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Why Leaders Must Choose One Path

by Joanne Light

Jeff Rubin, Former Chief Economist, CIBC and author of the new book, "The Carbon Bubble"
Jeff Rubin, Former Chief Economist, CIBC and author of the new book, "The Carbon Bubble"
Tom Rand, Author of "Waking the Frog"
Tom Rand, Author of "Waking the Frog"
Canadian Premiers' Conference on Energy, 2015
Canadian Premiers' Conference on Energy, 2015


In the Saturday, August 1st’s edition of the Chronicle Herald, the report, “Cost of Energy East May Rise Past $12 billion, says Trans Canada” fits like a glove with the hand that former Chief Economist with CIBC World Markets, Jeff Rubin is dealing us if our leaders acknowledge this top economist is not bluffing.

As reported in the Tesla Motors Club website, Rubin said in recent interviews, “Canada’s oil sands are stranded assets.” The article backs up Rubin with twenty sets of convincing statistics (all sourced from credible, thoroughly researched articles), the first of which states: “Two thousand per cent is the typical cost disadvantage of oil sands production as noted by Timothy Lane, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, at the Madison International Trade Association on January 13, 2015: “oil from Canada’s oil sands costs closer to $60 to $100 a barrel” relative to the lower cost producers, such as Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi noted in the Washington Post: “Production costs in Saudi Arabia are about $4 to $5 a barrel.” 

The website goes on to add, "Overcoming this enormous cost disadvantage requires strong continuing growth in the demand for oil, and the absence of lower cost alternatives. Neither condition seems likely to be satisfied, in either the short term or the long term."

It would seem a simple stroke—like “The New Deal” decision of the 1930s—just decide! Move us to a low carbon economy! How many letters will it really take? Not just this one—but I’m writing it anyway. I want to let our premier know that he and his counterparts need to re-deal their energy policy hand until they get a winner, one that does our bidding by factoring in the true cost of pollution, not one that will risk all for stranded infrastructure for new tarsands oil projects (the raison d’etre for the Energy East pipeline). Big Oil themselves aren’t betting on increased production. Why aren’t we more cautious of this game as news of new tarsands’ projects being cancelled or slowed down reaches us? Premiers surely can see the score: the realities economists are espousing, which consider the ratio of failure: the gargantuan cost of developing this resource divided by a market in which an Energy East pipeline carrying this resource can no longer compete because of an over 50% decrease in the oil price.

But at the recent conference, the premiers took the easy way out and turned their backs on “what’s really in the cards.” They presented a schizoid strategy of, like indigenous people used to say, "white men speaking with forked tongues”--garbled talk. They emerged with their “consensus cake of many colours” but what use is one made with ingredients that won’t make it rise (unless you'll settle for “pie in the sky”)? 

On the greed economy side, Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall and New Brunswick Premier, Brian Gallant, were still cheerleading for the “Oilers.” “Give us a “P” “p.”  Give us an “I” “i.”  Give us a “P” “p.”  Give us an “E” “e.”  Give us an “L” “l.”  Give us an “I” “i.”  Give us an “N” “n.” “Give us an “E” “e” What have you got? “jobs” Louder! jobS! Louder!! joBS!! 

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and Matt Abbott, Baykeeper for Fundy, reading from the 'fact book' in the November 10 edition of the Globe and Mail, pointed out that the Energy East Pipeline project’s “vast majority of jobs would be short-term, in construction and secondary industries.” and could very well cause “the destruction of the 2500 fisheries jobs on the New Brunswick side alone, given a spill of tar sands’ diluted bitumen, like the one in the Kalamazoo River that cost Enbridge more than a billion to clean up. Submerged oil still remains on that river bed.”

On the Green side, that caved at the (Brad) wall, the facts were white washed. Nothing like what Barlow and Abbott pointed out, such as “Investing in public transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors generates far more jobs. Efficiency Nova Scotia’s 1,200 permanent, full-time ones in four years compared with TransCanada’s reckoning of Energy East’s in total: 1,087 over forty years. 

Wall and Gallant would have Maritimers shouldering the risk of destroying all that the Bay of Fundy provides to create an oil bubble profit for the oil barons. If that isn’t the desperate greed of bluffing going on, you can “tarsands and feather me.”

So why did the premiers try to sell us the notion of having it both ways—greed and green. It’s a long way from d(o) to n(o). Forging ahead for a more liveable world now means we must choose the green, pipeline-less path or risk losing our home—the earth as we know it now or dream it could be! Like David Suzuki writes:

“Pipeline spills are a reminder that you can't have climate leadership and fossil fuel expansion at the same time.” 

I would add to this a quote from Waking the Frog author and clean tech investor, Tom Rand:

“"Building a low carbon economy creates the biggest market in human history, involving trillions of dollars. The question facing Canada is how do we ensure we're a seller not a buyer, into that market." 

Come on. Let’s get in the real game.

Start with one letter addressed to our premier to put us on one path.

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