Posted by: energyblogwalter | January 22, 2009

Re: Ignatieff touts Alberta tar sands :: Toronto Star : January 22nd, 2009

I argue that Ignateif has missed the opportunity of Canadian change by saying that “”The stupidest thing you can do (is) to run against an industry that is providing employment for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and not just in Alberta, but right across the country””

It would seem then following his logic that the argument in saving the oil patch is no different than saving the auto sector. That pollution and environment do not matter nor their costs.  The indirect implication is that no one can change their job and even more indirectly large enough industries deserve government subsidies.

Yikes.  The problems are big but we have to deal with them, not run away.

If you wanted to argue national interest this is completely false.  A majority of Canada does not use tarsands oil at all and imports directly from Saudi Arabia.  We sell it to the USA and buy it from the Middle East, instead of just supporting ourselves first, then exporting the excess.

Reality Check

Quebec in particular imports 90% of its oil.  We can’t even bother to help ourselves first, so the assertion that Ignatieff makes, in Quebec no less, for tarsands being national is completely barking mad and false.  He makes a note that services are used nationally not so much the oil.  But the argument that these industries should continue at any cost is not leadership anymore than a bailout to the auto sector.

Change is coming and a plan needs to be formulated.  If enough services are used nationally in the oil sector as Ignatieff suggests, than this requires a national strategy and not regional.  But surely the auto sector also has tendrils across the country?  That’s not much of an argument for unity.

If the auto sector expects a bailout to survive and the market can’t support it then that was a nice collosal waste of money used for no purpose and only delayed the inevitable.   The opposite is true of oil, that it continues to function in spite of Canadian concerns of its activities.

Mutually Assurred Solutions

The solution for one is the solution for both.  Change is needed to put those people to more worthwhile enterprises in both oil and auto.  Going green resolves the issue of national autonomy of energy resources into keeping it a regional development, thus no constitutional conflicts.  Manufacturing energy sector drills instead for local thermal generation also restores and dovetails nicely with our withering manufacturing sector.  Thus these two dying and maligned industries can support each other away from their natural declines.

Going green is the best option for all of us with local jobs and increased energy expertise.  But if auto has the electric car, what does tarsands have?

Transition away from Ottawa Tarsands Welfare needed

Rather than going cold turkey though, tarsands has a possible transition phase availabe.  There are other tarsands processes that make oil but do not mine it out of the ground, and thus do not create as much waste and despair for the environment.  The concept called White Sands, burns the bitumen below ground rather than mining it, and costs a lot less, only in the millions not billions.

But that’s the difference.  Rather than being supported in a project into the billions of dollars, companies would only be supported into the millions, and thus the cleaner technology isn’t used.  With Ottawa supplying a $1.6 Billion subsidy to tarsands development, it’s much more profitable with operations to keep mining instead.  Also if White Sands were used it would take a lot fewer people to peform the same function.  Job losses again would become an issue which can’t be addressed without questioning the whole process.  Totally bonkers.

We need a plan that recognizes a transitional phase beyone oil and cars.  But this can never happen due to the number of interests in tarsands from other countries and companies.

Instead of wasting all our efforts to export first and help ourselves second, we should try supporting ourselves.  We can create local jobs in Alberta or Ontario or wherever in geo-thermal energy and local manufacturing.  For Ignatieff to say that we can’t change because too many people work in the industry is an argument for the auto industry as well.  But we both know that the auto industry is toast.  When you lead you have to have a vision of what a change will mean.  You have to subtract the person from the process and not tie your life to your job. This is our opportunity but it’s also our largest misunderstanding.

This will be a disaster for Ignatieff and the Liberals who have gone from Green-shift to Oil-shaft in three months.

Obama an eventual whammy against Tarsands

I understand that Ignatieff wants to lessen the demonizing of Alberta, but with Obama in office the states are unlikely to endorse continued tarsands dependency.  With their own strong environmental laws, Obama will move forward to get off oil while Canada does not have a plan.  Tarsands are only a stop-gap measure, not a future.

US States like California have laws where they can’t buy any energy imported that doesn’t meet California environmental standards.  Other states under local pressure (who have been far more progressive than Bush) have followed or are following suit.  Tarsands therefore has no future and puts various Canadian governments into the awkward position of touting tarsands, such as Ignatieff here.  USA will be moving forward into wind sun and soil.  Canada will not and will likely have another brain-drain the the US to support common feelings of change.

A Change of Direction: Energy + Auto = Energy Manufacturing + Unity

Ignatieff may have been right in thinking energy and unity go together, but is totally wrong in thinking Canadians want a tarsands future.  A new future is needed away from tarsands but one that still unifies and would work in Alberta.  Some new plan away from tarsands and cars that includes investing in the future.  We have to get away from a Canada with tarsands, and not a decade of new development into the worst environmental disaster on earth.  We need a way out.

The real opportunity is to get all those energy workers into working on geo-thermal piping, not drilling and mining to get oil but instead to put pipes into the ground for thermal heating/cooling all across the country.  That would be a fantastic unity project, and not vilify energy workers in Alberta but claim our need for them nationally.  More wind and solar too, but thermal you can do now, no new technology required.  Only drills.  Thus merging manufacturing and the oil sector jobs together into a single purpose for Canada’s energy future.

If Canada put its $1.6 Billion dollar subsidy towards self-sufficiency, that would stop rewarding polluters and losers while forcing those same industries to streamline and choose more prudent options like White Sands and electric cars.  Cutting subsidies to both will improve both, as market forces would work in a postive direction people want.

Knowledge is Power

We need to dig a little deeper with information.  There are jobs, unity, stability, and no bailouts required in this new style of energy, but not if we can’t see them because we’re too busy playing politician.

The Liberals if they continue in this vein will paint themselves into a corner and lose to the Obama administration.  We are not going to sell more oil, but we must prepare now to change from hawkers to drillers from coast to coast to coast.

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