I’ve often felt bad for being amused by the antics of demented government regimes, such as how the Soviet Union officially described the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, or how North Korea refers to itself as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To anyone outside the system there is a delightful and almost endearing absurdity in these child-like attempts to disguise the true nature of their actions. But behind the comedy was always the realization that real people were paying a huge price for this tomfoolery.
Furthermore, I have stopped laughing entirely now, because the totalitarian tactic has landed here in Canada, and from the inside it is not funny at all.
I am referring of course to the decision to evaluate the Energy East pipeline on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created both upstream and downstream of the pipeline. For some unfathomable reason, commentators have taken this as serious policy, critiquing it as in “It’s a bad idea because it will be very difficult to measure.”
That is completely missing the point. The review criteria are no more an evaluation tool than the Berlin Wall was an attempt to keep people out. Both are strategies used by governments to do something they don’t want to talk about, but do it anyway and simply give it a different name to pretend it isn’t what it obviously is. If capital punishment was reintroduced and the government called it the New Prison Food Cost Reduction Program, it is a capitulation of common sense and freedom to argue how much it would save.
The pipeline review conditions are an absurdity created solely to stop the project. The only unusual part is that the method used is so blockheaded, even from an environmental perspective. Oil consumption will not fall by a thimbleful if the pipeline is not built, and consumption is ultimately what’s driving GHG emissions. Furthermore, it can’t be about he environment, or it would be a universal standard. If the Energy East requirements were truly in the interest of optimizing GHG performance, then the same scrutiny would need to be done for…everything. Because everything we use or do has the same upstream-before-us downstream-after-us issues, and the objective clearly isn’t the environment or we’d ask those questions of any other industrial development.
Imagine if those standards were applied to any other energy-intensive consumer good – no more autos would be constructed, no more solar panels, no more batteries. No more children either – the environmental impact of yet another little Jackson or Olivia is a staggering sum over 80 years. You’re right, that does sound truly crazy. But so is assigning emissions blame to a piece of pipe that is carrying something that consumers will consume regardless of whether the pipe is built or not.
In fact, as we all know, Canada makes virtually no difference to global greenhouse gas emissions at all. Shutting off every aspect of Canada’s economy, including street lights, would reduce global GHG by 2 percent, except that isn’t even true because swamps, decaying forests, forest fires and a multitude of other natural things emit CO2 (or worse, methane) as well.
That’s not an excuse for doing nothing, but it’s also not an excuse for shooting your feet off. There is a large media-fed consensus outside the oil patch that hindering oil sands production growth will change the world’s climate. It’s easy and lazy thinking and it’s so profoundly dumb, but it exists, just like the notion that poverty can be eliminated. We could give each person on earth the exact same sum of money and two weeks later we’d have rich people and poor people again. Stopping Energy East is a feel good exercise for deluded people who really should understand the energy business better before assuming wind turbines and solar panels can keep them fat and happy.
The business of providing energy to the world, to keep seven billion people from freezing and starving to death, is a hard one. Petroleum is hard to find, hard to produce, and it’s becoming impossible to move it around. But it’s needed. Energy demand cannot be met with renewable energy in any reasonable time frame, it simply cannot. Most projections have petroleum demand rising for decades to come. It is high time the world understood that. The world has 2 billion petroleum powered cars and 2 million electric ones. There is no sane road map to reverse those figures.
But it goes beyond the complexities and high cost of actually getting hydrocarbons to market. At some point the hurdles of the business become insurmountable. If you kick the mailman in the groin every day when he arrives, he will at some point stop bringing you the mail. The petroleum industry – which every one of you out there relies on, every single one of you in one way or another – wears a protective cup, but it is wearing thin. The business soon won’t be able to attract workers, capital, or even enthusiasm, and the country will hand over control of its energy destiny to foreign powers with far less concern for the environment. And we will import even more Saudi oil.
It’s not a victory for anyone to stop Energy East. The fears of pipeline spills were attempts by weasels to instil panic; North America is covered with oil and gas pipelines and there is no safer method to move fuel. Slightly less oil might be produced from the oil sands by stopping Energy East, but more will be produced elsewhere because the world’s consumption continues to grow. The world will keep warming unabated, and if petroleum production and consumption is the true main cause of global warming the only thing that will slow it is the removal of several billion people. That might sound harsh but it’s reality.
There is another message beyond the apparent apathy towards our energy industry though. The manner in which it was done – a banana-republic grade assassination done under the guise of helping fight climate change – is a symbolic victory for the brat-like mentality that is taking over, that we can have our cake and eat it too, that our standard of living is somehow guaranteed, that reality can be somehow evaded. It didn’t work for the Soviets and it won’t work here. It’s embarrassing to watch anyone think it will.
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here