Well, I suppose it would be not a bad idea to close out the year with something that isn’t a cranky rant. It runs counter to everything I stand for, but in the spirit of the season, what the hell. Surely there are a few golden nuggets in the rubble of this year. Summoning forth the principle of goodwill towards people (yes, I’m editing a bible quote, sue me), the high road is to find something positive to focus on. Of course, it’s no fun unless someone is offended. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to offer a salute to someone in Trudeau’s inner circle. Hear me out though before punching my mask down my throat. There’ll be lots of time for that after.
Last week, Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan announced a hydrogen strategy for Canada. The topic alone is enough to get under a lot of skins; hydrogen is a revolutionary fuel (when contemplated on the scale that proponents envision) that will require a lot of expensive plumbing and replumbing and building. On top of that, O’Regan’s plan came on the heels of the federal government’s climate plan which is one of the most aggressive in the world, a plan that appears designed by someone whose idea of the size and complexity of Canada consists solely of surfing in Tofino, canoeing down the Nahanni River with pops, holidaying in the Laurentians, and bunkered in Ottawa at all other times.
Whoa, I can feel the goodwill fading. OK let’s put that aside for a moment and get back to O’Regan’s announced plan. First off, the energy world is changing, and it would have changed regardless of whether climate hysteria hypnotized elites or not – at some point we will move away from hydrocarbons as cheaper, easier to access reserves are exhausted and other forms of energy became cost-competitive with more expensive deposits. It should have happened via real economic triggers, like rising oil prices, because that’s the only way it’s going to work anyway. Regardless, in the spirit of goodwill, let’s just say that current government plans are accelerating that trend. (The good news for Canadian producers is the fact that that trend will not be nearly as fast and neat as they think.)
What was so refreshing about O’Regan’s hydrogen announcement was the profound significance of this statement, with respect to whether he would insist on one form of hydrogen (renewable-sourced vs. natural gas-sourced: “I’m not going to choose amongst my children. I would make the argument that what matters here is lowering emissions,” he said.
Do you think that was easy for him to say? If you do, try putting yourself in his shoes, say, for a typical cabinet meeting. You’ve got Catherine McKenna and Jonathan Wilkinson seated next to the PM, whispering Rasputin material into his ear and shouting/shooting down any thoughts or initiatives that reflect positively on the value of Canadian hydrocarbon production. At ankle level, you’ve got Gerald Butts scurrying along the baseboards of power, flitting from room to room, spreading his unique mutation of Bubonic plague that turns economies black instead of people. You’ve got a dozen climate activist acolytes in the room, on guard against anything that strays one iota from the world’s approved narratives (Exhibit A: Michael Moore’s documentary Planet of the Humans, critical of renewable energy, was subjected to a massive censorship campaign to remove it from the web, even though Moore loudly proclaims that human GHG emissions are killing the planet).
Out of this hornet’s nest of anti-hydrocarbon thought, O’Regan had the courage to say that he supported hydrogen from natural gas. Not only that, he went a step further: “We have to make sure that the survivors, survive. We have to make sure that an industry that we have spent decades building now to the point we are the fourth-largest producer of oil in the world, we have to make sure that that remains whole,” he said in another interview.
I think it is worth remembering the value of these statements. True, it may not seem like the government is acting on them, as various pieces of legislation make all too clear. But they are steps in the right direction, and possibly recognition that maybe it is sinking in just how challenging it is going to be to move away from hydrocarbons in any significant way. The opponents have had the mic for far too long, claiming victory through various disinvestment campaigns and charts showing rapid renewable growth.
But we’re starting to see what a challenge it is to keep moving the needle. Zero to five percent is one thing, twenty to twenty-five is a different kettle of fish altogether, and sixty to sixty-five will be another planet.
When O’Regan makes statements as he did, we underestimate how much those words undercut the very vocal minority that has held sway, and dominated the narrative, for a decade. That vocal minority is clear; they want the fossil fuel industry dead and gone, hydrogen or no (per Environmental Defence, the creme de la creme of anti-hydrocarbon belligerence: “Canada should not be providing any form of financial support for the development of fossil-fuel derived hydrogen.” They hate carbon capture/storage, they hate…well, they hate a lot. I shouldn’t have brought them up, they have no place in a missive of positivity. Let’s get out of this sewer.)
We can, at the end of the day, be grateful that, say, the NDP and Greens aren’t forming a coalition government. You want to talk about dry heaves. Fortunately, Canadians soundly rejected that end of the spectrum, and while what we have might sound like lukewarm support, we do have to give credit where credit is due.
All right, all right, leave me alone. I’m well aware I’m grasping at straws. C-69, C-48, Energy East, the Maritime provinces’ plea for mercy due to reliance on home heating oil ignored (did you ever, ever think you’d hear Trudeau say “Let those Eastern bastards freeze in the dark”???), Wilkinson mulling a ban on internal combustion engines. Just trying to find a silver lining. We desperately need to find positive things to talk about.
Or at least I do, as I make one last-gasp effort to get on the good list. Happy holidays everyone. Stay sane and keep those sleeves rolled up – may your new year be filled with needles.