“Phasing Out” the Oilsands

At a recent town hall meeting Mr Trudeau reiterated his position on climate change.  He said:

“You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.  We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow.  We need to phase them out.  We need to manage the transition off our dependence on fossil fuels.  That is going to take time, and in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.”

Alberta’s conservatives went ballistic.

Mr Jean tweeted: @Justin Trudeau, if you want to “phase out” the oilsands.  You’ll have to go through me and 4 million Albertans first.

Mr McIver tweeted:  Justin Trudeau you just threw Alberta under the bus today.  How dare you shut down an industry providing 1000’s of jobs for families.

Mr Jean’s “you and whose army” response and Mr McIver’s righteous indignation were a little over the top but the most bizarre response came from Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney reacts

In a recent radio interview Mr Kenney said:

  • Justin Trudeau was Pierre Trudeau’s son (true, but irrelevant unless this is a “sins of the father” tactic) and Pierre Trudeau “single-handedly shut down the western Canadian oil and gas industry with the National Energy Program (partially true, but irrelevant because Justin Trudeau did not say he was introducing NEP 2.0)  
  • This prime minister, Justin Trudeau, rolled over and played dead when Barack Obama vetoed Keystone XL. (Not true, Obama vetoed Keystone XL on Feb 24, 2015, Trudeau was elected on Oct 19, 2015, so the prime minister who rolled over and played dead was Stephen Harper, not Justin Trudeau).
  • Trudeau vetoed Northern Gateway (true, but let’s give him a little credit for approving Kinder Morgan and Line 3) and is introducing a carbon tax (true) that’s going to make life more expensive for Canadians (not necessarily true, the feds will recognize provincial carbon taxation programs, two thirds of Albertans will get a full or partial rebate and BC’s carbon tax is revenue neutral).
  • When Trudeau talks about phasing out this multi-trillion dollar asset that can help us pay for future healthcare and education infrastructure and pensions, what he’s really talking about is letting the future global demand for oil be filled completely by theocracies, kleptocracies and dictatorships like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Qatar. (Not true, Trudeau said nothing about letting the future global demand be filled by theocracies, kleptocracies, dictatorships, or even that looney country south of us).
  • I for one would prefer that Canadian oil be in the mix in the global market rather than leaving it all to the bad actors who are the other major producers of oil. (Agreed).

Mr Kenney

Mr Kenney was asked whether Stephen Harper said “anything that sounded like at some point that Canada will phase out of fossil fuel production”.

His answer was no.  No? 

Mr Kenney explained that when Mr Harper signed the Munich G7 Agreement in June 2015 it was simply “a completely symbolic aspirational statement” to be carbon free by 2100.  Ah, Mr Harper’s commitment to a carbon free future was NOT a commitment to a carbon free future notwithstanding what he told the G7 in Munich.    

Rachel Notley’s response

Mr Kenney was singularly unimpressed with Ms Notley’s response to Mr Trudeau’s comments.

He said her video statement was not the right because what she really said was “there’s nothing to be worried about here, everyone please look away” and she failed to demonstrate Alberta’s traditional leadership which was a “tradition of strength”.

My goodness.  What did Ms Notley say that was so deeply disappointing to Mr Kenney?


Ms Notley

In her video she said:

“Oil and gas will help power the global economy for generations to come and our job is to make sure that Alberta’s product is the first in line.  That’s why we’re working with industry to position Alberta as a global energy leader, the most progressive and sustainable producer of oil and gas anywhere in the world.  And you know what, it’s working, just recently we secured approval for a new pipeline, something former conservative governments could never get done.  The bottom line:  Alberta’s oil and gas industry and the people who work in it are the best in the world and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

She elaborated on these comments in a CBC interview where she said:

“At the end of the day this is what I know to be true…the world market for oil is not going anywhere soon, and so the job of Albertans and Canadians is to make sure that that world market looks to the oilsands, as they should, as the first choice for where they get that product from and the reason is because we’ve been so successful working with industry putting in place significant environmental improvements, working hard with industry to help them reduce their emissions footprint so we truly are the most progressive and sustainable producers of oil and gas in the world.”

Nothing in Ms Notley’s response contradicts Mr Kenney’s desire that Canadian oil be part of the mix in the global market.

So what’s not to like about Ms Notley’s response?

I’m betting it’s Ms Notley’s observation that Alberta has recently secured approval for a pipeline which was “something former conservative governments could never get done”.

Albertans and Canadians may want to take that on board when they’re asked to chose between quiet diplomacy that gets results and throwing one’s toys out of the pram which does not.

This entry was posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to “Phasing Out” the Oilsands

  1. Douglas Taylor says:

    Anyone have any background on the Kenney family composition and their values DNA? Perhaps there are sins of the father ( mother, sibling, grandparents, et al) tit for tat that could be used to understand the dork nature of the esteemed member for Kicking Horse Pass.

  2. Douglas Taylor says:

    Kenney must be challenged on his ( and Trapper Jean’s ) phony umbrage over what the Prime Minister is interpreted to have said about the future of the oil sands mining. The petroleum natural resources as we extract them, are definitely finite and will continue to run out over time. The Premier’s retort does not wash to some extent as well. The extraction of bitumen is sure as heck not “sustainable” so stop using this cliche with such earnest zeal. Yes mining extraction will still continue for “generations” whatever that is, but it is not forever. Although I’m sure the lifting up of the top surface to get at the honey below is going to continue probably until 25% of Alberta is hoovered up and put back down all washed and ironed. Notely’s “being number 1″ is a fuzzy hubris cliche that means nothing. And the digging up of this material and selling it, is a business that only exists in a market that always looks for the next cheapest source to run to. Oil sands oil comes from huge fuel burning processes of extraction which is not “sustainable”. And climate change made worse by the human polluting use of fossil fuels, is a reality, and is pushing us towards our conversion to non-fossil based sources of energy. If we can withstand the greed and self interest of the oil lobby and their politician sycophants, who continue to deny science. The decline and fall of the oil sands while not immediate in any way, is a change process that has begun in earnest and is picking up speed.

    • Douglas, to pick up on your point that while the decline and fall of the oilsands is not immediate, the change process is picking up speed, Kevin Birn, director of Canadian oilsands for IHS Energy, says most oilsands mines are designed to last at least 40 years and thermal projects are built to last 25-30 years. He says projects will be nearing their end of life sometime after 2030 and that will act as a drag on growth.
      Other economists say that with the lower price of oil new mega oilsands projects are a thing of the past.
      That makes me think that Alberta will be transitioning out of the oilsands business one way or another a few generations from now…exactly when, who knows, but it will happen and Alberta better develop other economic drivers to replace fossil fuels if it hopes to maintain our quality of life.

  3. MoS says:

    “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.” Mr.Trudeau knows much better than that. British Columbians are wise to this charlatan. He chose all right. He chose the economy over the environment in approving the Site C dam. He chose the economy over the environment in approving the recent LNG project. He chose the economy over the environment on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Whenever the environment has come up against the fossil economy, Trudeau has always chosen fossil fuels. Before you go on about Northern Gateway, that venture was always redundant if Kinder Morgan went ahead. This “you can’t make a choice” business is a blatant lie but we’re used to Trudeau’s false assurances and empty promises. All that blather about “social licence” and First Nations backing went straight out the window when this cheap huckster needed to sweep his grand words aside. There isn’t a Liberal MP in British Columbia who doesn’t know what awaits them in 2019. Not one.

    • MoS, no doubt you’re correct about the federal Liberals prospects in BC in the next election. Whether the loss of the Liberal seats will be enough to throw the Liberals into a minority government or out of power all together remains to be seen.
      My purpose in this blog was to demonstrate that the alternative to the NDP in Alberta is Jason Kenney and Mr Kenney’s message as set out in that interview is very troubling. The part that concerned me the most was Mr Kenney’s comments on Mr Trudeau’s reaction to the Ontario lady who couldn’t pay her hydro bill. Mr Kenney said Mr Trudeau should have “manned up” and taken some of the responsibility for this lady because he’s partially responsible for Wynne’s hydro policy because his “surrogate brain” Gerald Butts wrote the policy. Mr Kenney says Trudeau threw Wynne under the bus and then went in for “the beta male emotive photo op that’s gotten him out of trouble so often.” Kenney said he found that “profoundly distasteful. (11:20)
      The men’s rights movement coined the terms “alpha male” and “beta male”. An alpha male is a manly man who always gets the girl. A beta male is a sad sack loser who is used by women who really want alpha males. What any of this has to do with Justin Trudeau’s energy policy is beyond me.

  4. ABCanuck says:

    I agree with MoS that young Trudeau may have used up what little political capital he has (a five-seat House majority) by approving the Kinder Morgan’ Trans Mountain expansion (TMX). There are 15 federal Liberal seats at risk in the Lower mainland.

    That means he has no political capital left to approve Energy East given the 40 Liberal seats at risk in Quebec. And that means he has no choice but to rollover and play dead when Donald Trump approves the KXL border crossing.

    That would be a terrible economic blow for Canada as it means no adding value in Canada, no government revenues in Canada from that adding value, no adding value jobs in Canada, and no displacing of imported crude into eastern Canada because, with the TMX, Line 3, and KXL pipelines to the US, there will be insufficient volumes left for Energy East and no access to any new markets. TMX will primarily supply California and Puget Sound refineries, Line 3 US Midwest refineries, and KXL US Gulf Coast refineries.

    Whatever happened to accessing new markets?1?

    Finally, I do believe young Trudeau has never stopped talking about NEP2 – his “National Environmental Program”, i.e., his carbon tax and his expressed desire to phase out the oil sands, which will have an even more devastating effect on Alberta than his father’s NEP.

  5. ABCanuk, I agree with you that Energy East is preferable to KXL and upgrading in Canada is preferable to exporting raw bitumen for all the reason you’ve set out. Having said that I don’t see what Mr Trudeau could do if Trump approves KXL. The go/no go decision is in the hands of TCPL, not the federal government, and will hinge on many things including the cost of the “extra benefits” Trump says he’ll extract from TCPL in return for the presidential permit.
    While I’m not in the same place as you with respect to whether Trudeau is pushing a “National Environmental Program”, I am very impressed with the way Rachel Notley is managing the issues Trudeau has created for her. She’ll get more accomplished with quiet diplomacy than Jason Kenney ever could using the belligerent style perfected by his mentor Stephen Harper.

  6. papajaxn says:

    If someone added up the list of the “no start” oil/tar sands projects that have been announced over the past two years, one might discover the reality of the coming decline. Long ago announcements have projects in a molasses soaked application process including investment acquisition looking for highly speculative dollars. Maybe some of these projects might have start buying Lotto Max tickets to keep the dream alive. Seems similar to the Klondike 120 years ago. The museum’s storytelling will continue.

  7. Keith McClary says:

    “Mr Kenney was asked whether Stephen Harper said ‘anything that sounded like at some point that Canada will phase out of fossil fuel production’.”

    Trudeau didn’t say “fossil fuel”, he said “oilsands”.

    Here’s what Harper said:
    The call for a low-carbon footprint will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said Monday at a news conference in Germany, following the two-day G7 summit.

    “Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”

    The oil (bitumen) sands are among the most CO2 intensive ways of producing fossil fuels. It is unlikely that there will be a cheap techno-fix for this.

  8. Papajaxn and Keith: I think you’ve both highlighted the difficulty here. Unless oilsands producers discover a revolutionary breakthrough that reduces the cost of producing bitumen as well as its carbon footprint, Alberta’s oilsands will likely decline of their own accord.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      As people change their views about sustainability and the fact that we are the environment more and more of these industries will disappear. New cleaner technologies will develop faster and faster as we enter a new phase in our development as human beings. In Canada for example, we are still dumping raw sewage in rivers and the ocean. Instead of building more highways build water treatment plants. Everyone pointed the finger to Rio and that disgusting Baia da Guanabara, but no one talks about the disgusting fact that we do the same the only difference that Victoria has 500 thousand inhabitants and Rio 10 million.

  9. Steve says:

    So… let us “phase out” the Oilsands over the next 83 years (G7 ~ 2100). That’s what Stephen Harper signed up for. Does is seem more appropriate coming from and Con and not a Lib? Or should we scream and yell, bitch and moan because of it.

    Alberta and Canada needs to use the resource and perhaps reduce the environmental impact, of the process in the process, as we develop alternative sources of energy. Develop them in Canada for Canadians… not rely on a dwindling resource that is toxic to us all; NDP, Liberal or Conservative.

    We can have renewable energy but we can’t have it all tomorrow. So use this oil to bring about that future. Use the resource to reduce out reliance upon it.

    Get oil from plants to make our plastic’s; forgive me I’ll use the word HEMP. Get building and clothing from those plants as well, and even food. And like some farmers in Alberta have stated to me and I’m certain to others… they would LOVE another crop to grow in Alberta. There isn’t much you can grow with a time limited season.

    Use the oil.
    Develop alternative sources of energy with the revenue from the oil
    Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
    Why not make solar panels in Alberta ~ making them more affordable and make the adoption and use of them easy?

    The wars in the middle east are about nothing but oil… we need to get off that track BUT it will not happen overnight… it must come in phases.

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Just like Steve I am not sure what is all this commotion about. We just have to face the realities coming from our lack of intelligence and move forward as well as we can. Extremes do not resolve anything other than creating the circus that we are getting used to by now.
    Jason Kenney being the ring leader. I do not even read anything coming from the right anymore. It is useless. I would rather spend my reading time with a book like the recently published

    Earth in Human Hands – David Grisnpoon

  11. Steve and Carlos, I too was taken aback by the conservative’s over-the-top reaction to Trudeau’s statement. The only way to rationalize it is to assume they thought Trudeau was going to “transition” out of the oilsands overnight, which of course is silly given that he’d just approved two major pipeline projects. So that means they’re just using Trudeau’s statement to rile up the public.
    As Steve notes apparently it’s OK for the conservatives to say we’re getting out of fossil fuels, but it’s not OK if the progressives say it. The same is true for the carbon tax debate. Brian Jean is on the record saying he will repeal it the instant he becomes premier while at the same time saying he’ll impose a carbon tax but not in the same format.
    They really can’t have it both ways…well, actually they can because their supporters are content to get their news from headlines in Postmedia, which is even more misleading because it is supposed to report the facts, not political hype.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Susan listen to this ideas program if you have a chance. It is quite interesting. I do believe that there is a clear intention on what the right wing is doing and it is not for the better. This is why I keep talking about a renewed democracy. We need to get more serious about defending and empowering our democracy. Taking it for granted is a big mistake. Thinking, like we do here in Canada that we are and will always be ok is naïve.


  12. Jean says:

    We’re just too focused on oil sands matters. I realize the petroleum producers assoc. have also wrapped in alternative energy under their wings. That’s both good and bad. Alternative energy will never fly under the king.

    What is the govn’t working on to replace oil sands for economic development and business drivers?

    I understand Notley’s govn’t has a tiny program related to alternative energy..what the province should now is start a large strategy to attract development of solar/wind power and its use in a fast track way. We just came back last fall from a trip through France and part of Germany. We took trains several days to get around and were amazed to see small villages where many had homes installed with roof solar panels: Clearly there is an incentive for homeowners to have these installed in villages out in the rural areas! Has there been fast tracked research how installations can be done with our heavier snows, higher winds in the prairies?

    Will be interesting what the Liberal govn’t tries to do…while it is appreciated to include Canadian advisors who have been in the past pro-Trump..the vision must really look past these folks.

    And I hope that Albertans quit harkening the same old line that enough is given back to the Ottawa coffers. That’s no longer true and it’s not happening. Slandering Ontario is not helpful. Southern Ontario is a serious economic powerhouse with manufacturing, finance, over 8 major universities, multiple large colleges, several large hospitals, high tech headquarter firms…this means jobs and profound rich knowledge sharing and strong local skill set within 1 small region of Canada. I hope Albertans will be cheering for Ontario’s survival against whatever Trump’s administration imposes on tariffs, etc. Right now, it’s about survival of Canada and Alberta can no longer separate itself in an isolationist prairie-me attitude.

    Just to give an example where I work (13,000+)…tons of employees who are U of C grads., if you focus just on CAnadians. This based on every time a new employee joins the organization we get an email notice on newbie’s profile. My reaction: Oh. Sigh. That’s nice. (We seriously need an infusion of in-person expertise from other parts of Canada and worldwide.)

    This is not norm at all when working in Toronto where you meet grads from all over southern Ontario (Western, U of T., York, McMaster, McGill, Carelton, U. of Waterloo, etc.), Quebec, Maritimes and B.C. when you work for 1 large employer. Of course there’s several community colleges just in Metro Toronto. May I repeat: the large regional transportation system also sucks in this expertise daily, from within 140 km. radius through its Metrolinx…up to Barrie, K-W and to Niagara Falls. That’s freakin’ powerhouse in human capital on the cheap. Remote work by computers can only go so far. People don’t always share complex/sensitive business problems and ideas virtually.

    Meanwhile it’s just Calgary and Edmonton whistling desperately in the wind for the whole of Alberta with Lethbridge quite small, etc.

  13. Don Cockerton says:

    hi Susan;
    Enjoyed your talk to “CALL” group tonight. Thanks for identifying the lack of a public/consumer voice in decisions re existing and future electrical generation and distribution in Alberta. I would be interested to participate in further discussions with you and others on this and related topics with a view to forming an effective public/consumer organization. My own interest is primarily as a citizen and ratepayer rather than having any technical expertise. Please advise if you would like to meet and chat further about this.

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