I was asked the other day if I had a response to Tzeporah Berman’s recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail. I of course felt cold and clammy and started getting the shakes; reading a piece by Berman is like being asked to go take the keys from the 6 foot 6 belligerent drunk who was just kicked out of the bar and is trying to unlock his car to drive home. There’s a feeling of inevitability that there is no way on earth this is going to be a pleasant experience.
Invoking the spirit and tools of the bar drunk, I had a beer and worked up the courage to read it. To my astonishment, it was, in parts, civil. It made an attempt to be so at least, though of course with limited success – it came across like Genghis Khan would, knee deep in the corpses of your relatives, offering his bloody hand to shake and asking if he could come in for tea and a chat about how he’s worried about his mom.
And maybe it’s because Berman is now a mom that she’s making a valiant attempt at statesmanship. Perhaps her effort at rational discourse is because the piece was in a national mainstream newspaper. Whatever it was, Berman showed the first glimpses that she might be starting to understand the energy world (“That doesn’t mean we turn the taps off overnight. It doesn’t mean we have to stop using or producing oil today.”). However, in order for that to be considered more than an insincere platitude offered to the mainstream in effort to appear sensible, we have to ask a little more from Ms. Berman.
Recall, this the Berman that was happily handing out copies of a book called Stupid to the Last Drop, as she documented on a trip (by airplane, I think) to Bali. Amazon’s brief bio of the book (as close as I’ll ever get to it) describes author William Marsden’s “journeys across the heart of a province seized by the destructive forces of greed, power and the energy business, and envisions a very bleak future.” Stupid to the Last Drop…is that bit of messaging you support to be interpreted by Albertans as a sincere plea to have a conversation?
Here’s something else fascinating about the book Berman gleefully supported: the book’s synopsis includes the author’s sneering observation: “As Canadians deplete their energy reserves, selling them off to Americans at bargain-basement prices, no thought is given to conservation or the long-term needs of the nation.”
Do you see the problem here Ms. Berman, and why it’s hard to leap at the chance to sit down and “have the conversation, finally?” In the past, you’ve attacked the oil sands and Alberta in every guise possible – that the oil sands are toxic, that they’re a “carbon bomb”, that Alberta is governed by greed and would sell its grandmother for another buck tacked onto oil prices. You’ve supported this clown Marsden as he mocks Alberta for selling product off to Americans at bargain-basement prices…and now you’re going to fight “against climate change with every breath in your bodies” (your words, see G&M) to ensure that Alberta continues to sell its resources to Americans at bargain-basement prices. We can leave you to sort through the logical rubble of that argument, and we’re not even going to mention the sunshine to your vampire, the fact that you require fossil fuels to survive and raise your children.
You want a conversation? You want to meet in the middle? How about this then: your protest industry has stopped the Northern Gateway project dead, it’s stopped the Energy East project dead, and now you’re trying to stop dead the last soldier standing. Not only is it the last soldier, but it is, to you, more of a ninja – many west coasters were unaware for decades that Alberta oil was flowing under their feet, and the Trans Mountain expansion is to be built on an existing right of way. It was your hysterical protest groups that worked very hard to stoke fears of this invisible boogeyman, and now that they are scared you say hey, we need to listen to these people, they’re scared. So can you not admit that the hysteria is a bit manufactured and overblown?
And in your G&M opinion piece, you make clear that this is about the fight for the planet, just like shutting down coal fired power plants. How does one explain to you that stopping this pipeline will not possibly have any impact on global warming, because it is demand that is burning the oil, and it will simply come from somewhere else?
Are you arguing that it’s symbolic? Is it symbolic that Canada is losing upwards of $15 billion per year “selling its product at bargain-basement prices to Americans”?
Anyway, sure, let’s have a conversation. Let’s work towards energy efficiency, and hope the rest of the country can handle the environmental burdens Alberta is carrying (carbon tax, oil sands emissions cap). Let’s admit that the Trans Mountain expansion will have no impact on global emissions, and that the extra money that it will bring into Canada will continue to provide the standard of living your children are currently enjoying. Remember, healthy and wealthy economies are the ones that will finance the transition to green energy. If you care that much about your children’s future, you need to worry about that just as much.