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Eat us last please. Will Sunday do?

13 Nov 2019 | OP ED Watch

Yet another piece, in the Globe & Mail this time, says we can move past the regional and political divide on climate by accepting the alarmist position in return for painless euthanasia for the energy industry. This one is slightly unusual in that the lion has sat down with the lamb at the keyboard, as it is coauthored by an Ontario clean energy firm and an Alberta oil CEO. The latter, like far too many of his colleagues, thinks that if you’re nice to the activist crocodile it will eat you last, evidently heedless of the racket outside in the streets indicating how quickly “last” will arrive.

The claim that there wouldn’t be any argument if everyone else would just concede and leave me in charge is hardly original. And the piece has all the usual touchy-feely management-consulting phrases about “progress beyond “either/or” to an “and” conversation when it comes to energy transition.” Which sounds like surrender on the instalment plan since this inclusive and sensitive dialogue plan leaves no room for questions about whether to have the energy transition. They say “There are many Canadians across the political spectrum who want to talk about our energy future, but don’t share the black or white extreme views.” The “extreme” views in this case apparently include that we want to have access to reliable energy and we’re not convinced the world will end in 12 years if we do. But since those seeking a middle way have a disquieting habit of insisting that every view this side of Greta’s nightmare is black and extreme, all the instalments come due right away.

It’s no good for the Globe authors to utter phrases like “it’s imperative to bring Canadians together with workable solutions that maintain prosperity while addressing the very real threat of climate change” or “we require solutions that maintain and even build our energy economy” or “it’s important to recognize that we can’t just turn off the taps, as some have suggested” if the discussion is open only to those who believe civilization will end if we don’t do precisely that by 2030. And if it’s open to other voices, why is “Net-zero” labeled “a must” and the price of admission to the conversation, along with admitting “the very real threat of climate change” and insisting that Canada “prioritize a transition off fossil fuels”?

No. This piece is an invitation to jump into the cooking pot and then debate the menu while enjoying a relaxing last hot bath.

The piece rightly notes that “It’s not just about Alberta or the West – the energy sector is nearly one-10th of our national economy.” But making the usual mercantilist error it thinks of economics in terms of advantages to the producer (and, of course, the clincher nowadays, the government via tax revenue). They dangle “a $2.5-trillion global market by 2022” in clean tech. If that market were to arise because clean tech competes with fossil fuels and displaces them via superior products and lower prices, then good for clean tech. But they’re talking about an artificial economy created by regulations that force consumers to pay more for less-reliable forms of energy, when what really matters is that ordinary people get affordable reliable fuel essential to their well-being. That’s what that 10% of our economy is about. And it doesn’t matter how rich companies get selling devices to capture CO2 and put it into cement (one of their dazzling prospects.) It matters that your food gets cooked and your kids don’t freeze.

As they more or less concede by saying “It’s a complex global problem where technology (be it advancing renewables or net-zero goals for hydrocarbon producers) only deals with 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. The other 80 per cent is driven by human activity and consumption, with 28 per cent of our emissions coming from transportation alone.” So all that technology won’t come close to getting the job done and we have to give up warmth and safety, and of course mobility.

In the end we get a patronizing pat on the head from the authors, who say “The path forward to reducing environmental effects while preserving the Canadian economy will become clear when we are able to take the emotion and fear out of the energy conversation. Fear paralyzes the ability to move forward and get to the heart of real solutions.” What about the fear that you don’t understand the basic physics of alternative energy, or of climate change? What therapy do you propose to cure us of those anxieties?

It is obvious, except to the great and good, that if alternative energy were a money-maker it wouldn’t need subsidies and if it’s not they won’t help. They might line the pockets of those adept at subsidy-farming. But the idea that uneconomical methods can replace the vast majority of our fuel sources in the next 12 years, including in poor countries desperate for growth, is daft.

One comment on “Eat us last please. Will Sunday do?”

  1. Why are you stirring the pot John?
    Here is an interesting piece from Maclean's by Shannon Proudfoot
    "As a Canadian right now, you are merely for or against a carbon tax or a resource development project or a real plan to address the HOWLING ( MY EMPH.) crisis of climate change; you are instead a patronizing, coddled elite who knows and cares nothing of normal people with real bills to pay, or an ignorant hillbilly who will stuff your oil-steaked fingers in your ears and hum loudly until the planet burns away beneath your cowboy boots. You either hate the swath of the Canadian map labelled "Alberta" and "Saskatchewan" and everyone who lives there, or you loathe an entire generation of children and teenagers terrified of their impending annihilation. You must either want to kneecap the economy or the environment."
    I'm not sure but, I think she just called me an elite hillbilly! I'll take it.
    As far as for terrified children & teenagers, they would'nt be that way if the adults around them stopped putting some of them out front to aid their cause!

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