Response to misinformation spread by Green Party of Canada leader

September 27, 2019

Hi Jo-Ann, thank you for taking the time to provide a lengthy response to Demian’s open letter. I appreciate that you opened the opportunity to have a discussion. I would also like to thank Demian for tagging me and sharing my letter with you; I do hope to hear back from your Party with concise responses to my questions.

While I recognize that it can be difficult to have a meaningful discussion using a medium liked LinkedIn, I find that there is little substance or practical problem-solving provided in your response. It’s one of the things I find most disheartening about the current environmental discussion. It’s hard to work together to solve the problem if we only talk in the abstract using rhetoric.

I fancy myself a bit of an environmentalist having lived in Asia where I had to boil my water and wear a facemask while driving my scooter due to extreme pollution; I don’t want to have to do that again, so I care about what we do to the environment, both locally and globally.

I like that you try to find information from sources that don’t have a particular slant; I also try to do that, as difficult as it can be sometimes. I found the Energy Fact Book 2018/ 2019 created by Natural Resources Canada to be current, unbiased and informative. Here is a link for your future use.

“Stranded assets” - both you and Elizabeth May have used this term, and I’m uncertain what you mean. In Alberta there are minimal stranded assets (I’m not saying there are none) because that would be a waste of money. Plus, there are regulations around how to properly abandon and reclaim stranded or unused assets. Very stringent regulations. I’m happy to put you in touch with people from my company who are responsible for this work, so they can provide information and answer questions on how we’re addressing these issues.

Canada’s demand for oil and gas is not dropping even though our use of renewables is increasing. According to Stats Canada, energy demand in Canada increased by 2.2% in 2017. Even though 17% comes from renewable sources, refined petroleum products were the main source of energy consumed in Canada in 2017 at 38.7%, followed by natural gas at 35.2%.

True, more and more countries, including China and India, are using more renewables, but that does not mean that they no longer need fossil fuels. Quite the opposite. In fact, energy use is increasing in countries like China and India, and that demand will still be sourced in part by fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that in 2017, world electricity consumption increased by 3.1%; China and India accounted for 70% of that growth.

The IEA estimates that by 2040, the average home in China will consume twice as much electricity as they did in 2017. Having lived in Taiwan, which has a lot of similarities to China, and having traveled to India, I know that they have a large population hungry to lift themselves out of poverty, hungry to attain a lifestyle as comfortable as a Canadian’s. When I say someone sleeps on the street in India, I literally mean they sleep on a piece of cardboard on the street. I’m sure that if you had that lifestyle, you would do whatever you could to attain some moderate level of comfort. To accomplish that is going to require a lot of energy from various sources.

I appreciate the suggestion to read the Executive Summary of the IPCC’s report; it’s something I had not done until now. What I would like to know is where this number of 12 years (now you’re saying 11 years in your comment) is coming from and the accuracy of it. On the first Earth Day, over 45 years ago, it was predicted that overpopulation would cause worldwide famine, a mass extinction was coming, and oil and mineral reserves were about to run out – all of this by the year 2000. In 1970, Life magazine predicted that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution”; I live in Calgary and do no wear a face mask of any sort, never have in Canada. I worry that the “12 years” prediction is also exaggerated.

And while we’re talking about the importance of honesty, let’s ensure both sides are held equally accountable for presenting truthful information. The IPCC’s Summary for Policy-Makers document states that “global net human-caused emissions of CO2 would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.” The Report also states that human activities are estimated to have caused 1 degree of warming above pre-industrial levels. “Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.” (the italics are part of the report summary and are not my own). I’m no expert, but I don’t read that the same way many involved in the environmental movement do. I don’t read that to mean that we must eliminate fossil fuel use in 12 years to avoid catastrophe, which is what I have heard from both Elizabeth May and Tzeporah Berman. If we can get an expert to weigh in, I would very much appreciate that.

I notice the IPCC report talks about eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities. I think this is a noble goal; however, without energy security from cheap, reliable sources, it’s unlikely that many people in impoverished states will be meaningfully, positively impacted. Natural gas is a low-emission fuel that could be used to assist in the goal of eliminating poverty. By eliminated all fossil fuel use in 12 years, you will severely impact the ability to reach this goal.

You are correct when you say that Canadians are large consumers of energy. We need to be. We live in a cold climate. As I write this, it’s -19, feels like -22, in Calgary. That’s cold. Uncomfortably cold. Thank goodness for natural gas and furnaces.

You are also absolutely correct that Canadians have a lot of room for conservation efforts. Access to inexpensive energy allows us to overuse, to turn the thermostat up an extra degree or three without feeling a negative impact on the wallet. Not only do we consume energy to heat our homes, Canadians are consumers of “things”. We have debt, a lot of debt. We buy a lot of plastic, disposable stuff, stuff we likely don’t really need. All of us do it, myself and yourself included, even if you don’t want to admit it (I don’t always want to admit it either). What’s often missing from the conversation is discussion about changing consumption practices around discretionary items, “behaviour changes”, as the IPCC Special Report calls them.

As I stated in my letter to Elizabeth May, I don’t think the Green Party has a clear understanding of why multinational companies are leaving the Canadian energy sector. Make no mistake, they are not just leaving the oil sands, they are leaving the entire Canadian energy sector because it is no longer profitable. (We can debate the merits of business models that place profits at the top of their importance list at some other time.) Some of these companies are investing in renewables, and I think that’s great because I believe we need a diverse energy mix. I also believe that private industry, not governments, can innovate and come up with the best, most cost-efficient forms of energy. They may come up with new sources of energy that none of us have thought of. To do that, to be an effective disruptor, they need capital and regulatory certainty. Foreign direct investment in the Canadian energy sector declined by 12% in 2017 from the previous year according to Natural Resources Canada. Loss of capital will impact companies’ ability to be innovative.

Speaking of innovation, I would like to share a project that my company recently completed to reduce our vented emissions. Retrofitting devices will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 by 16,833 tonnes of CO2e, equivalent to taking 3,574 passenger vehicles off the road for one year. A will to keep improving motivated us to do this work, and this is just one of many projects that are quietly completed every year.

A point of clarification, the correct term is “oil sands”, not “tar sands”, that’s an offensive term and I know you don’t mean to be offensive.

I work for a mid-sized, Canadian oil and gas company, and I can assure you that we do not think that we are more powerful than government. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but I think you will have difficulty finding a Canadian-based, Canadian-owned oil and gas company that thinks this way. We will fight hard to protect profits because that’s what ensures people continue to have good-paying jobs to provide for their families to ensure prosperity for future generations.

Future generations like your four kids and two grandkids. That’s quite an environmental footprint, I must say. I myself don’t have any children; I guess that is my contribution to the environmental movement.

I am open to having a further discussion about what it is like to be a Canadian energy worker. If you are too, please contact me at your convenience.

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