Energy advocacy – what to believe?

It’s been a busy week for energy advocacy.

On Tuesday, billionaire Murray Edwards and Brian Ferguson, Cenovus CEO, penned an oped for the Globe entitled Our country – and our companies – are ready for a new pipeline dialogue. Here’s the link in case you missed it.

Jim Prentice, former Harper Cabinet Minister and briefly Alberta Premier offered his views yesterday in a piece in the Globe titled; Our energy economy should be celebrated, not shunned. Again, here’s the link;

Today, Premier Brad Wall waded in to the discussion suggesting that the Government of Canada should spend more than $150 million cleaning up so-called orphan wells in Saskatchewan that the energy industry had abandoned, left derelict and possibly dangerous in contravention of provincial and federal regulations. Again, here is the news story;

My goodness, this is a veritable assault on my senses. Since the issues raised are so crucial, I want to contribute; most of us in the 99% do not get admitted to the hallowed halls of the oped page of the Globe, so my blog will have to do.

Let’s start with the Edwards/Ferguson so-called new pipeline dialogue. Mr Edwards and Mr. Ferguson have transformed themselves from $110/barrel Libertarians to $30/barrel Communist central planners. Their former employees are now being shamelessly used as pawns in a PR assault to fast track the Transmountain pipeline. If they had cut dividends, executive salaries, bonuses and their private jets as quickly as they had cut staff, one might give them the benefit of the doubt.

If they had touted the benefits of Alberta’s commitment to climate change ten years ago, as they do now without actually acknowledging Premier Notley’s initiative; well, again, they might be given the benefit of the doubt.

If they really believed that building a pipeline would create jobs for today’s unemployed, they wouldn’t feed us a 20 year job creation projection as their rationale for government abrogating due process – even for the unfortunates these seven companies put out of work over the last six months.

If they really believe that the $47 billion estimate in additional government revenue to be gained from this pipeline were reason enough to exempt hearings and regulatory oversight, they would disclose the windfall accruing to Transmountain and to the energy shippers as a way to see who really wins. Canadians might get beyond the “trust us, we know what we are doing” assertions of the industry, if they engaged in real dialogue.

In his piece, Mr Prentice observes that Canada has been playing checkers while the US has been playing chess over energy, a vivid but simplistic metaphor. In the category of ‘We have seen the enemy and he is us.”, Mr Prentice is criticizing himself, and his Harper government colleagues for ten years of playing checkers. He may be too hard on himself but that is for others to judge.

Clearly, he would like the Trudeau government and the Notley government to make up for a decade of checker playing and approve some pipelines – now! The drop in energy prices seems to have turned Mr. Prentice into a radical government interventionist; he virtually demands government get into the energy business, mostly by shutting up opposition and pushing due process out of the way. The presumption of course is that we cannot afford the niceties of wide discussion in the public square because we need to move – now!

Prentice makes much of the value of the oil sands – he neglects to mention that bitumen from the oil sands has very high production costs – we will never compete with much of the world’s oil, every time there is a price drop, Canada suffers the quickest and the most.

While Mr. Prentice would have Canadians believe that energy production is a sacred trust, to be sanctioned and supported by government – so much so that when necessary, Canada should sweep away a carefully constructed legal, regulatory and administrative framework that has served us well.

Which brings us to Mr. Wall. In suggesting that the federal government, the people of Canada, should step in and spend $150 million to cleanup orphan wells that have been abandoned by the energy industry in contravention of federal and provincial regulation is stunning. To pitch it as an employment program for workers who have been thrown out of work by the same industry defies logic; the arithmetic doesn’t work very well either, $150 million for 1200 jobs to clean up 1000 wells abandoned by the industry isn’t very efficient. I know it works for the industry; a new wrinkle on the “too big to fail” has become the “make your money and leave your mess for someone else to clean up”.

Clearly Mr. Wall has decided that energy industry activity in Saskatchewan must be encouraged at all costs; damn the law, damn the regulations, damn the people of Saskatchewan; damn his responsiblity as Premier and head of government for all the people of Saskatchewan. By the way, those are my tax dollars he’s suggesting be used to clean up the industry mess! They are your tax dollars!

It also speaks volumes of the commitment to environmental stewardship of the energy industry. If all these rules and regulations can be blithely abandoned without penalty, why would we put any faith in the rule of law and the regulatory process?

So, friends, what do we learn from all this.

My only observation is get informed! Ask questions! What is really at stake in this aggressive advocacy for these pipelines? Who wins? Who loses? What is at risk?

If we are committed to evidence based decisions, and willing to engage in a new pipeline dialogue, the energy industry should open the door to real meaningful dialogue on safety, risk, environmental issues, Canada benefits, immediate job creation, climate change impacts, remediation, taxation and royalties.

If these projects are in the national interest, all the people in the public square deserve to be heard.

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3 Responses to Energy advocacy – what to believe?

  1. habnag says:

    Wow Bob: How do you really feel. ThIs is an amazing and succinct essay. Such well thought passion. Where have you sent it? Coyne? Edlin?

    — Graeme

  2. Mike says:

    Hey Bob do your homework. Edwards is the only exec in the patch who cut executive compensation (twice last year) and reduced employee salaries for the highest paid employees IN ORDER TO AVOID LAYOFFS.

  3. blair williams says:

    Hey Bob, thanks for sending this. I look forward to talking to you about it when you come here. I actually find the debate quite complicated if you want to come done strongly on one side of the other.

    Sent from my iPad

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