Canada’s ‘Leave it in the Ground’ Energy Policy
Recently, the heads of government of Germany and Japan each came, cap in hand, to beg Prime Minister Trudeau to supply them with Canadian liquefied natural gas. They left empty-handed. Both of these countries – along with many others without adequate supplies of natural gas – are switching to a greater use of coal, which has twice the CO2 emissions of natural gas.
But Trudeau sent them away empty-handed because, as a leading warrior in the crusade against climate change he had to follow the “leave it in the ground” theology of what seems to have become a new secular religion, Net Zero.
Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. He sought to replace it with “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”. That inspired communist revolutions, but Marxism is no longer a significant secular religion outside of China and a few academics in the West.
Net Zero treats CO2 as Satan and the climate crisis as Hell on Earth. This is a frightening story that demands politically mandated good deeds to get CO2 Satan behind us. Computer models are the Bible of this religion, telling us there will be global annihilation by 2100 unless we purge the planet of CO2 emissions by 2050.
The numerous priests of this new religion include the climate politicians at the UN, many leaders of Western political parties, climate NGOs and many scientists seeking climate research grants, etc. Any questioning of whether climate change really is an existential crisis is considered heresy. It is also heretical to question whether the global warming part of climate change is caused entirely by humans, and whether all humans on the planet will perish if Net Zero is not reached in the 28 years left to 2050. Heretics are guilty of evil climate denialism, and punished by firing, deplatforming, and on-line mobbing.
Satan tempts us to continue using fossil fuel when we should immediately switch to 100% renewables to generate electricity, stop flying, eating meat, and driving gasoline powered cars. If we continue to give in to Satan’s temptation the climate will punish us with more severe fires, floods, hurricanes and droughts.
New Packaging of a Very Old Product
The climate crisis advocacy of this new religion is merely new packaging. The real product being sold is panic. Everyone applauded her when Greta Thunberg said “I want you to panic as if your house is on fire, because it is”. Selling panic is an old government scare tactic. It never goes out of style. Satan may change his form, but he is always with us.
Selling panic has its rewards. As HL Mencken wrote,
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Politicians get re-elected, and climate crisis reporters and their media’s owners increase readership, ad revenue and subscription income. Scientists who tell politicians that it’s the worst weather event on record can be rewarded with more millions of dollars to study the crisis for another few years. And politicians in several countries (including Canada, emitting a tiny percentage global emissions) boast about being leaders in fighting the entire planet’s climate change. Canada’s costly ‘green transition’ will supposedly help prevent forest fires and hurricanes and floods and rising oceans in Canada, regardless of what all of the other nations do.
These greener-than-thou governments provide funding and places on advisory committees to activists from climate NGOs who criticize and even sue governments for not going far enough fast enough. An effective symbiosis.
It’s safe to predict that the climate panic, like all apocalyptic panics, will eventually run its course and be replaced by a new and greater panic. For example, in the late 1970s the apocalyptic panic, led by NASA’s James Hansen, was imminent global cooling, which he eventually replaced by imminent global warming. Today, we are seeing German and Japanese leaders panic about ”energy security”, a euphemism for obtaining enough fossil fuels to power the country when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
Trudeau responded to German Chancellor Scholtz’s request for natural gas by saying that that he had not seen any business case for the expansion of Canadian natural gas facilities. But Trudeau should not have been looking for a business case as an excuse to say “no”. He should have been looking at the environmental case to say “yes”. That he would have found, since providing these countries with gas would help them to reduce their emissions compared to their using more coal, thereby reducing global emissions. By denying their pleas, Trudeau must have known that he was leaving these countries with no choice but to substitute dirty coal for clean gas. But a Canadian Prime Minister can’t get any votes from grateful Germans or Japanese, and, with his minority government, Trudeau needs all the votes he can get. His “no” decision will avoid angry protests from the Canadian Net Zero worshipers who want to leave all Canadian fossil fuels in the ground. That’s good domestic politics, and, getting re-elected now is more important to any politician than saving the planet in the next century.
Most people acknowledge that regulatory compliance for resource development projects in Canada is a lengthy and fraught process which adds to project costs, but not enough to undermine project economics to the extent you are implying. LNG Canada, Woodfibre and Kitimat projects have been able to navigate the process. Government is not blocking development and there is no way Canadian taxpayer dollars should be used to underwrite German or Japanese energy security. Project economics has to stand on its own. GHG emissions are a serious concern that has to be taken into account in determining the investment value of a 20-30 year operation with increasing carbon prices, border adjustment taxes, buyers less willing to commit to long term supply contracts, low cost competing renewable energy sources and other considerations. There is no panic in corporate boardrooms – more likely a careful assessment of how best to spend shareholders money!
The difficulty with supplying liquified natural gas to Germany is that their own stated plan is to use it for as short a time as humanly possible, too short for us to pay back the cost of building infrastructure. They have two reasons.
One is that gas by pipeline is cheaper than LNG by ship. As soon as gas starts flowing from Russia again—and it will, let’s not be foolish—Germany will abandon Canadian gas and leave Quebec with a pipeline crossing it that they never wanted anyway, and a terminal for LNG that no one else wants. (And no you can’t ship hydrogen from Newfoundland either. If there is a future for green hydrogen, it has to be made and consumed where the windmills are, not made across the ocean just because the PM wants to keep the Newfies voting Liberal by dangling make-work projects in front of them.)
Second is that the Germans are never going to give up on their Green Dreams. Since they don’t seem to have frozen to death this winter, they are going to go whole hog for windmills having survived this near-death experience. They don’t want to burn any gas, much less Canadian LNG. They don’t seem to get that this is folly. The Greens are still in the driver’s seat. Not our problem.
I should have been more clear in my explanation of these issues. Let me explain the real purpose of the visits of the German and Japanese government leaders to meetings with our prime minister.
The Government of Canada itself owns no gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG), and can’t sell what it doesn’t own. The governments of Germany and Japan cannot buy LNG for their industries and utilities. In Canada the would-be sellers are fossil fuel companies who own it, while in Germany the would-be buyers are industries who would use it and public utilities who would sell it to its customers.
Normally, there would be long term contract negotiations between potential buyers and sellers on price, quantities and duration of supply. No contract would be signed unless both parties see a benefit. So why did Chancellor Scholz, a politician, come to Canada to talk to another politician rather than letting the normal business of buyer and seller take place?
The reason is that Canadian sellers can’t sell LNG unless the gas is transported to the coast via a pipeline, then liquefied in a Canadian LNG facility yet to be constructed, then transported from a Canadian port to its destination. We have no such pipeline capacity, no unused LNG capacity and no LNG transportation facilities to or at a Canadian port. All of these would need Canadian government approval for both construction and operation. Canada’s Bill C-69, our Impact Assessment Act, is a huge barrier. I’ve explained this in detail here: https://andrewromanviews.blog/2018/12/07/pipelines-the-environment-and-the-economy-canadas-new-impact-assessment-law/and in a few other blog posts..
Canada’s assessment process for pipelines has recently taken as long as a decade, approximately three times as long as similar assessments in the US, which has a far higher population density and environmental risks. Until the Harper government the decision was apolitical, made by the National Energy Board after the conclusion of its hearings. Since Harper became PM and politicize the decision it is made by the federal cabinet. And the Minister (presumably with cabinet approval) can exempt a project from some or all of the assessment process.
Without a political by-pass on the assessment and permitting processes there will be no new pipelines for LNG or port facilities, hence no possibility of LNG sales to Germany. Chancellor Scholz would have been briefed on that by his ambassador to Canada and his trade advisors. His mission, therefore, was not to buy gas but to persuade Trudeau to remove the regulatory barriers in Canada to the normal operation of the commercial contracting process for international energy commodity sales. His request was denied, so the gas will stay in the ground and many Germans will freeze in the dark unless they can obtain adequate, affordable supply elsewhere. This is not the level of cooperation expected by Germany, a NATO ally in a time of severe need.
That’s clearer, thanks.
Even if Trudeau had committed political suicide by indicating he would over-ride the “No More Pipelines” regulatory process and fast-track a pipeline to get gas to the Atlantic coast for Germany, would investors have been willing to build one, knowing that Germany still wants to press on with wind power? Its dalliance with our gas would be brief. Would Germany’s industries have committed to a long-term deal to purchase LNG when their own government is telling them not to? Indeed windmills are even now being praised as Germany’s saviour from what could have been a rough winter–see, as long as we have wind, we aren’t at anyone’s mercy for gas! Wind is being touted not only as the linchpin for climate salvation but now for energy security also.
Chancellor Scholz must have been briefed that Canada has no facilities now to ship LNG to Germany to help him through a short-term crunch. The gas companies could have diverted some of their supply to the U.S. to ship out from American ports — maybe they did –, but that would not require the approval of the Canadian Prime Minister. I guess I’m confused about what the purpose of his trip was.
For all of recorded history, and probably long before, the arc of human affairs has been shaped by GUILT, especially perceived collective guilt.
Humans have evolved to believe that our species is at the center of the universe, and that when bad things happen, it must be our fault.
We therefore built temples to appease the gods, and sacrifice virgins to atone for our guilt.
Upon this psychological foundation the great religions and the careers of self righteous seekers of power are built. The IPCC is not interested in any climate causal factors that don’t involve human guilt.
Per Thomas Sowell:
“This whole political game has been played before — and with disastrous effects for the public. One of the reasons price controls on oil were not repealed when other price controls were ended back in the 1970’s was that a political propaganda campaign had demonized oil companies as the cause of the shortage of gasoline.
. . . a wholly needless problem of shortages was created and sustained by the demonizing of those who produced the product that was needed.”
Policies to shut down fossil-fueled power stations, with oil and gas now being demonized from the pseudo-science of human-caused climate change, are now creating shortages of electricity as well as oil and gas . . . again with disastrous effects for the public. Now agriculture applications of fertilizers are in the policy-wonks cross-hairs that can only result in food shortages as, once again, the producers of the needed products are “attacked”.
I’ve seen what Climate ‘fear’ has done to several of my grandchildren who were raised by one parent who was a climate crisis advocate…
In response to comments from your readers – this seems to be a well balanced report on Canada and LNG:
Agree Andrew ,
it’s not up to Trudeau to
decide about the business
case . That’s for investors to
decide . They can assess risk of
long term versus short term contracts and then decide .
An LNG faculty was applied for on the St Lawrence but cancelled by Ottawa . Why ? Ideology?