TRUDEAU AND FOSSIL FUELS
On April 20, the Trudeau government, as part of its economic responses to the ravages of the pandemic crisis, announced that it was allotting 1.7 billion dollars to the fossil fuel industry to help clean up orphaned oil and gas wells. There was also an additional 750 million dollars to reduce industrial methane emissions. This is a small step in the right direction of assuming our environmental responsibilities.
Article by Alan Silverman
Let us examine the context of this decision. A leaked letter dated March 27, by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and sent to the Federal Government, clearly reveals what the oil and gas industry stands for. It asks for several reductions in environmental regulations, a halt to new climate policies, a slowing down of implementation of Indigenous rights, and billions of dollars in subsidies. It is laudable that Trudeau did not accede to these outrageous requests.
But, let us now look at the other side of this biblically important fossil-fuel divide…and that is Science and the vast majority of Canadians who believe in Science. We have about a decade to reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions sufficiently to ensure that global warming does not increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. And, one of the measures that must be implemented to ensure this goal is reached is to KEEP over 80% of known fossil fuel reserves IN THE GROUND! If we do not do this, then we risk ending human civilization as we know it. This is not politics; this is Science! Read all the latest reports of the UN International Panel on Climate Change. To put this more bluntly, in order to survive, we must end the fossil fuel industry, as we have known it, as soon as possible.
This is obviously an extremely huge and unprecedented task, as our whole economy is based on fossil fuels! And that is why Parliament voted recently to declare a climate emergency. We need to fundamentally transform how we structure and regulate our economy. We cannot turn off the taps tomorrow, but we have to drastically decrease fossil fuel production and at the same time drastically increase renewable energy and sustainable transportation, housing and agriculture.
We are now living through the most serious crisis since the Second World War. What can we learn from this pandemic that can help us deal with the climate change crisis? First, when we are in an emergency, we have to respond with emergency and unprecedented measures. Yes, Covid-19 is an immediate life-threatening crisis. However, the climate crisis is not as immediately life-threatening right now, (for some, but not for all…some Pacific Islands risk total submersion very shortly!) but down the road, within a couple of generations, the climate-change crisis will not just be life-threatening for some individuals, but for all of society as we know it. Second, only the use of huge Public Investment, can stem the tide of disaster. At the present moment, the thirst for private gain of the oil and gas industry is holding the world hostage. Maybe they need to be nationalized? And third, we cannot achieve our goals unless we level the social and economic playing field. To respond to Covid-19 the Federal Government is spending billions of dollars to shore up the incomes of millions of workers and small businesses. Similarly, we cannot end the oil and gas industry without instituting a Just Transition Fund (paid for, in part, by a much more equitable taxation system) that sets aside billions of dollars to assure the training and incomes of the oil and gas workers. One huge difference between the Covid-19 crisis and the climate crisis is that the former involves reacting quickly to bad and scary news, but the climate crisis offers us an OPPORTUNITY to build a healthier society with more interesting jobs, more community, and a closer bond to nature.
This Canadian drama between fossil fuels and a sustainable society is putting all politicians and business leaders to the test. Will Trudeau continue climbing the mountain or will he succumb to those who want to return to business as usual? Let us hope that long-term Science wins out over short-term private gain!
A brief recap of what’s happened provincially and federally as of now:
- Construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Coastal Gaslink continues. TMX to cost at least $12.6 billion. And adding other costs to taxpayers, more than $16 billion.
- The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, much needed so that relief can be directed toward the workers, families, communities and small businesses, was passed. Buried inside the new law, the Export Development Corporation, which is underwritten by taxpayers, was given more freedom to direct billions toward oil and gas operations without public oversight.
- The Alberta government pledged up to 6 billion in guaranteed support to TC Energy (formally TransCanada), a multinational oil and gas corporation and the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The federal government voices support.
- Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Ontario altered environmental law so that transparency to the public about projects that might damage the environment is not required. This change also means they don’t have to consider Statements of Environmental Values, which lay out “how [Ontario ministries] will integrate environmental values with social, economic and scientific considerations when making a decision.” https://ero.ontario.ca/page/sevs.
- A subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation Inc., of which the Ontario Government is sole shareholder, just purchased interests in three natural gas pumping stations from TC Energy, helping make way for a planned major expansion of natural gas use in Ontario.
- Up to 500 million has been promised, through EDC, to the Coastal Gaslink. (EDC already provided almost $10.6 billion to oil and gas companies in 2019). Banks are also involved, funding about $6.6 billion, the majority of the project’s construction costs.
- Irving Energy has discovered a work around involving the Panama canal, to shipping oil from the west to the east coast, despite the denial of the Energy East pipeline. This decision is celebrated by the current government, who according to Chrystia Freeland believe in pipelines.
- Large industry, including oil and gas corporations, are eligible for bridge loans if they fulfill certain conditions, including disclosure of environmental plans.
- Environmental monitoring has been suspended in Alberta under cover of the pandemic emergency, effectively halting the regulatory process. Sonya Savage, Alberta's Minister of Natural Resources, announced that COVID-19 makes it a good time to build pipelines because there can be no protesting.
- A new Oil Change International and Friend's of the Earth US report shows that Canada leads the G20 in per capita oil and gas public financing, spending at least C$13.8 billion a year since the Paris climate agreement. These subsidies are given through the federal Crown corporation, Export Development Canada (EDC). The EDC also leads the dispensing of corporate relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.