A strange dynamic has emerged in Canada whereby the industry that needs a climate solution most, is the industry most identified with the problem - oil. Sophisticated leaders in the oil industry know this more than anyone. That is why we have seen oil company CEOs and Alberta-based energy analysts speaking out on the need for effective and stable climate policies, including carbon pricing – at price levels higher than they are today.
Yet the political parties who pretend to represent the interests of the oil industry are the ones dismantling carbon pricing and other policies that would help Canada transition to a clean economy. Add to that the McCarthy-esque Kenney “war room” trying to suggest that foundations and charities are somehow not permitted to weigh-in on the world’s great challenge of climate change, and oil industry lobby groups sponsoring nonsense to support this kangaroo-court sham, and we have the makings of the true demise of Alberta as an economic player going forward.
To understand why and how this will happen, we need only turn back the clock to the days of Harper and the various Alberta premiers whose collective intransigence led to Alberta and Canada being a global punching-bag as climate laggards. Forgotten, it seems, is that the Conservatives in power federally and provincially were still incapable of getting a pipeline built, mainly because of their climate science avoidance and disrespect of due process. How then do they imagine that even greater ignorance, and more egregious due process will succeed?
If Scheer wins, this is what the Canadian political playbook will look like. First, Conservatives (or at least the Reformers at the helm) will be gloating in a false victory for those who do not accept the urgency. Second, a strong coalition of leaders who seek to delay action will dig in on dismantling climate policies, ensuring that Canada returns to global pariah status on the international stage. Third, as a consequence of the first two, anti-Alberta campaigns will ramp-up and the Kenney war room will be exposed for the boondoggle it is. And finally, the international investment community will hasten the already rapid withdrawal of investment from Alberta accelerating the provinces economic woes. At this point new pipelines will not be needed as the industry will be contracting. There is now an active and sophisticated global movement on sustainable investing and if Canadian businesses (financial and fossil fuel) aren’t actively defining how to invest in the transition out of oil, the scenario painted above will come faster and harder.
The picture gets worse if we toss in a strong Bloc Quebecois showing in Quebec and the idea of a minority Conservative government propped-up by an anti-oil, anti-pipeline, essentially anti-Alberta party. A party that wants to redefine transfer payments based on the carbon intensity of provincial economies. This would be akin to having two provincial parties representing their narrow parochial interests pretending to care about the rest of Canada. This might lead to the great Canadian unity irony – where the rest of Canada separates from Alberta and Quebec!
Fossil fuels aren’t going away tomorrow and having Alberta supply Canada and the rest of the world with Canadian fossil fuel is a much better scenario for Canada than shutting down one of the largest economic engines, while other countries eat our lunch. Contrary to popular wisdom, demand for fossil fuels is still growing. The Americans are massively expanding their domestic oil and gas production to record levels, the Norwegians still drill for oil offshore, the Germans mine coal etc. The only option for Canada is to understand and embrace the complexity of how to finance the transition to a clean economy through a measured, long-term transition investment strategy that sees the cleaning up of the fossil fuel sector in a way that demonstrates global leadership. Politicians pitting different parts of Canada against each other is about the worst possible outcome for Canadians and a sad reflection on the narrow-mindedness of our Balkanized politicians. We need to be competing with the world, not each other.
Bruce Lourie is one of Canada’s leading environmental thinkers, the President of the Ivey Foundation, and a Director of Philanthropic Foundations Canada and Canadians for Clean Prosperity.
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It is of the utmost
It is of the utmost importance that the position taken here be widely grasped. The current political direction Canada is going is utterly self-destructive. Canadians need to understand and embrace both their past and their future with respect to their hydrocarbon resources, and their other sources of wealth and energy.
Subject: FW: We all.. must do
Subject: FW: We all.. must do more ??…
Can runaway carbon growth be controlled…someone must take the lead…politicians run ‘scared’ of this topic…because any corrective action requires drastic reductions in production of carbon dioxide gases impacting the key fossil fuels industries(FFI). Which politician is willing to tackle that baby, head on ??
The Alberta Premier, Mr. Jason Kenny’s concern is understandable given that the major economic engine in Alberta is sinking fast…
Some suggest we are at panic station time ...Mother Nature is TELLING us ,with worsening weather events, to stop upsetting Nature’s balance…. Today we are told by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) and many world scientists that we now have a bigger problem that requires drastic changes for society and our industries .
The Fossil Fuels Industry (FFI) ,for nearly a century kept the industrial machine working smoothly by meeting the demand !! Now ,the FFI is in a survival mode …because they failed to understand their enemy…Mother Nature. She doesn’t lose battles The politicians ,for the most part ,chose to pussy foot around this ‘issue’ ,and now are faced with task of fixing the mess and facing reality…
As the population increases, (approaching 8 billion) so does human impact on Mother Nature’s the normal fluctuations . Fortunately the UN did its job when it created the IPCC report about the atmosphere’s inability to absorb the ever increasing amount of carbon dioxide . Excessive ‘anything’ can upset mother nature. Recall when acid rains and refrigerant CFC created an imbalance in the atmosphere ? These problems were corrected when world leaders agreed to change to less damaging procedures, based on scientists studies and politicians ordered change …and the environment corrected itself .
This time the input of(CO2) is excessive and the environment is fighting back…big time. Sadly , FFI chose to ignore this ‘climate nonsense’ and the many scientists studies, ‘Inconvenient’ timing to say the least ,and just as FFI was swimming in apparent new ’gushing’ supplies of new tight oil, etc. !
Would the FFI be wise to show more initiative in searching for carbon free alternatives, and possibly aid in their own survival ?
OK FFI Board Members ,put on your survival suits…!
Too much of anything leads Mother Nature to fight back as demonstrated by the growing number of calamitous weather incidents. Many (194) countries agreed with conference goals set by the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris to significantly reduce the carbon footprint! Still we continue to make the carbon footprint bigger and BIGGER !
…Many new and evolving technologies; for instance.... modern nuclear power ,wind power, solar, electric, retrofitting , SMR, tidal , fuel cell, geothermal, etc. are being introduced.
ITER was to be the grand solution although we may be a couple of decades away from proving this as the ultimate solution.
Most have stood by and watched the climate deteriorate. Someone, somewhere must provide direction and order MEASURED changes that will show us that normal climate can be re-established - before it’s too late. We cannot win the war on carbon by dithering as we have for these many years.
Carl Shalansky, P. Eng. (Retired)
Wow! I just read a National
Wow! I just read a National Observer op-ed preaching that pipelines are in our national interest. Now here's another op-ed telling us that we should just surrender and accept the fate Big Oil has in store for us. Did CAPP just buy out the National Observer?
These outworn arguments and industry talking points are long past their Best Before date.
Bruce Lourie: "Fossil fuels aren’t going away tomorrow and having Alberta supply Canada and the rest of the world with Canadian fossil fuel is a much better scenario for Canada than shutting down one of the largest economic engines, while other countries eat our lunch."
A prescription for climate disaster. If other oil producers adopt Lourie's logic, global production will expand indefinitely, displacing renewables — and no one will reduce emissions. A mad dash for the climate cliff.
Bruce Lourie and Big Oil are banking on climate failure.
To avert more severe climate impacts, the IPCC gives us until 2030 to halve GHG emissions and 2050 to eliminate them. We ignore the best available science at our peril.
Transitions start by moving in the direction you wish to travel. Doubling down on fossil fuels takes us in the wrong direction.
Carbon pricing reduces supply and demand at the same time.
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."
Oilsands emissions do nothing but climb year after year. Production gains far outpace technological improvements. AB's emissions show no sign of falling.
Rising oilsands emissions cannot be reconciled with Canada's inadequate climate targets. Oilsands expansion will prevent Canada from meeting its inadequate targets for decades.
The UN, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the federal Environment Commissioner warn that Canada is NOT on track to meet its targets. The main obstacle? Rising oilsands emissions.
Canada's oil & gas industry grossly under-reports its emissions (of all types). Even using the industry's gross under-estimates, Canada's oilpatch is the FOURTH MOST CARBON-INTENSIVE on the planet, behind Algeria, Venezuela, and Cameroon. Canada's rating is nearly twice the global average. (CP, 2018)
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.
Here is what the AB Govt says about "Best Barrel":
"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. It will naturally receive a lower price in the market place due to these less valuable characteristics."
Ian MacGregor (president and large shareholder of North West Refining) admits that bitumen is sold at a discount because it’s "the worst feedstock".
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.
Lourie: "one of the largest
Lourie: "one of the largest economic engines"
Fossil fuel boosters, including Mr. Lourie, typically overestimate the economic contribution of Canada's oil & gas industry.
NRCan: In 2018 the energy sector as a whole, fossil fuels and renewables, DIRECTLY contributed 8.1% to Canada's GDP.
Crude oil accounts for 2.8%. The oilsands sector represents a fraction of that. Extra revenues from a new export pipeline would account for a fraction of that.
"Energy’s nominal GDP contribution for Canada (NRCan)"
Subtract externalized environmental, climate change, and health costs and subsidies.
Taxpayers have already coughed up billions of dollars in subsidies to this destructive industry.
AB's oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its massive liabilities: north of $260 billion and rising.
Lourie: "having Alberta
Lourie: "having Alberta supply Canada and the rest of the world with Canadian fossil fuel"
Eastern Canada's simple refineries prefer light, sweet crudes due to better economics, limited heavy-oil refining capacity, and market issues. High-conversion heavy-oil refineries are hugely expensive.
"Why Canada’s East Coast refineries have little appetite for Alberta crude
"Although shipping Canadian crude to Canadian refineries on the East Coast sounds like a no-brainer, logistically, it can be very expensive and impractical.
"...Since New Brunswick is 1,000 km further than the Gulf Coast, displacing 100% of Canadian foreign imports with Alberta crude is therefore unlikely to happen, even if Energy East eventually gets revived.
"Oil Price Differentials Explained: Why Alberta crude sells at a deep discount" (Oilsands Magazine, 13-Dec-18)
"The only option for Canada
"The only option for Canada is to understand and embrace the complexity of how to finance the transition to a clean economy through a measured, long-term transition investment strategy that sees the cleaning up of the fossil fuel sector in a way that demonstrates global leadership."
Nonsense. Put a realistic price on carbon, and use those revenues to fund renewables. End fossil fuel subsidies, and divert those funds to renewables and sustainability solutions, like smart cities, people-friendly neighbourhoods, and public transit.
Even if by some pie-in-the-sky carbon-capture miracle the oilsands industry could be cleaned up, we've still got millions of cars, trains, boats, and planes burning the stuff.
According to the Lourie, Big Oil, corporate Canada, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the AB NDP, and industry-captured ENGOs, the path to renewable energy and a sustainable future runs through a massive spike in fossil-fuel combustion and emissions. Complete disconnect from the science.
Who believes that if we just increase oil industry profits and power that it will voluntarily cease operations?
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.
Doubling down on fossil fuels only increases our dependence on the roller-coaster fossil fuel industry. We need to start planning for the decline of fossil fuels, not expansion.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.
The industry is betting that the world will fail to take real action on climate change. Following Big Oil's plan, Canada will miss its emissions targets for decades.
Carbon Tracker 2019: "Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5 degree C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals."
Just say NO.
Very welcome feedback. Thanks
Very welcome feedback. Thanks.
This would have been a good
This would have been a good argument forty years ago. The science was clear then.
For Big Oil however, there were ways around that science, the junk science of corporate sponsored self styled climate scientiests...Naomi Klein follows some of them in her book This Changes Everything. So we wasted 40 years in doubt and sceptical arrogance.........treating Exxon's hired hacks as equivalent to scientists like James Hansen.
And oh yes........we persecuted those actual scientists whenever it was possible as well.
So now, Canadians should band together, respect our hydrocarbon industry and swallow a pipeline for another fifty years? On the bogus promise that we'll use, the mostly fictional profits, to transition?
To me, that would be like inviting the Drug Cartels of South America, to design an international program of Drug Rehabilitation. Too little too late.
But here's an alternative: Of course we'll need oil in the immediate future, to transition in Canada. So let's nationalize the resource, build upgraders and refineries, and use the product nationally, with all profits going to shutting the business down. And of course, the carbon tax will continue, become higher, and all that money be invested in electrifying the grid, and building our own electric cars.
We have the workers and the skill to do it. It's only the Big international corporations who think the old way of doing business...ripping and shipping essentially......is good for the country. It never was.
``The only option for Canada
``The only option for Canada is to understand and embrace the complexity of how to finance the transition to a clean economy through a measured, long-term transition investment strategy that sees the cleaning up of the fossil fuel sector in a way that demonstrates global leadership`` Thing is how long term is long term, I believe the transition needs be expediated to all the alternate sources showing promise, although the transportation industry will have to soon decide which of the options are most viable due to large infrastructure changes needed on a large scale with probably hydrogen power and electric mix. Time is of the essence for the generations behind us.
I'm not sure we need an extra
I'm not sure we need an extra pipeline — but I'm not sure we don't.
1. Fossil fuels will be needed for quite some time to come — not just to power automobiles, but (for example) for all kinds of lubricants. How much will we need and for how long?
2. It is important to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. How long will it take until we have the renewables that we need? Having electric cars is one thing but having electric 18-whelers, and electric-powered ships, and electric airplanes — that is another matter. Those larger vehicles are barely in the developmental stages, and won't be commercially viable for quite some time. We have a least some of the science but that does not equal usable equipment.
3. We cannot end hydrocarbon use at the drop of a hat. We have a lot more work to do on renewables. In the meantime, we will need some fossil fuels.
New EXPORT pipelines are for
New EXPORT pipelines are for EXPORT.
Technological progress is incremental. If we wait for renewables and sustainability solutions to arrive in perfected form, we will wait forever.
The internal combustion engine did not appear in perfected form overnight. All these years later, and it is still only 20% efficient.
Transitions start by moving in the direction you wish to travel. Doubling down on fossil fuels takes us in the wrong direction.
The future is coming…
"On the road to a low-cost, carbon-free Alberta
"Hydrogen-powered trucks will be plying the Calgary-Edmonton highway by 2021
…The province is home to world-leading innovations that in just over a year will see carbon-free transport trucks hauling freight on Highway 2...
It's called AZETEC for the Alberta Zero-Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration
Not only will the trucks be carbon-free, they will be cheaper to run than existing diesel transports, and the fuel they use will be produced by the Canadian fossil fuel industry.
But the magic that makes this plan work is that the cost of running a transport truck carbon-free is a fraction of the cost of the conventional alternative. Measured in units of energy, or gigajoules, the compelling business case is that the low-carbon substitute is significantly cheaper."
We need to start building tomorrow's sustainable economy today. Not entrench and expand the economy of yesteryear.
"We need to start building
"We need to start building tomorrow's sustainable economy today. Not entrench and expand the economy of yesteryear."
YES! Globally, there are about eight years left to make the massive changes needed to prevent ecocide. That is a terrifying future.
Perhaps we will need 'some
Perhaps we will need 'some fossil fuels' in the immediate future...but we don't need a pipeline designed to ship those fossil fuels around the globe. That is the old neoliberal dream of unending wealth through export....we should be over that by now.
We only imagine the international market for our junk fossil fuel...........it hasn't really been there, economically, since oil prices fell. What we need most in Canada, is to move quickly to take advantage of our riches in sun, wind, and water. Let's transition quickly, build in the R and D necessary to speed up the transition, and take what we learn to the world.
The reality now is that when we cheat another, we cheat ourselves; climate degradation hurts us all...no matter where it happens.....cooperation, innovation and real entrepreneurial change are needed. Everywhere.
Canada could be a world leader in a new sustainable economy......the opportunities are endless.
There are several important
There are several important details overlooked in the article.
One, demand for oil in the land transportation sector will surely be eroded by the incremental disappearance of the internal combustion engine, replaced by simpler electric motors. This is the policy direction several big nations with collective domestic markets of almost two billion people. The leading car manufacturers are also taking this tack through the next decade. With gas tanks comprising about 90% of Alberta's market or oil, this is not good news.
Two, while the U.S. shale industry has indeed pumped up the world supply of oil to glut proportions, aided, it has to be said, by over-production in Alberta sold into the same market, and further assisted by international players who kept their spigots open while the world price dropped, shale is rife with debt, poor returns and very troubling (for industry) geological constraints. Investors have gotten wise to the financial risks and are leaving shale alone and ignoring the hype in greater numbers.
Once production hits the inevitable steep decline slope, shale will diminish in importance and world supplies will be constrained. Contrary to folks like the author and organizations like the IEA (who never get it wrong ... right?) (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/05/iea-accused-of-under...), this will probably cause a yo-yo in prices as supply decreases concurrent with demand, and consumers react to increased prices by actively searching for alternatives, like increasingly available electric vehicles with far lower operating costs, generous public grants and a healthier ethical profile. This, too, is not good news for Alberta.
Third, low world oil prices cause recessions in producing jurisdictions. Likewise, high world prices cause recessions in consuming jurisdictions. Is this not instability? Alberta had enough of this Boom and Bust roller coaster?
Three, as Geoffrey Pounder points out above, The entire Canadian fossil fuel sector comprise not more than 8-9% of the nation's GDP. Alberta's share is 6% when times are good, and was 3.8% less than a year ago as the effects of the world price slump played out over several years (source: Bank of Canada). The tail does not wag the dog.
Meanwhile, Canada's 10 largest cities made up no less than 70% of the nation's GDP. The six largest cities contribute half. Metro Vancouver contributes half of B.C.'s annual wealth generation.
Cities vs. finite natural resources with a terrible environmental profile -- which is the real engine of the economy?