By Michelle Stirling © 2021
Markham Hislop has written another hilarious article for the federally subsidized National Observer, entitled “Kenny and Savage must not be allowed to hijack Canada’s energy transition with conspiracy theories.”
It’s hilarious for a few reasons.
First of all, there is no energy transition happening – not in Canada. Not in the world.
In Canada, despite several decades and billions of dollars of subsidies, renewable energy – wind, solar and biomass – only constitutes 3.5% of Canada’s energy consumption. In the US…it’s only 6%. Contrary to Hislop’s fear that the ‘just transition’ will be stopped, it is evident that there is “Just NO Transition” in progress.
Hislop does drop a small disclaimer in his article, noting that energy expert Vaclav Smil has said it would be “an evolution in energy, not a revolution”. In fact, to be more accurate, Vaclav Smil’s presentation to McGill Engineering students was titled: “Energy revolution? More like a crawl.”
Hislop claims there is no proof that the Liberals want to phase out Canada’s energy sector referring to a tweet by Minister Savage. He must have forgotten that Justin Trudeau was elected on the promise that he would cancel Northern Gateway.
Hislop claims the fact that the feds bought Trans Mountain and are paying billions to complete the expansion of the twinned pipe is proof that they are not interested in phasing out Alberta oil. That’s only proof that there was a stalemate. In April of 2018, Kinder Morgan Canada had stopped work on the approved Trans Mountain Pipeline. At that time, PPHB Energy Bankers out of Houston had posted in their newsletter “Musings” that “Canada has evolved into a hostile location to do business”:
Some say the potential for a KM threat of legal action against the Canadian federal government was the reason for the sudden purchase. Others point out that the largest beneficiary of the purchase of the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline would have been Caisse de Depot of Quebec, said to be the largest shareholder of KM Canada. More money to Quebec. Does it ever end? Numerous industry analysts noted the price paid for Kinder Morgan Canada was far too high and snap purchases like that are very rare in an industry where assets are typically reviewed with magnifying glasses for months, prior to an offer being made.
Hislop refers to Alberta energy job losses as evidence of a dying industry, when it is the Tar Sands Campaign that has intentionally blocked access to market and denigrated Alberta’s reputation worldwide, with groups like West Coast Environmental Law and Greenpeace actively driving off investors. This all seems to be in an effort to prop up clean-tech, which Joseph Dear, CIO of CalPERS described to the Wall Street Journal as an “L-for-lose investment” in 2013.
In the 2011 CBC co-production of the documentary “The Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands”, it is clear that the Tar Sands Campaigners are hooked on clean-tech ideology, and they see Alberta oil as a threat to their unicorn future of biofuels, wind farms, solar panels and so on – none of them seem to realize that all their solutions require vast amounts of oil, natural gas, and coal and the product streams thereof to even exist. There are very good reasons “Why Renewable Energy Cannot Replace Fossil Fuels by 2050” – and it is not just lack of legislation.
But back to the reasons for Alberta energy sector job losses, which Hislop seems blind to.
Since coming to power, the Trudeau government has passed Bill C-48, legislative tanker ban, which effectively meant the end of Northern Gateway. Is it a conspiracy theory to note that West Coast Environmental Law was granted $97,131 by the Swiss-based Oak Foundation grant with the stated purpose: “To constrain development of the Alberta tar sands through a legislative ban on crude oil tankers on British Columbia’s north coast. This would necessitate the cancellation of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to transport tar sands oil and bitumen to Asian markets. WCEL aims to establish the conditions under which a) opposition parties holding a parliamentary majority work together to enact a legislative tanker ban under a minority government and/or incorporate a ban promise in their manifestos, committing them to act following an election that produces a majority government, and b) First Nations declare their own bans on transportation of tar sands crude oil through their territories and waters.”
If you think ~$100,000 is a pittance and unlikely to have led to such success, it should be remembered that many of these environmental groups work together on campaigns, supporting each other directly and indirectly. Sound like a conspiracy? Look at the Strathmere Group. This loose association of the top 12 or so environmental groups in Canada was put together by Marlo Raynolds, former Executive Director of the Pembina Institute and subsequently Chief of Staff for then Minister McKenna.
As Parker Gallant explains, in 2009, leaders of the Strathmere Group, which includes CAN-RAC (an organization made up of over 100 ENGOs and unions) met with major US ENGOs to coordinate and strategize how to phase out fossil fuels, impose a moratorium on the ‘tar’ sands. Is that conspiracy thinking? It happened.
In fact, in a 2016 grant description by the McConnell Foundation to the Strathmere Group, the description reads “The Strathmere Group enables its members to coordinate communications and strategies for greater impact.” An earlier 2007 McConnell grant describes the group as having “over 358,000 members, 420 staff and annual budgets totaling over $50 million.”
Thus, a small grant to one ENGO that is part of a much bigger network of ENGOs can be very powerful as we have seen. Bill C-69 ‘no more pipelines’ and Bill C-48 ‘tanker ban’ were given Royal Assent under the Trudeau government in 2019.
So, buying a pipeline while enacting legislation that blocks access to markets is hardly the hallmark of a government that is keen to support the energy sector in Alberta. Especially a government that cancelled the charities audits, which included some of the Strathmere Group members, as the first order of business when taking office. Not only did the Liberals cancel audits of ENGO charities, many of which are open participants in the Tar Sands Campaign against the Alberta oil sands, they also changed the rules so that charities are now free to spend 100% of their revenues on non-partisan political activities. There is a Green Titanic about to take down Canada.
Taxpayers should get to their lifeboats.
To get an idea of what the change of law means for the next election, have a look at “One Earth – One Vote” and check out the founding organizations. No surprise that their logo echoes that of the “Task Force for Resilient Recovery”.
Hmmm. How about that! Eight of the founding members of One Earth are Strathmere Group members!
“One Earth One Vote” have many demands, too. Notably:
• Stop expanding and subsidizing fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by 60% by 2030 to do our fair share globally;
• Ensure a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, with a plan that supports workers, communities, and marginalized groups in the just and fair transition to a sustainable economy.
Robert Lyman’s recent report “What Energy Transition?” cites reliable sources on the global demand for oil, natural gas, and coal.
“From 2010 to 2019, the world experienced the fastest annual average rate of growth in world oil demand in history, as total demand grew from 88 million barrels per day to over 100 million barrels per day. The highest rate of growth, year-to-year, in that period was from 2010 to 2011, when demand grew by 2.6 million barrels per day. After a decline of 8.7 million barrels per day in 2020 due to the pandemic, all major authorities project demand to grow in 2021 by somewhere between 5.4 and 6.0 million barrels per day and by another 3.0 million to 3.5 million barrels per day in 2022. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that over the period to at least 2026, oil demand will grow by over 1 million barrels per day per year…The death of coal has been declared long and often. Yet, coal demand grew from about three billion tonnes of oil equivalent in 2005 to 3.8 billion tonnes of oil equivalent projected for 2021. … According to the IEA, gas demand growth over the period 2019 to 2025 will be primarily in Asia and the Middle East, with the industrial sector accounting for 40% of that growth. Once again, the story is the same. For at least the next five years and probably beyond, the world’s appetite for fossil fuels will grow, not decline.”
One would think that an experienced energy reporter like Markham Hislop, writing for a tax-subsidized newspaper like the National Observer would be aware of these facts and report on them accurately, rather than trying to lead the public astray, thinking that demand for oil, gas, and coal is dying. By doing so, he is implying that the federal government is acting appropriately to create a ‘just transition’ when there is just NO transition underway.
More facts. The National Observer assures us that to them, #FactsMatter.
People like Hislop like to point to the decline in employment in the oil and gas industry since prices fell in 2014, as though this indicates a reduction in the importance of the sector to the economies of Alberta and Canada. Yet, the contribution of oil and gas production to Canada’s economy extends far beyond the numbers of people employed directly or indirectly. In 2019, oil and gas exports totaled over $122 billion, even during a period of depressed oil prices. They constitute a major part of Canada’s trade surplus. Last week, Statistics Canada reported that Canada’s June 2021 total exports surged by 8.7% to $53.8 billion; oil and gas exports rose by $11.3 billion, the highest level since March 2019. Then, there are the income benefits. They contributed 5.3 % of Canada’s GDP, in comparison to 1.7% by electricity generation and 0.2% to other sources of energy production, including renewables. That contribution was especially important in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, the provinces that would be most harmed by policies that strive to impair the oil and gas industry. Government revenues from the oil and gas industry averaged $14 billion per year over the 2015 to 2019 period. Capital expenditures, heavily influenced by the available cash flow, declined by 40% from a peak in 2014, but still totaled $33.3 billion in 2019. By comparison, renewable energy investments fell from over $3 billion in 2015 to about $1.3 billion in 2019. In short, the economic contribution of oil and gas to Canada’s economy dwarfs that of renewables.
Likewise, Hislop throws out a few off-the-cuff new energy solutions like hydrogen and low emissions electricity. Hydrogen is an illusion, as Prof. Samuel Furfari writes in his book, citing his own decades as a chemist working on what he also ‘believed’ would be the next breakthrough energy. But it is not to be. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule and the trickiest to handle. It is highly explosive and embrittles metal – meaning pipelines will crack and just by escaping, hydrogen can ignite itself through static electricity. Furthermore, the complications of capturing, compressing, and handling hydrogen result in a 30-70% loss of energy over the process, something humanity cannot afford to do.
Ironically, despite that, Alberta is well positioned to continue making blue hydrogen from natural gas, of which we have plenty, because hydrogen is essential for agricultural fertilizer, and in an industrial handling context, there are significant safety protocols in place.
But it won’t be replacing oil, natural gas, or coal. Won’t be heating your home.
Likewise, Hislop’s reference to ‘low emissions electricity’ is equally misinforming. Perhaps like many climate activists Hislop thinks we can just string powerlines between hydro-rich provinces, and all would be well. Do we have a paper for you!
Recently, The Tyee reported that Prof. Richard Hackett is taking the National Post to task over a guest commentary by Patrick Moore about his new book. Hackett claims Moore is misrepresenting the findings of some of the scientists Moore refers to (based on Tyee research), thus he is making a complaint to the National News Media Council against the National Post for publishing misleading information about a topic of national importance – in that case – climate change.
Maybe it is time that Canadian taxpayers, particularly Albertans, held National Observer to account in a similar fashion. In this case, the topics of national importance are the energy sector, jobs, and the economy.
There’s no energy transition underway. National Observer and Markham Hislop appear to be engaging fact-free denigration of Alberta, Canada’s energy sector, and two elected officials. That’s not so ‘just’ either.
National Observer describes itself this way:
Founded in March 2015, CNO strives to meet a high standard of ethics and to build trust and a loyal, engaged audience through transparency, accountability and evidence-based reporting. We are committed to producing journalism that is accurate, fair and complete, and our journalists strive to act with honesty, transparency and independence, including from conflicts of interest. We correct errors and provide significant clarifications quickly and prominently. You can find our ethics policy here.
Let’s see if they are true to their word.
Parker Gallant has a multi-part series on The Strathmere Group.
See our two part report “Penury or Prosperity?” – A Critical Review of the Task Force for Resilient Recovery