Posted by: jmtoriel | March 1, 2013

Credibility to Counter Big Oil spin Required

Much more emphasis needs to be placed on Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain Pipeline project as Northern Gateway continues to take headlines. A brilliantly layed-out report was just released by Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) that clearly reasons why it should and must be opposed.
 
Of course my take is to always have a solid counter to the usual industry response, “Well, let’s be clear, everyone needs oil and we are providing for the needs of an expanding global market blah, blah…” 
 
I’d like us to counter with, no, we don’t need your dirty, stinking oil because it is clearly not serving us and, in fact, harming us and our children” We have to provide a realistic response to the over-emphasis of a falling demand that hasn’t lived up to their speculative gorwth model (eg deficits in oil-rich Alberta, massive natural gas price shortfalls in BC etc.). We are raping and pillaging now — or worse letting “foreign”-owned multi-nationals in to do the job on the notion that it will increase job numbers in the future at home and balance our budgets on unrealistic targets that we cannot control. Absolute bogus claims, and this must resonate loud and clear to people basing assumptions on these claims.
 
In addition, having tax payers expected to pay for any spills that will affect the value of their properties and public spaces (including recreational areas) resonates very sharply as well (surprised to see West Vancouver Council on board here and not North Van/District of). Emissions increasing as a result of greater access is the other obvious response and any targets suggesting reductions with this in mind become hot air.
 
Here’s the reality in BC:
 Image
A simple cost analysis of how much we will lose (water contamination and GHG emissions, toxicity, energy use — (Site C dam being built to support processing nat gas for export is a good one) vs how much we will really gain (according to the known facts) is what the public needs to hear to get behind. Govt and industry have been discrediting any ENGO risk analysis (or participation in decision-making) while speculating on a global market we have so little to do with (eg we are not the energy super power Harper & co. claim) and the market is deciding that for us whatever we do or don’t do. Opposing the projects is the easy part. Preventing and reversing them is much more difficult and where I’d like to see more strategic minds get together to provide a non-politically driven solution scenario for (as opposed to clarifying and exposing the problems).
 Image 
Rupture in Enbridge pipeline in Michigan that caused a 877,000 US gallons (3,320  m3) spill of heavy crude oil originating from Canada 
           
We all know (or pretend not to) that problems persist and the climate crisis is very, very real.
 
We must go one step further than expose and oppose to promote an end to subsidies and advance the adoption of viable and cleaner alternatives that are not bound to government revenues at all levels of government. Here’s a breakdown:
  1. We are spending far too much of our collective tax resources subsidizing some of the wealthiest companies and gov’t-owned oil companies (Big Oil) — to the tune of $1.3 billion annually at last estimate (IISD-International Institute for Sustainable Development). We must really ask ourselves… WHY and how much money is being spent on renewables, clean transportation like EV infrastructure, etc comparatively?
  2. The lack of royalty payments do not benefit the mid-to long-term economic value of the oil and gas sector in Canada as it has in places like Norway. The fact that market-driven commodity pricing and over-enthusiastic (and highly unrealistic) forecasts lead to massive shortfalls in government revenues demonstrates a failure to emphasize the need to shift our reliance on the extraction of fossil fuels to support our economy and the govt coffers through taxation at the pump. 
  3. Carbon taxes do work as a penalty mechanism by increasing costs, but the revenues gained must be put towards cleaner alternatives (not tax breaks for these same companies). This is clearly evident in jurisdictions like Alberta which is coming to terms with a glut and a growing budget deficit. This is a shift that must happen.
  4. Canada is not a member of OPEC – we can’t pretend that what we — (more accurately, “they”) extract and what is internationally recognized as “dirty oil” is going to save the world. It will do quite the opposite.
  5. Meeting international safety standards does not make us “world-class” or a global “gateway” and the risk is simply too high for our coastline, climate cannot be ignored in any credible review process (Keystone XL, Northern Gateway Project)
 
In a jurisdiction like BC that does not need to rely on oil, gas and coal to meet most energy needs while subsidising the companies that create most emissions can instead harness cleaner energy (as attached graph shows — transportation is the key here) in order to mitigate emissions by reducing our reliance while creating many, many more jobs and spur innovation. Norway has done it and they are the have the highest percent of EVs on the road/pop in the world, a carbon tax, healthy revenues with a declining supply that they are prepared for. 
 
It can be done and it must be done.
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