Energy East is bad for Albertans too

By Janet Keeping, Leader, Green Party of Alberta

Contrary to what might wrongly be called “conventional wisdom,” Energy East would be bad for Alberta.  Building the pipeline would contribute nothing to solving the most serious economic problem we face, which is excessive dependence on the oil and gas industry.

There are many pipelines already carrying Alberta-produced hydrocarbons to market every day.  We don’t need any new pipelines but we do need to get off our extreme dependence on oil and gas as quickly as possible.  The desperate promotion of Energy East by the industry and some government officials is both a distraction from this task and a tragic exacerbation of the problem itself.  Sadly our ND provincial government is among those Energy East promoters:  many in that government probably know better but are by now too intimidated by industry to object.

To put one inevitable, albeit feeble, objection to rest:  This is not an argument in favour of shutting Alberta’s oil and gas industry down.  The industry’s continued presence in our economy should not be in doubt.  Alberta will have an oil and gas industry for a very long time – generations – if the rate of production is slowed and industry operations are managed sustainably, i.e., very differently from the way they are now.   It simply needs to be scaled down so we can reduce our GHG emissions and be regulated much, much more strictly for environmental and social impact.

And the claim that Energy East is a nation building project is ludicrous.  Unlike a railroad running across the continent or a program giving young people the experience of other parts of Canada (such as the now defunct Katimavik) or a country-wide push to take in thousands of refugees, a buried pipeline does precisely zero to bring people together.

It is also pointless to argue that the foreign oil eastern Canadians currently import should be replaced by product shipped via Energy East.  Easterners too should be moving off oil.

It really has to be understood:  The oil and gas industry is concerned with maximizing profit, not in helping Alberta adapt to this century’s challenges.  The industry is “nice” to Albertans when it’s getting its way but turns very ugly indeed when things go bad, such as when prices decline and thousands are dropped from payrolls.

The oil and gas industry is the business establishment in Alberta and it uses that immense establishment power to suppress Albertans’ need and desire for change.  And those in politics who servilely cheer the industry on are part of the establishment problem.  As Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the US presidency, says:  “It’s just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”  The same is true in Alberta.

Prolonging our heavy reliance on fossil fuels will be a disaster for Albertans.  The necessary move away from fossil fuels has begun globally and unless we are part of the transition to renewables, we won’t get an appropriate share of investment and jobs in the new low-carbon economy.  In that event Alberta will be a grim place indeed.

Achim Steiner of the UN Environment Program recently put it this way:  “Whether you build the next pipeline or not … the economy of Canada will not be centred around a fossil-fuel-based economy.”

The world is moving on and we’d better get with the program.

Albertans’ time, money and political capital should be devoted to rapid development of clean renewable energy and other sustainable industries, not Energy East: we need urgently to move on.

This op-ed was originally posted on Troy Media’s wesite:  http://www.troymedia.com/2016/02/10/energy-east-is-bad-for-albertans-too/

 

 

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