Trudeau, like Trump, won’t leave oil in ground

Trudeau, like Trump, won’t leave oil in ground

When it comes to climate change, Donald Trump is usually painted as the villain of the piece.

Much of that opprobrium is deserved. The U.S. president has moved to take apart the Obama-era regulations designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity generation plants. He has vowed to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

At a United Nations climate change conference in Poland this week, U.S. negotiators joined forces with Russia, Australia and Saudi Arabia to promote the use of carbon-rich fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.

“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,” Trump adviser Wells Griffith told the conference, as environmental activists jeered.

“No country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.”

To the New York Times, it was evidence of Trump’s move from mere outlier on the climate change front to downright opponent of anything designed to constrain global warming.

And in some ways it was — particularly since it came only two days after the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia deep-sixed an attempt to have the conference endorse the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report warns that the world is running out of time in the battle against global warming.

But the essence of the Trump critique — that nations cannot afford to leave their oil and gas reserves undeveloped, regardless of the effect on climate change — is not unique to him. It is shared by, among others, Canada’s own Justin Trudeau.

“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there,” the prime minister said in Houston last year, in reference to Alberta’s oilsands.

“The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure that this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably.”

How does this mesh with Canada’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels, and doing so by the year 2030?

The answer is that it doesn’t. The Canadian government admits that its carbon-reduction strategy — already modest to begin with — is not on target.

Indeed, the federal, Alberta and British Columbia governments continue to subsidize the oil and natural gas industries.

The federal Liberal government has purchased a pipeline for $4.5 billion and plans to expand it in order to move heavy oil from Alberta to the B.C. coast. Alberta’s New Democratic government has pledged to buy a fleet of rail tank cars to transport bitumen. The NDP minority government in B.C. wants to offer tax breaks to developers of a giant liquified natural gas project.

Unlike the Trump administration, all three governments are considered progressive. They are vocal in their concern about climate change. But like Trump, they are unwilling to undertake any action that might sacrifice jobs and the economy.

A report this week from two environmental groups calculates that rising emissions from oil and gas production won’t allow Canada to meet its global target.

The report by Environmental Defence and Stand.earth estimates that if Canada wants to reach that target without affecting oil and gas, the rest of the country would have to cut emissions almost in half.

The authors say this would be the equivalent of taking all vehicles off the road, shutting down all manufacturing and eliminating all greenhouse gases from non-petroleum industries.

In short, it is something no government would do. Similarly and regardless of climate change, no government would be willing to leave Alberta’s bitumen in the ground. The political costs would be too high.

In that sense, we are all Trumpians. Saving the planet is a fine idea. But not if it costs us.

Thomas Walkom is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lacombe city council rescinded many policies and bylaws on Jan. 25, 2021. (File photo)
Lacombe gets rid of outdated policies and bylaws

Data integrity project underway since 2016

Police have charged two men after they allegedly tried to break into the Bentley post office with a semi. (Photo courtesy of RCMP)
Red Deer men charged in Bentley post office destruction

Police have charged a pair of Red Deer men after an attempted… Continue reading

Red Deer Fire Chief Ken McMullen remains concerned about “inconsistencies” in the province’s new way of dispatching local ambulances. (Advocate file photo).
A few glitches are already noticed in Red Deer’s new ambulance dispatch system

Local fire-medics need more data about ambulance arrival times

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, left, makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, and Rosecrans was not alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, watches during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Darron Cummings
Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp (9) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Most Read