A rallying cry for moderates in the energy wars

A rallying cry for moderates in the energy wars

JEFFREY JONES

CALGARY — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2016 5:09PM EST

Last updated Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2016 5:23PM EST

 

In the energy wars, the moderates have to get off their butts and storm the barricades.

On the important issues of economic development and climate, the microphones are being dominated by those at the extreme ends of the political spectrum. It’s high time the masses in the middle wrested the discussion back.

Canada is at a crucial point as it formulates a strategy on oil development, its role in the economy and how to balance it with the need to reduce carbon emissions and protect the rights of indigenous people and others.

Angry mobs can’t make those complex decisions for the rest of the country. And yet, what do we see each day? Angry mobs, getting angrier.

The reason is understandable: As the U.S. presidential campaign and victory of Donald Trump showed, they’re easily directed by agents provocateurs via social media to attack perceived enemies with increasing vitriol.

On the energy front, their so-called solutions are simple. They are to build pipelines hither and yon, damn it, scrap carbon taxes; or block all pipelines, damn it, and switch the country immediately over to 100-per-cent renewable energy.

Neither, of course, is realistic in the least, and a new militant middle has to confront the mobs and tell them they will fight them with informed discussion and courtesy until they cry uncle. Either that or try to ignore them.

It won’t be easy. Some of the biggest developments in the energy wars have converged as the year draws to a close, and the discourse has been dominated by extreme views.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau granted federal approval to Kinder Morgan Inc.’s $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the Pacific, and to Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement, which will boost oil shipments to the U.S. Midwest. He nixed Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal, but that does not guarantee the others will get built amid a new round of protests and court challenges.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government is taking action against some of the potential impacts of new pipelines and oil sands production with policies such as a carbon tax, the proceeds of which would be used to fund environmental technology development.

It’s not clear yet if that will be successful, but it represents real money directed at the problem. Indeed, Ms. Notley travelled to British Columbia this week to try to make the point.

There, she faces push-back to the concept of oil sands pipelines on environmental grounds. At home, she is blasted for the other part of the bargain – the carbon taxes. Indeed, some protesters on the weekend chanted “Lock her up” in an unimaginative resurrection of one of the cries of Trump rallies.

This all comes after months of protests by Standing Rock Sioux and supporters in North Dakota culminated in Washington denying Energy Transfer Partners a river-crossing easement. Protesters claimed victory, though it could partly be a parting shot at the incoming U.S. administration by outgoing President Barack Obama.

We’re still in the first days after these developments, with many months, and perhaps years, to go. Let’s have some honest talk on the issues, rather than slogans.

Carbon taxes are hard for Albertans and other Canadians to stomach, for sure, especially with the shaky economy caused by the collapse in crude prices. But Mr. Trudeau said his green light for pipelines would have been impossible without Alberta’s moves to limit carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, could environmentalists ever be satisfied with a record that is good and improving, though not perfect, on emissions and other concerns surrounding energy development? Some couldn’t, but others have already come to that line of thinking, accounting other factors such as job creation and funding public services.

First Nations, meanwhile, have a paramount role in the debate, given important issues of traditional territory, culture and rights. Not all communities see eye to eye on energy development, and there’s much negotiation ahead.

It’s going to take study and give and take from all sides. That doesn’t make for a stirring chant, I know, but that’s not the main objective.

 

 

 

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on December 7, 2016, in economic impact, oil, political. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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