While social media is devolving into a showcase of the worst human behaviour, that doesn’t mean it is uninteresting. In the old days, it required some gumption for an enterprising and not-shy lunatic to get on a soapbox and yell at the world from a street corner.
Now there is no barrier to entry and total anonymity. Unfiltered and unmuzzled citizens can present a truly nauseating window into what humans are (in)capable of, thought-wise.
Now and then, though, this collective consciousness provides windows into current moods/feelings (which, sadly, are the basis of modern policy) that illuminate the tips of potentially very big icebergs.
In the past few days I’ve seen snarky comments online asking how on earth the price of gasoline can be so high when the price of oil is not. Oh, you poor saps, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
What makes this angst an iceberg-tip is that high gasoline prices (thank you carbon tax) are the first noticeable embodiment of all the climate alarmist hoo-hah we’ve been subjected to with the intensity of having your head shoved into a small box with two thousand mosquitoes.
So far it’s been just talk; now it’s action. Hold onto your hats and wallets, citizens, this is about to get real. (Most are just starting to wake up to what the tax will cost them, and when they do, their visage gets a little purple – see Second Street poll – “Opposition grows when people understand the carbon tax will add $20 to fill up their car…”)
Real for Canada, that is. What’s getting real in much of the rest of the world is something else entirely, particularly with respect to ‘energy transitions’.
In the US, President Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion infrastructure plan, which the CBC predictably declared to most definitely be a climate plan. As one might guess from the CBC’s inability to discern reality from sociology, it is most definitely not a climate plan.
It could have been. Many jurisdictions/countries are pledging to abolish internal combustion engine sales by some date (we shall see how that goes down), but even Biden is not dumb enough to immolate the US economy – other than retrofitting buildings, the only tip of the hat to climate doomsayers is $175 billion towards EV charging stations (which is just puffery, given that US consumers are not chasing the EV rainbow with any enthusiasm at all (US EV sales peaked in 2018) (EV sales are not taking off anywhere, except via the brute-force European mandate – yes, Tesla recorded record numbers in Q1 2021 (185,000 units), but other EVs have only tepid sales, and consider that Toyota sells that many RAV4s).
EVs will become popular, but a popular urban niche only, unless governments mandate them everywhere, in which case we will become Cuba, nursing 50-year-old ICE cars because new ones are unavailable.
Biden has temporarily limited oil/gas licensing activity on federal lands, which made a lot of noise but won’t change much at this point. Like everyone else, the US continues to build wind and solar installations hand over fist, which is again relatively meaningless because few seem able to grasp that installed generating capacity is a meaningless number when applied to intermittent power. If you can’t count on it, you shouldn’t count it.
Furthermore, Biden recently tipped his hand in a near-comical manner; his administration called Saudi Arabia to “ensure affordable and reliable sources of energy for consumers.” In other words: the US energy transition is a full-blown ‘thing’, but only until it really starts hitting consumers’ pocketbooks.
Americans are no different than Canadians: “Oh yes, climate action is a priority! Wait, what? It costs how much? Get lost, hippie.”
If the point of the energy transition is to reduce global levels of CO2 emissions, there are more interesting places than America. Emissions have been reduced by substituting coal-fired power for natural gas, and there is much other low hanging fruit, like upgrading homes/windows/buildings, the cost of which may not make sense now, but surely will as carbon taxes rise.
But those don’t really matter from a global perspective, emissions-wise, because much of the rest of the world is accelerating their lifestyles with a vengeance. Let’s look at their view of the ‘energy transition’.
China is widely hailed for their transitioning success – it has the largest market for EV sales, and, to the end of 2020, has installed 530 GW of wind/solar productive capacity (again, a useless number, due to intermittency without storage, but the media loves the numerical shock value) and has pledged to be carbon neutral or some such metric by 2060.
What great numbers! But let’s add a few more to the stew.
China currently has plans to add almost 250 GW of new coal fired power. The country is building new oil refineries, which puts to rest any notions that oil is on the way out. It plans to build 25,000 km of new oil and gas pipelines by 2025 (again, not really a whimsical venture), and plans to add enough pipe to handle 2.5 times current natural gas consumption by 2040 (these additions fall far short of a recent five-year plan calling for the addition of about 100,000 km of new gas lines). China is currently building a $15-20 billion gas pipeline/processing complex to connect to Russia.
Next door, India’s billion-plus are running full tilt as well. Their ‘transition’ naturally has a green side, with a renewable energy target of 450 GW by 2030 (same stat, same problem, of course). But here is the stark ‘transition’ reality: India also plans to spend $66 billion on natural gas infrastructure, adding 14,700 km of gas pipeline (about double the existing number) and a network of 1,000 LNG fueling stations across the country. Planned total oil/gas industry investment is over $140 billion.
Some energy transition! Actually, it is a transition of another sort – to a developed economy, which means more of everything. That’s how the world is going to work. More energy means more renewables, more infrastructure, more building, more hydrocarbons.
And who is going to supply ‘more of everything’? Well, on the hydrocarbon front, that’s where the ‘madmen’ come in, or one leading madman anyway, and probably shrewd is a far better word. Russia is advancing plans to supply both China (as above) and India with far more hydrocarbons, via such projects as a new $230 billion arctic oil development program.
The big boys are on those files – that’s how you feed, heat, develop and keep secure 3 billion people.
Here in Canada? Let’s see. We’ve blocked almost every major energy infrastructure project (not so long ago, at least 18 LNG export projects were proposed for Canada; we will be very lucky to get two). Big pipeline projects across the country have been killed off, and legislation put in place to thwart any new ones.
Currently, we are in mortal combat to construct a single oil expansion to the west coast and a single gas one. The Trans Mountain Expansion might be 98% concluded with relative ease, but that last 2% is going to be Stand.Earth’s Last Stand (and there will be a lot of money and activists laying on the streets when the equipment gets to greater Vancouver).
Every nation plays to its strengths and needs; politicians are hired to steward the country along these lines. Canada has abdicated this responsibility in the most profoundly pathetic way (‘terrifying idiocy’ as Conrad Black so wisely put it).
It is awesome to see energy efficiency measures and other incremental gains that don’t break the backs of consumers, but that latter distinction is lost on Ottawa.
Alberta is hardly better, and maybe worse considering that the province’s leaders ought to be fighting like their back is to the wall (it is). To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Supreme Court recently upheld Ottawa’s belief that they have a right to impose a federal carbon tax. No one that is, except Alberta’s leader, who unfathomably had prepared no plan B.
Going one sad level further, Canada’s ‘energy voice’, CAPP, is as relevant as a rotary phone in today’s world. Hydrocarbon development is no longer done by the invitation of governments, and 1950s lobbying strategies are as fashionable as cars without seatbelts.
CAPP does have good people, I know they do, and it’s sad to see them locked in a trunk. I have yet to see a credible, sustainable, relatable message that does a single thing to sway public opinion across the country from those no-doubt magnificent offices. I am still awaiting a decent response to James Hansen’s classification of the oil sands as a carbon bomb whose development will be ‘game over for the climate’ – and that nonsense is from 2011. (For the record, the idiots behind that statement referenced combustion of all the oil in the oil sands when scare-mongering, and our industry’s leaders should have been in every news outlet pointing out how impossible that is, and that a maximum of 10% of that is considered recoverable, and to burn that 10% at today’s production rates would take over a century.)
Still waiting, though it is of course far too late. If CAPP were doing its job, I’d be writing crotchety columns for Compost Weekly or some such and you’d never have heard of me (except you manure fans).
The saddest indictment of Canada’s leadership is that the spectacular drive/capability/innovative spirit of Canada’s hydrocarbon workers seems nowhere evident in leadership – of the industry, the province, or the country.
Today’s hydrocarbon workforce is incredibly engaged, finding ways to meet the lunatic requirements of leaders only interested in UN glory. Ideas are coming thick and fast, with remarkable success.
That workforce will do a phenomenal job; new ESG-friendly plans emerge every day, no matter how wacko they might seem in a sane world. It is both a beautiful and tragic sight – the workforce is giving it all it has, it is making great emissions-reduction strides, but seems woefully abandoned by anyone above that could help.
China, Russia, India, and the US understand the game, and will be the world’s energy superpowers. Canada could join them, but it chooses not to.