FROM MIRACLE TO MENACE
Written by David Yager, one of Canada’s most experienced and respected writers about the oil and gas industry, energy policy, and the politics that affect Alberta and its number one industry.
For FROM MIRACLE TO MENACE: Alberta, A Carbon Story
“By obstructing export pipelines required for market access and branding oil sands as public enemy number one for climate destruction, Alberta has gone from boom to bust in only five years.
Which is fine. That’s what is supposed to happen when the world decarbonizes by switching away from fossil fuels. Massive economic dislocation and disruption. Did someone forget to tell you that?”
The current debate about climate change and what mankind should do about it has deteriorated to the point of absurdity.
We’re told repeatedly the planet’s future is in peril and therefore we must change the composition of the atmosphere. This can only be accomplished if everyone everywhere uses less and ultimately no fossil fuels; coal, oil and natural gas.
The problem is that despite decades of warnings, there is no evidence carbon resource consumption is declining on a global basis, and there exists no workable plan to make this happen on an international scale or in the short timeline put forth by the so-called experts.
Worse yet, all data and forecasts indicate worldwide demand for fossil fuels will continue to increase for the foreseeable future, driven by economic and population growth. Because no matter what climate crusaders claim, there are currently no practical substitutes for the majority of carbon’s myriad of products and energy sources, things most people regard as essential.
The divide between what we’re told must be done and what we’re doing is staggering. It’s as if people live in parallel universes where we all occupy the same physical space, but our brains are on separate planets where emotions and feelings have replaced facts.
The climate-concerned have successfully convinced hundreds of millions of people that the world is on a one-way path to disaster unless massive changes occur immediately. Those who warn and worry about the earth’s future believe changing this is just a matter of stronger collective political will.
But when you and I and everyone else fully understand how dependent we have become on fossil fuels and what life looks like without them, nothing happens. Why? Because faced with the reality of life without cheap energy and the thousands of products derived from carbon resources, the vast majority conclude the cure is worse than the disease.
The challenge is fundamentally economic. It is simply not possible to focus on the future when, out of necessity, so many remain focused on surviving today and tomorrow. This applies to billions of people worldwide, and not necessarily your friends and neighbors.
This is not to say climate change isn’t a problem, or that carbon resources are not a major cause. I’m not a climate change denier. In my lifetime I’ve seen the giant glaciers at the headwaters of the Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and Columbia rivers recede significantly. If and when they are gone, life in western Canada will be much different.
But if this problem is as serious as so many believe and we want to get something useful accomplished, we must change the channel and have a more intelligent debate than the one currently underway. Because right now this is going nowhere, even backwards.
Being in the middle of the carbon/climate debate for over 30 years, I decided to write this book.
In Canada, the direction of climate policy and the country has become a virtue-driven preoccupation about the actions of one-half of one per cent of the world’s population representing 1.6% of its emissions. The Canadian debate ignores the needs, aspirations and sheer mass and might of the world’s other 7.36 billion people.
Those concerned about climate change believe their local governments can and should do something; that taxes, policies, programs and even lawsuits will somehow make a difference. But we share a world where billions of other people want cheap energy and all the wonderful technological and lifestyle advances that come with it.
Millions of Canadians are convinced Canada can help change the global climate by undertaking actions that ultimately inflict economic misery on millions of their fellow citizens. Unfortunately, the main result is growing hostility and polarized positions within the country.
Meanwhile, the greenhouse gas content of the global atmosphere continues to rise, oblivious to platitudes, speeches, policies, litigation and outright anger growing across the country.
My home province of Alberta has become ground zero for the Canadian version of the war on climate change. The third largest deposit of crude in the world—Alberta’s oil sands—has been singled out and vilified as a major contributor to the problem. Therefore, blocking expansion and reducing production have been identified as solutions.
The so called “tar sands campaign” has been very successful. By obstructing export pipelines required for market access and branding oil sands as public enemy number one for climate destruction, Alberta has gone from boom to bust in only five years.
Which is fine. That’s what is supposed to happen when the world decarbonizes by switching away from fossil fuels. Massive economic dislocation and disruption. Did someone forget to tell you that? Surely nobody is surprised that millions of people will lose their jobs, homes and companies in the quest to save the planet.
Except this is only happening in one place; Alberta. World fossil fuel demand grows unchecked and not one other major oil and gas producing jurisdiction in the world is enduring Alberta and Canada’s economic misery.
In targeting Alberta and its oil sands, the anti-carbon movement has won a battle but lost the war. Oil not supplied from Alberta will come from somewhere else unless demand declines. Global events are proving that forcing people to change won’t work either.
What follows is a multitude of facts and statistics from a multitude of sources organized in a manner that I hope will inspire the thoughtful and open minded to think differently about the climate change challenge, and ask all stakeholders to do something materially different than what we’re doing today.
The information in the following chapters is a compilation of historical facts and events, some of it dating back to the earliest days of what eventually would become Alberta. It is primarily straight research and reporting with little color commentary.
The Epilogue contains my thoughts on what I learned researching and writing this book, including my personal views on the future of Alberta, mankind and the world.
FROM MIRACLE TO MENACE