Yes to a national energy strategy, no to tankers
Today (July 27th) Premier Christy Clark walked out of the Council of the Federation meetings, being held between Canada’s Premiers in Halifax, vowing that she would not discuss a National Energy Strategy until Alberta agrees to share revenue that it gets as a result of the controversial Enbridge Pipeline and Tanker project.
Canada does not need a pipeline to export bitumen to Asia for processing. Such a pipeline is not in BC’s interests, even if Alberta greases our government’s palm.
What Canada, and BC, does desperately need is a national energy strategy. In particular a national energy strategy that:
- Uses the revenue from Canada’s oil and gas operations, including the oil/tar sands, to fund our transition from a fossil fuel extraction and use economy to a renewable energy superpower;
- Allows us to compete globally with other countries that are prioritizing renewable energy development and industries;
- Allows the public and First Nations a role in this crucial national discussion; and
- Protects our right to a healthy global atmosphere, by placing limits on how much carbon can be pumped into it.
West Coast Environmental Law is among the more than 150 governments, companies, industry associations, financial advisers, non-governmental organizations, academics and faith groups that have signed onto Tides Canada’s A New Energy Vision for Canada calling for just such a National Energy Strategy:
Leading economies are racing toward a bold new vision of a future in which, by about 2050, hydrocarbons have been supplanted by clean and plentiful alternatives. This new era holds the promise of unprecedented prosperity, abundance, and geopolitical stability. Companies will be building value not on what they extract from the earth and process, but on how creatively they innovate a range of energy systems, technologies, and services, in ways that improve environmental quality and human quality of life. In this future, cities will have transformed themselves for livability and efficiency, while nations will have stopped going to war to secure the energy they need.
Indeed, such a national energy strategy would ask the question of whether Canada needs more risky pipelines and tankers, such as the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan projects.
Shutting down a New Energy Vision
Premier Clark, by boycotting the Premiers’ discussion of a National Energy Strategy, is not showing that she is tough on the Enbridge Pipelines/Tankers. She is showing that she doesn’t get it. Instead of a discussion about renewable energy, Premier Clark’s action implicitly says that the National Energy Strategy discussion is only about who gets the financial spoils from a fossil fuel future – one with lots of pipelines and perhaps a few (unavoidable) oil spills.
We know that a number of premiers went to the meeting in the hope of discussing renewable energy and making emissions reductions a key part of any energy plan. Meanwhile, Premiers Redford (Alberta) and Wall (Saskatchewan) were hoping for a strategy that was based on building Canada’s fossil fuel infrastructure.
It’s not that long ago that BC saw renewable energy as central to its future. The government’s 2007 BC Energy Plan: A Vision for Clean Energy Leadership boasted:
The BC Energy Plan puts British Columbia at the forefront of environmental and economic leadership by focusing on our key natural strengths and our competitive advantages of clean and renewable sources of energy.
We would have hoped that Premier Clark would have joined the discussion about a National Energy Strategy to advance such a positive vision. She could have insisted that the National Energy Strategy examine whether the Enbridge Pipelines/Tankers project is even necessary.
Instead, she shut down that discussion to re-iterate her demand that BC be guaranteed a “fair share” before the pipeline goes ahead. The implication is that if Alberta coughs up the dough, Premier Clark will stand along-side Premiers Redford and Wall in pressing for an unsustainable, fossil fuel based energy strategy.
Jack Knox of the Times Colonist points out that Clark, in demanding compensation for the pipeline, is asking the wrong question.
Funny how in a single day the debate moved from whether B.C. should back the pipeline to how much we should get for doing so.
Now we’re seeing the same thing at a national level. Premier Clark’s walk-out shifted the focus from whether Canada’s energy future requires more pipelines to how much BC should be paid for participating in a pipeline-filled future. A pipeline-filled future is not a good deal for BC, or Canada, at any price.
As the other Premiers move forward with the development of a National Energy Strategy, it is clear that a strong, forward looking National Energy Strategy is in BC’s interests. Such a plan would demonstrate that more pipelines and tankers are not in BC’s, or Canada’s, interests. Premier Clark needs to work with the Premiers and anyone else who wants a sane energy future to deliver a real strategy that works.
By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer