I have come to the conclusion that this decision is too important to leave in the hands of short-sighted federal, provincial and municipal politicians. Nor do I want to leave it to the oil industry or other lobbyist or environmental groups to decide. I want the ultimate decision to be made by the people of Canada, all the people, every single one.
Let's be frank, climate change is real. We, as a country, have to do more to fight climate change. That being said climate change is a red herring in this discussion. Why? Because up to 80 per cent of the emissions associated with fossil fuels are generated in their combustion. Pipelines represent a negligible part of that equation.
There are many uses for fossil fuels, including oil, where the alternatives are nowhere near as advanced as wind turbines, solar panels or electric cars. Stopping pipelines in Canada does not speed up the development of alternatives to oil. It doesn't slow growing oil demand in emerging economies, where most of the growth in energy demand will come from in the future.
I can understand that Alberta faces economic hardships; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the cabinet meeting would examine the challenges that Alberta has to face because the price of petroleum has fallen through the floor. But in 2015-16, is the building of pipelines an appropriate remedy for the economic woes of Alberta?
The reality is that you can't have a legitimate discussion about the topic of oil without considering the ethics underlying our oil supply. Regardless of branding, ethical sourcing has to be part of the discussion. As a pragmatic environmentalist seeking only to ensure a healthy economy on a healthy planet, I would be remiss if I ignored the topic for such an inane reason.
How is it that the national debate is not about bitumen and the future markets for that commodity? Instead, people drone on about pipelines, an abstraction of the petroleum production. The mantra has become: "If we build them, money will come." But will it? Is the world market price for bitumen so attractive that success is assured if we can only get it to tide-water? The answer is simple: No.
Raising the minimum wage, diversifying Alberta's economy and supporting working people have my full support, but I'm sorry Premier Notley, I just can't get behind you on pipelines. New pipelines aren't good for the environment, they aren't good for the climate, and I'm sorry, but they aren't good for working people or good governance, either.
Columbia operates a 24,000-km pipeline network.
There is a catechism of the fossil fuel industry, with oft-repeated claims that seem by repetition to escape examination. Peter MacKay's recent opinion piece on pipelines was a veritable greatest hits compilation of such claims. He writes that "pipelines are by far the safest means of transporting oil." The first muddying of facts is the notion that we are talking about shipping oil. All the current pipeline proposals, including Energy East, are primarily about shipping unprocessed bitumen. Bitumen is in a pre-crude state and can only be casually referenced as "oil" if one accepted the idea that grain should be referred to as "croissants" when discussing markets.
Rather than engaging in a robust post-election rebuilding process and seeking to broaden its base, the Conservative party has decided to retreat into their comfort zone of regional grievance politics. Under the leadership of Rona Ambrose, the Conservatives appear to be abandoning any attempt to repair the national coalition that swept them to power in 2006. Indeed, today they look more like the Canadian Alliance of the early 2000s than the governing Conservatives of the last 10 years. The latest and most obvious example of this is the party's recent opposition day motion on the Energy East pipeline.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there does seem to be a future for the industry. In fact, if we're not careful, B.C. could be overrun by lobbyists. Last year, there were 2,502 in-house and consultant lobbyists registered in the province, up from 1,451 four years ago. Whoever said the B.C. Jobs Plan wasn't working?