Truth and consequences

It didn’t take long for the bad stuff to hit the national fan, and it didn’t take long for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to clarify that the party was all for energy development, as long as it was done in an environmentally responsible way.

“A lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we’re going to meet our climate change targets.”

— Linda McQuaig, NDP candidate for Toronto Centre

Well, wasn’t that a blast for the federal election campaign: an NDP candidate from Central Canada in effect suggesting Alberta perhaps should not be developing its “dirty oil.”

It didn’t take long for the bad stuff to hit the national fan, and it didn’t take long for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to clarify that the party was all for energy development, as long as it was done in an environmentally responsible way.

So both statements could be true at the same time.

Shortly after McQuaig’s comments to the CBC, the Ontario Energy Board ruminated that TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East pipeline to carry that dirty oil to a refinery in New Brunswick contained more risk than reward. Needless to say, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant was not happy with that.

More recently, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips appointed a five-member panel to write a climate change action plan for the province.

Anyone can offer opinions online to the panel and one-day public sessions in Edmonton and Calgary are being arranged, with a deadline of early November for the plan’s presentation. Good luck with that. Seriously.

Meanwhile, consumers are expected to believe that a 50 per cent shutdown of one single refinery in Indiana is responsible for gasoline prices rising by 15 cents a litre overnight — at a time when crude prices are at near-historic lows.

Hanging over all of that — and tying it all together — is McQuaig’s truthful comment that Canada will never come near meeting a signed declaration committing us to a 70 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Not without leaving a lot of that 168 billion barrels of oilsands crude forever in the ground.

Canada produces about 726 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. That’s about two per cent of the global total. Canada’s greenhouse gas emission target in our latest agreement is just under 220 megatonnes per year.

China produces nearly a quarter of the current global total. The U.S. produces 18 per cent. If cutting greenhouse gas production by 70 per cent will save the planet, that’s where the big cuts will have to come.

Good luck with that, too. I do mean that.

Let’s look at what the experts have told us in the time between what McQuaig said and what our environment minister said.

If we are to cut about more than 500 megatonnes of C02 equivalent off our annual carbon footprint in 35 years, where would the cuts be achieved?

Federal government reports say transportation — cars, trucks, motorcycles, rail and domestic air travel accounts for about 98 megatonnes of C02 per year. That’s the largest category of production.

The entire oil and gas industry — minus the oilsands — accounts for only 19 megatonnes. The oilsands, at current production, accounts for 62 megatonnes.

Add that up: it’s 179 megatonnes. So, if we outlawed all internal combustion engines and all air travel, and shut down the entire oil, gas and oilsands industry over the next 35 years, Canada would miss its sworn goal by 312 megatonnes per year.

Under those conditions, I don’t think many Canadians would still be around in 2050 to celebrate the achievement.

And that draconian effort would affect only 1.4 per cent of today’s global emissions. Good luck to the rest of the world matching our reduction.

In other words, averting climate change in today’s economy is not only more difficult than we imagine; it is more difficult than we can imagine.

So what does this have to do with the sudden spike in the price of gas, and Alberta’s announced climate change action plan? Considering the task before us, the cynical mind wants to know.

One of the questions that have been put to Alberta’s climate panel is how to put a price on carbon. If Alberta puts a carbon tax on gasoline, for instance, what’s the most our government could add to the pump price without really putting a serious crimp on things?

Well, the gasoline industry just put an overnight 15 cents-a-litre bite on the gap between what was being charged and the theoretical max. You want a carbon tax on gas? Well, tack it on top of $1.20 a litre and blame it on a partial refinery shutdown in Somewhere, Indiana.

I can’t shake the feeling that we’re being played here. Consumers do have a real appetite for reducing carbon pollution — except in vehicle fuel consumption, which is the biggest single source of carbon pollution. We also have a big resistance to personal sacrifice when it comes to our lifestyle.

A secret planning document for the federal government, uncovered by the CBC, suggests up to 89 megatonnes of CO2 can be saved in efficiencies in electricity production. Read: close all coal-fired power plants.

Now why would the feds even consider shutting down existing power plants over 35 years hoping to save 89 megatonnes of greenhouse gas, while expanding oilsands production (already producing 62 megatonnes) by approving bitumen pipelines to anywhere?

Don’t blame Linda McQuaig for telling the truth.

Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email greg.neiman.blog@gmail.com.

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

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement after a meeting of the college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans Wednesday for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023. (John Thys, Pool via AP)
EU reaches major climate deal ahead of Biden climate summit

Provisional deal reached after officials negotiated through the night

Mountain Men’s Barbershop co-owners Laura-Lee Gambee, left, and Heidi Forster pose in their Collingwood, Ont., shop in an undated handout image. Small business owners and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses say companies started in the months leading up to COVID-19 or those that opened during the pandemic don’t qualify for the recently-extended rent or wage subdies or a new hiring subsidy the government announced Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiley VanderMeer
New, young small businesses left out of federal budget want more aid: CFIB

Eligibility requirements for subsidies need improving

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa, March 10, 2020. Federal officials are facing calls for greater clarity on how a proposed new law to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People could affect future development projects and government decisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Feds pressed to define ‘free, prior and informed consent’ in UNDRIP bill

UNDRIP bill mandates government adopt more inclusive approach

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

FILE - Ted Nugent performs at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Aug. 16, 2013. Nugent revealed he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus — months after he said the virus was “not a real pandemic.” “I thought I was dying,” Nugent says in a Facebook live video posted Monday. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)
Ted Nugent, who once dismissed COVID-19, sickened by virus

Rocker a supporter of ex-President Donald Trump

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Most Read