I’m not going to go as far as to describe our times as Orwellian but they do seem to have an Alice in Wonderland-like quality. The Premier of Alberta tweeted out the link to a video that was an unabashed defence of the oil and gas industry in Canada but after watching the 2+ minute, slickly produced video – I had to listen again. The entire clip never mentioned the words ‘oil’ or ‘gas’ (the word oil was used once but not in the context of the Canadian oil and gas industry). By contrast the words ‘energy’ and ‘resources’ were used constantly. If you closed your eyes you might think you were listening to a video about the wind energy sector.
Why can’t we say the words oil and gas? Why when we talk about pipelines we talk about energy and resources? Are we planning on putting soybeans or wood pulp in the pipe?
The PM last week tweeted out a link to this press release “Creating clean growth and jobs in British Columbia’s energy sector“. The first paragraph reads:
Canada’s natural resources drive our economy and support thousands of middle class jobs. Building modern infrastructure and clean technologies in the resource sector is part of the Government of Canada’s plan to get our resources to new markets, spark economic growth, and accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition.
I had to read and then re-read this press release to really figure out what was going on.
The Canadian government is providing financial support to help the dramatic expansion of B.C’s natural gas industry and the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas. The $40 billion LNG export terminal will ship Canadian natural gas to Asia for decades and be conduit for the extraction of billions of cubic metres of natural gas. Yes, the Canadian government’s dollars will be targeted to ensure that green electricity is used in the extraction and distribution of the natural gas but, relative to the overall incremental emissions, this is a secondary issue.
Now, if I was writing the PM’s press releases and tweets, I would have said that fracked BC gas will be used to reduce the need for coal-fired electricity generation in Asia resulting in a significant net-reduction in GHGs globally over the next 40-50 years’ life of the LNG export terminal.
But that doesn’t fit neatly into the narrative. Why speak plainly when tarted up euphemisms might trick a few folks into thinking this is something other?
Will the PM be in New Brunswick soon to announce federal government support for fracking in New Brunswick to provide gas for the proposed LNG export terminal in Nova Scotia that will serve European markets and reduce the need for coal-fired generation there? Right now the plan is to bring all that gas in from Alberta and the United States and skip right over any local supply.
I realize in this social media era, we are tempted to let the big policy issues get lost in the sea of tweets about Trump, the Kardashians and other ephemeral issues but we should have serious conversations about oil and gas, about immigration, about environmental stewardship, about global warming, about governments and fiscal sustainability over 20-30 years, rural development in the coming years, etc.
I’m not convinced we will ever have a serious conversation about natural gas development in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Attitudes have hardened. Politicians won’t want to fight that battle. I’m not sure about other natural resources-based development – mining, aquaculture, etc.
Resist the temptation to boil things down, tweet out pablum at 4:30 pm and hope the public doesn’t notice. Let’s have serious conversations about the future.
Alice in Wonderland was just a story. No one really wants to live there.