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Canada: The Federal Climate Plan – Far Out of Touch with the World, with First Nations, with its Regions, and the Feds Just Don’t Care


By Terry Etam, Frontier Centre For Public Policy


People have been asking for thoughts on the recently announced federal climate plan. I shrug. I ask them what their thoughts are on the Iowa State Fair Hog Calling Regulations. I am indifferent.

I know I should care, but what’s the point? The feds throw something at us, we have to work with it. We can’t “assume a leadership role”, because they don’t want hydrocarbon players in the room. The hydrocarbon industry is working flat out on CCUS, hydrogen, RNG, you name it, but that is all beside the point, when the industry must be decimated for the greater good.

The best way to explain is with two buckets of quotes:

“We will be there to support, as the world moves beyond Russian oil and indeed, beyond fossil fuels, to have more renewables in our mix’ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Europe, National Post, March 2022

“Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires winding down production of oil and gas over the next decade.” Keith Brooks, Environmental Defence, March 2022

“With time running out and with the global shift to a low-carbon economy turning into a sprint, Canadians have been calling for increased climate ambition.” Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, fed press release, Apr 2021

“The cost of renewables and battery storage has plummeted, we don’t need gas anymore as a bridge fuel…” Tzeporah Berman, Feb 2021

I include non-governmental quotes to show the alignment. Meanwhile, outside the asylum:

“Sri Lanka plunges into 10-hour daily power cut as fuel crisis worsens”, The Hindu, Mar 2022

“Germany and Austria take step towards gas rationing”, BBC, Mar 2022

“Don’t blame Putin for Europe’s energy crisis – No matter what happens in Ukraine, this winter is not an aberration. By late summer of 2021, it was already evident that Europe was facing a looming energy crisis with gas storage levels unusually low. As winter set in, prices predictably soared to record levels, reaching such heights late last year that many industrial firms shut down production.” Foreign Policy, Feb 2022

“I hope you will hear me say that please, take advantage of the leases that you have, hire workers, get your rig count up.” US Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, Dec 2021

Notice a split there? Lord I hope so. Here is another from the heart of Europe – the Europe that is running out of fuel, looking at rationing, and outbidding developing countries for any available LNG:

“European Investment Bank and GIZ (a German federal government agency) renew partnership to boost climate action and sustainable infrastructure in developing countries and emerging economies” Press release, March 2022

Haha. Train kept a rollin’. Colonize til you drop! Europe is here to save you! Here’s some $ to install a genuine Euro-style energy system complete with intermittent power and eventual fuel shortages. Hey Africa, where would you like your new 50-square-mile solar farm? How about right over there. What’s that? You want a natural gas pipeline? What?!?? An oil one as well? Oh dear, sorry to say but we simply cannot allow that to happen. And sorry about scooping up all that LNG off the global market old chaps but, you know, if we run out of fuel who will make all these important energy transition decisions for you?

Western leaders are acting, on the energy file, in ways that can only make one cringe, like watching an out-of-control teen at their first boozy party, where you watch the antics sadly from the sidelines, knowing you are powerless to stop it while also knowing “Buddy, you are going to regret that for a very long time.”

Actually, it is far worse than that. The situation is more like seeing your child get into the wrong drugs with the wrong crowd, then finding them on East Hastings in Vancouver or the Tenderloin in San Francisco, and your heart breaks like nothing else can break because you care so much and can do nothing to help.

Sounds melodramatic? Hmm. Ponder this. The hydrocarbon industry works very hard, and risks its own money, to provide fuel for the world. We see people in the news from all over the world, desperate for natural gas or diesel or heating oil or gasoline, and we look at our reserves reports and calculate quickly how many houses that would heat, or delivery trucks it would fuel, or how much fertilizer it could produce.

Then we flip on the news and listen to wealthy energy illiterates from wealthy urban centres explain to the degree-less masses that what they really need to worry about rather than getting a fridge to enable a stockpile of more than a day’s food is what might happen if the world warms up a few degrees in thirty years.

Analyze the climate plan? OK. Energy efficiency in buildings is a good idea. Beyond that, all I hear is dogs barking.

Two pillars of the new climate strategy illustrate that the canine comparison is appropriate. First off is the utterly stupid plan to somehow eradicate internal combustion engines by 2035 in favour of EVs (the government plan mumbles something about dealing with used cars, the overhang of which would keep ICE relevant for another 15 years).

Documentation is piling up here, there and everywhere that the mineral supply is not enough to make this happen on a global scale within any reasonable timeframe; the number of new mines required cannot happen given the limited mineral development pipeline (with lower grades and more stringent regulations making each new mine more challenging than the last).

But let’s say the fools succeed (because we keep electing them) and all new vehicle sales in Canada by 2035 are EVs. That would mean we are hogging the scarce resources (what else is new) and the rest of the world, the billions that make the difference, will be on their own growth trajectory without any scarce EV metals/minerals, so Canada’s jump-on-sword act will be utterly meaningless (except for our population, which will be driving what they do not want to by sheer government force).

And that 2035 EV-dominance is not going to happen anyway, which can be observed by the simple act of visiting a high-rise apartment building or apartment block, neither of which is equipped to deal with the electrical load of an all-EV parking lot – but then again neither are residential streets either. The short-sightedness of this all-EV plan is stupefying.

The second pillar relates to Canada’ energy future itself. Recently, Trudeau and Wilkinson made the diplomatic tour to show that Canada will do its part to alleviate the global fuel shortage. Wilkinson pledged that Canada would contribute 300,000 more b/d of oil, though as Enbridge pointed out we can’t really send it anywhere except to the US.

What the world arguably needs even more is increased natural gas supplies, but the federal support for LNG has been lukewarm at best – a decade after dozens of LNG projects were proposed for our coasts, only a few remain alive. That weak enthusiasm has now turned into full blown animosity; the government slid this nugget into the climate plan: “Building new high-emitting assets now risks transferring electricity rate increases to future generations, since these emitting assets will need to be extensively retrofitted or shut down before the end of their economic life in order to meet emissions standards. Some could become stranded assets as Canada, along with the world, makes the transition to net-zero emissions. Sending a clear regulatory signal now should discourage further investments in assets that could become stranded in the years to come by this inevitable transition.” [emphasis added]

There you have it folks. There you have it Europe. There you have it Pakistan. There you have it China. There you have it Joe Biden. You need more hydrocarbons, right? You want the world to step up and replace Russia’s considerable oil and gas exports not just next month but indefinitely, right?

Well, Trudeau can’t spell his agenda out any more clearly for you: Get lost. We are not going to help. Canada is, using the government’s very own words, “sending a clear regulatory signal now” to discourage further investments in oil and gas assets.

That categorically includes natural gas infrastructure such as LNG, because it is designed to last longer than 13 years, and any proposed large infrastructure would take forever to get off the ground. Even wells are expected to last longer than 13 years, so to hell with them too.

Ironically, this stance puts the federal government at odds with the very segment of the population it has placed nearest to its bureaucratic heart – First Nations.

One more quote for you, this from an Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase news release celebrating successful investment in a number of natural gas power facilities, pipelines, and other infrastructure critical to a future energy transition: “The work being undertaken contributes to reconciliation, which involves Indigenous communities accessing greater economic participation and investment opportunities,” said Stephen Buffalo, Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation chair. It’s not just in Alberta either; 11 FN member communities recently and happily announced that they will be participating in the Coastal GasLink Project.

Resource development, particularly natural gas and mining, is turning out to be a perfect vehicle for meaningful FN engagement and uplifting across the country.

The federal government is at odds with almost every region of Canada save urban power centers, and it is at odds with First Nations dreams of resource development participation. Despite the singular UN/Euro focus, the feds are at odds with every country that is signalling that it needs more hydrocarbons not just next month but for years to come (which is most of them).

So: I would evaluate Trudeau’s climate plan thusly: “Yes world, we hear you, you need more hydrocarbons, and we will help but only for a few months. Our stated goal is to discourage all investment in those fuels you are so desperately in need of. We aren’t interested in First Nations ideas if they run counter to our federal ideology, but don’t call that colonization because we don’t like it when you do that.

We are going to hamstring our own population rather than maximizing our natural resource sector. We present a hopelessly unrealistic scheme to get every Canadian in an EV for any purpose, but have no interest in a game plan to develop energy transition materials that the world absolutely must have to even begin a transition. We don’t care about earning respect in Red Deer or Moose Jaw or Kenora or Labrador City; we care about it in downtown Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal and Brussels.”

The world is running out of fuel. This is obvious. It is not temporary (for example, Algeria is holding talks with Italy on how to increase gas supply over the next decade or two). You can decide for yourself if the risk of running out of heating fuel is more consequential to humanity than the risk dreamed up by computer-modelled predictions of 2050 weather with error bars a mile wide.

Our leadership has joined a cult and is not paying attention to energy reality, in part because our reliable hydrocarbon sector will bail it out regardless of what the federal government does, until the burden becomes too great and it implodes.

The global game of energy chess continues, and Canada’s leadership is chewing on a pawn until someone slaps it out of their hand. And we’ll vote this government in again, because too many urban elites understand energy only through the warped, impractical lens of academia, and would rather eat compost than visit a natural gas plant.

So plan away, little feds; put on that blindfold and run.


Terry Etam is a columnist with the BOE Report, a leading energy industry newsletter based in Calgary.  He is the author of The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity