The Grand Quebec Hypocrisy on Energy East

Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2017

Robert Lyman is a former public servant of 27 years and prior to that a diplomat for 10 years. He is an Ottawa energy policy consultant.

Following the recent announcement by Trans Canada Pipelines that it was withdrawing its applications to the National Energy Board and the relevant provincial permitting authorities to construct the Energy East Pipeline project, a number of Quebec politicians expressed their happiness with the announcement. Denis Coderre, the corpulent Mayor of Montreal, who had publicly opposed the pipeline on the grounds of its alleged adverse impact on the environment, signaled a “thumbs up” and stated, “I have been saying since Day 1 that (TransCanada was) arrogant and condescending.” Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Arcand was “not surprised” by the decision, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said he “was indifferent to the decision,” and Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisee described TransCanada’s decision as “a great victory.”


Even though a coalition of Quebec business groups supported the pipeline, the sponsor’s decision to withdraw was broadly supported in the Quebec media and public.


It did not matter that all of the claims by environmental groups that the project would adversely affect land, water, fish and wildlife were nonsense and that the TransCanada never received its “day in court” to demonstrate this factually. No one ever got to hear and test the claims that the project’s economic benefits would significantly outweigh any reasonable valuation of the adverse environmental effects. The project was defeated by a coalition of factors, the most important of which were the constant changes in the regulatory system for the evaluation of new pipeline projects in Canada, all of which added significantly to the cost and delays in getting the project reviewed on its merits, and the acceptance by too many vocal Quebecers of the thesis that allowing additional Alberta oil to reach new markets in eastern Canada and elsewhere would somehow catastrophically warm the planet.


The Trudeau government will have to bear responsibility for constantly changing the “rules of the game” with respect to the once-professional and independent regulatory review of new oil and gas pipelines in Canada, so as to place its global warming agenda above any objective assessment of the Canadian public interest with respect to each proposed pipeline project.


What, however, of the Quebecers like Denis Coderre who find it morally objectionable to increase greenhouse gas emissions by transporting more oil to market? Objectively, how well do they stand up to this standard of “green” behavior?


Well, it so happens that Quebecers actually do consume oil and natural gas and they do produce carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels. According to Environment Canada statistics for 2015, the most recent year available, greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec were 80.1 megatonnes, 11.4% of the Canadian total. A substantial amount of this came from the use of refined oil products produced from the two refineries located in the province, the 137, 000 barrel per day Sunoco plant in Montreal and the 235,000 barrel per day Valero plant in Levis near Quebec City. From where, one might ask, do these refineries get their crude oil?


Well, it turns out that they both get their crude oil from western Canada via Interprovincial Pipeline Line 9 through Ontario. The crude oil for Valero is loaded onto tankers in Montreal and shipped to Levis. Quebec refineries used to be supplied by the Portland Pipeline system from Portland Maine to Montreal, but that pipeline was essentially shut down in early 2016 and only used for emergency purposes since.


So, Quebecers have no problem getting their crude oil from western Canada and they have no problem producing 80 megatonnes of emissions from their use of oil and gas for transport, industry, residences, agriculture and other purposes.


They just do not want to see any additional emissions associated with Canadian fossil fuels produced for anyone else.


Their values are selective. Their hypocrisy is reprehensible.


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  1. Ron Clutz

    Thanks for this exposing of Quebec going for symbolism rather than substance regarding energy and the environment. There is also a lot of deception and fleecing of taxpayers in Quebec’s participating in California’s carbon market.

    It is worth repeating that the cap-and-trade systems adopted in California and Québec are not mandated by any international convention, and the agreement to link schemes remains voluntary and subject to each jurisdiction’s political process and legal system. The two parties believe this is win-win, though I come to a different conclusion below.

    Both jurisdictions are politically and socially liberal with populations mostly deferential to global warming concerns. Both want to lead in “fighting climate change” without a political uproar over a imposing a new tax. And in both places are found a growing community of experts, consultants, ENGOs, and businesses who have seized upon the many opportunities offered by emissions trading.

    In French, an expression says that in any embrace, there’s always a kisser and a kissee. That is, one of the two wants it more, and here it is Quebec needing California more than the other way around. With Quebec’s economy one sixth that of the Golden State, having it’s own market was not feasible.

    For California, why bother, except for the symbolism of someone else joining? Therein lies the base reality: California was sold the notion that Quebec will be a net buyer of credits, not a seller.

    More analysis here:

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