the earliest expression of disdain towards feminists and socialists of the time. It inferred that such people were idealists, i.e. not practical or serious because they didn't see the world as it really was. Because that and being overly emotional were seen as female traits, this all started as a battle of the sexes that still informs but has also actually evolved politically into what we're now calling a "culture war." Either way it's clearly endemic to our species, which we on the left truly need to accept. All the pink-shirt days in the world can only do so much to mitigate, and are actually OUR stubborn form of denialism. We've let this go too far and it's now been fully taken advantage of and weaponized against us.
As in later today. We have been forewarned that the UCP will be relieved to fully revert to type and "bring down" an austerity budget, enough of this awkward largesse BS. It's just in time to gleefully stick it to all those frivolous AUPE and ATA workers with contracts coming up for discussion. (This is why Gil McGowan of the AFL would probably be the best person to lead the NDP.)
Thumbing their nose at the rest of us never gets old and it's never enough for these a**holes because THEY WON, not YOU. And there's zero wishy-washiness here, showing us that hatred can be just as powerful a motivator as love.
And they did "win" the election, in part because it has never been more clear JUST how many people will cut off their own noses to spite their faces for the sheer satisfaction of EXPRESSING a stoked-like-never-before-thanks-to-social-media hatred, especially when it's been pent-up over time against the virtue-signalling left (and Turdeau, Trudope, libtards, etc.) who have mostly been in charge up until now.
And they're not wrong, we have indeed gone somewhat overboard, increasingly so as THEY have become worse, which has contributed to what we have now--the obliteration of the middle where a hard-earned civility formerly carried us and our politics/society along. But the difference is that THEY STARTED IT, which may sound juvenile and/or petty but is also true, and the most telling fact is they have not only refused to temper their hatred at all, they've happily doubled down instead. Clearly because it feels so RIGHT because it's the kind of people they really ARE, i.e. the worst among us. Actions speak, but repeated actions kind of scream in our faces. Like Putin is doing.
So how much more parsing of that truth being spit right in our faces do we need before we start to react? They're pushing and pushing for a full-scale confrontation, so isn't a full-on revolt inevitable? Maybe it'll be the unions or the health care system collapsing even more than in the rest of the country. Alberduh does SO like to stand out.
This pent-up hatred is like the poisonous methane seeping from all the orphan wells except it's not just seeping now, it's kind of gushing....

And another thing they hate us for, especially nasty David Parker pulling the strings.... too many of us don't even believe in GOD, an implicit criticism of their precious, fragile "faith," i.e. what they hold onto to convince themselves that they are kind, decent and reasonable people, just like everyone else. But they're not.