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  • Writer's pictureAlec McColm

That Got Outa Hand

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Nov 18,2018

this is 2017 and its worse in 2018

Okay people, let's back this bus up a little. Get it a little more straight. We've experimented with some different ways of going forward. They were maybe well intended approaches. But now we should see that we're really mired in the ditch. So we need to get smart about digging and driving out. 

This isnt just about Alberta. It's about Canada. It was bad enough for Alberta and the nation when oil energy prices took a nose dive a few years back. Lots of jobs lost. But now all that is compounded by the further depressed price of Alberta's CWS product having been constricted for new access to markets. My understanding is that the price differential that we've exacerbated is costing all Canadians, not just Albertans, in the range of forty to fifty million dollars per day, or perhaps upwards of 5 billion in lost tax revenues per year. That's tough to manage under any circumstance, not to mention with a fairly free spending government in power.


This is like a farmer deciding, in the middle of a growing season, that because there will be less demand for canola in the future, that he's going to leave a good chunk of his canola in the field this fall. Why, because his neighbors distain the product and would rather see him growing flax in the future? No, not smart. 

Because what he really needs to do, is get the most out of his canola harvest this year, so he can afford the seed and specialized equipment that the new more desirable crop requires; and to get himself and his family through till then in the meantime. His neighbors should be supportive of that. They certainly shouldn't blockade his ability to get his canola out. Not if we want to be working together through these transitional times.


Nor do we need to get on each other about climate change. We've all been in agreement for some time that it would be good to be less consumptive, more energy efficient, less polluting. And we can do without the self righteousness and hypocrisy on our various contributions to the challenge. I realize that the carbon footprint of hydro is less than burning gas, but that's a geographic reality, not a morale consideration. We all need to heat our homes, get to work and power our businesses. 

I don't understand how Ontario can have such anxiety over how their auto industry might fare in new nafta, but not want to support the West's oil and gas industry for auto and other fuels we still all need. Or how it remains okay to periodically dump raw Montreal sewage into the St Lawrence, but not want western oil in the neighborhood. Oh ya, then there's the new cannabis industry, that our government is so proud of (not that there's anything wrong with that) which has an electrical intensity to grow product, north of the 49th, that would put a Dubai shopping mall to shame.


So, what should be the way out? In that I think there is opportunity and some common ground that we should all be pulling for.


I'm odd for a conservative Albertan, in that I'm not totally averse to a carbon tax. Though I would set it at a reasonable twenty dollars per ton, and only to the extent that a kWh remains under eight cents or a gigajoule remains under six dollars. That might provide incentives to governments to do what they can to keep the supply side up and in balance; and those products still relatively affordable for consumers. Each carbon tax dollar earned should either go back to good energy production or efficiency initiatives and incentives, related research and developments; or be rebated in some equitable fashion. 

On the oil and gas front, I feel as though energy east should be reconsidered as a national imperative. I see no reason not to favour western Canadian product, over that from undemocratic countries, where there's more than just carbon dirt in every barrel. Let's refine more in both the west and the east. So we're not sending an inordinate amount of raw product south at deep discounts, to have it come back to us to use at full finished fuel prices, as if it was made purely with WTI. 

We can also do more on the plastics front. Our oil is feed stock for a significant plastics industry in Canada. But with a little extra R&D and retooling, perhaps we could invest more in the compostable side of that business, which is more and more in demand these days. And while we're trying to be green, let's not allow overseas shipping of recycling anymore. Seems counter to the purpose if we're trying to reduce carbon footprints. Lets recycle our own waste rather than just dump it on someone else, or in the ocean.


We all have work to do to keep things going in a positive direction for the future. But we'll only be taking half strides if we don't realize, speak and act like we are all in this together. 


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