Elizabeth May - Oil Is Dead

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Mighty Middle
Elizabeth May - Oil Is Dead

On CTV Question Period NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Elizabeth May's comment was "Inflammatory" (his word) and suggests that she is throwing workers under the bus. Video below



If oil is dead, then why did she include building new oil refineries in her 2019 platform?

Ken Burch

Maybe it was still hanging on in the ICU at that point.


I posted this in the Climate Change thread but I think it is relevant to this thread as well. 

Although Elizabeth May's statement that "Oil is dead" is not literally true, the reality in Canada is that it has been on a cash ventilator forcing hundreds of billions of dollars down its ravenous throat that has kept it alive for years thanks to both Conservative and Liberal governments. 

The rapid oil price drop due to Saudi Arabia and Russia's announcement of increased oil production when combined with the economic shock hitting the global economy because of the Coronavirus sends an economic signal for Canada to shift away from fossil fuels especially when financial resources are already starting to shift away from this sector to renewable energy.

This industry could not survive in Canada without the direct and hidden subsidies that it receives from federal and provincial governments. 

Trudeau announced $1.7 billion "to clean up orphan wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia". (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/financial-aid-covid19-trudeau-1.5535629) with $1 billion going to Alberta where it is expected to create 5,200 jobs. It is good that these oil wells are getting cleaned up and created 5,000 jobs for out-of-work fossil fuel workers. However, in November 2018, Vice President Rob Wadsworth of Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) , which is responsible for collecting the cleanup fees, told a private audience that it could cost $260 billion to clean up 94,000 inactive wells and 3,400 abandoned wells. (https://globalnews.ca/news/4617664/cleaning-up-albertas-oilpatch-could-c...) The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), who is paid by the industry and therefore its captive, also warned "It may take more than 2,800 years to clean up some of the decommissioned oil and gas wells currently dotting Alberta’s landscape" (https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/06/03/investigations/exclusive-alb...)

Therefore, Trudeau's cleanup subsidy is only a token down payement on what Canadian taxpayers will end up paying for this financial and environmental total screwup. 

Of course this is only a small fraction of Canada's subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. "According to a International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, which is the furthest thing imaginable from an environmental organization considering its history of cutbacks forced on governments and that help the corporations reduce their taxes,  Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian." (https://thenarwhal.ca/canadas-fossil-fuel-subsidies-amount-to-1650-per-c...) and that money just keeps flowing year after year. 

The Kenney government, through a spokesperson for the Alberta energy person (see below) vows to push ahead with Keystone anyway despite the price of its oil dropping below $5 a barrel and even fell into negative territory for a couple of days where producers had to pay to take the oil when costs of production are estimated to average $85 a barrel ((https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/10/25/canadian-tar-sands-oil-financial-l...)) and "Sending it to the Gulf of Mexico by rail and pipeline adds about $8-10 dollars to the cost" (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/30/a-barrel-of-oil-is-now-cheaper-than-a-pi...) For example, West Canada Select from Alberta sold in late April for minus US$62.57 per barrel. In other words you had to pay someone US$62.57 to take the oil. (https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/canadian-crude-is-so-cheap-it-costs-more-to-...)

As the costs of global warming escalate for both the climate and the environment, so do the costs of the Trans Mountain pipeline purchased by the Trudeau Liberal government. The Trans Mountain pipeline purchase for $4.5 billion was initially estimated to need $7.4 billion more for the extension, a cost estimate that had risen by another $1.9 billion in just two months for a total estimated cost of $13.8 by September 2018 and now has risen to $12.6 billion in construction costs for a total  estimated cost of $17.1 billion in February.  (https://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/varcoe-plenty-of-blame-to-go-a...)

Sadly, there is also strong evidence that the pipeline is not needed and that Asian market waiting to buy the oil at a high price is a mirage. According to energy scientist David Hughes, the Liberal and Alberta governments' claim that a pipeline to tidewater is needed to provide higher paying markets and windfall revenue, aren't based in reality. Hughes says oil prices internationally and in North America are now nearly identical, meaning Canadian producers most likely will receive lower prices overseas, especially when the higher transportation costs involved in transporting bitumen by pipeline then  by tanker are factored in.  He also found that Kinder Morgan has overestimated oil supply by 43 per cent over the next 20 years. (http://www.iheartradio.ca/cfax-1070/news/damning-report-on-kinder-morgan...) Furthermore, "there are no refineries in Asia that can currently handle Canadian bitumen, which needs to be processed first into synthetic crude." (https://globalnews.ca/news/5399442/5-things-to-know-about-trans-mountain/) So the line that we will be able to sell it for higher prices in Asia is a myth. 

The Liberal government claim that the pipeline will create 15,000 jobs lies in the face of the fact that Kinder Morgan itself predicted it will create 2,500 temporary construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs in BC and 40 more in Alberta.(https://ipolitics.ca/2017/08/30/those-trans-mountain-employment-numbers-...)

The misleading numbers for job creation also left out job losses that could occur because of the expansion of the pipeline. (https://twnsacredtrust.ca/concerns/jobs/

Besides the environmental dangers created by the proposed Northern Ontario to Saguenay Quebec LNG pipeline, that was supported by the Trudeau and Legault goverments and aimed at carrying LNG to the Saguenay for export to Europe, South America and Asia, there are major questions about the job numbers offered by the pipeline supporters - numbers that are even questioned by economists. Furthermore, those jobs will be temporary and gone was construction is finished relatively leaving few jobs in their wake. In fact, in an open letter 40 economists have they do see how the project makes economic or environmental sense. As the picture below shows, there are relatively few jobs created for the many billions that goes into such a megaproject. (https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/economists-question-number-o...) Quebec scientists have demanded that the pipeline proposal be rejected, noting we need to have less fossil fuel infrastracture, not more. These scientists also point out that total emissions from the project would have cancelled all the emission reductions Quebec has achieved since 1990, without taking into account leakages, which would further greatly increase emissions. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/energie-saguenay-how-green-is-na...) The  Northern Ontario to Saguenay Quebec LNG pipeline ended up being cancelled when the opposition from economists and environmentalists combined with indigenous opposition (https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/underground-gas-pipeline-quebec-s-indigenous...) to the project to finish what would have been another heavily subsidized project off. 

Even when Teck Resources Inc.'s withdrew its application for the Frontier Mine will provide them, the Trudeau government allowed it a  C$1.13 billion writedown and subsidy in the form of tax relief. (https://business.financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/teck-drops-c20-6-bln...) It's nice to get money without doing anything.


The Trudeau Liberals are also at work redefining away some of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, as if they are a mere nuisance to his real goals. This is done by ignoring forest greenhouse gas emissions created by wildfires, insect destruction and extreme weather, which have grown enormously in recent years. Previously these were counted in greenhouse gas emissions totals. They have also changed from reporting emissions in the year wood was cut to when the wood was no longer useful to humans at some future vague date. This still left the Liberals with a major problem because as our forests rapidly disappear from logging, wildfires etc, their greenhouse gas emissions grow. So the Liberals weakened the rules governing what could be used as a carbon offset. All of this was done to try to help get Canada to reach its 2030 greenhouse emissions targets, while at the same continuing to cut Canada's forest and grow its fossil fuel industry. The sad thing climate change doesn't care whether the Trudeau Liberals play with the definitions of emissions and offsets, it simply grows ever larger in the great damage that it produces as the federal government tries to pretend it away. (https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/03/30/opinion/canadas-forests-beco...)

Typifying the Trudeau Liberal government approach was what it did last June in saying doing one thing while doing another in handing out massive subsidies in the purchase of  Trans Mountain: it declared a national climate emergency and immediately announce more pipeline and fossil fuel production.

But this has been the history of Liberal and Conservative government over the last quarter century. The Liberal 25 year history of promising to deal with global warming has been one long series of promises followed by actions that always fail to meet their greenhouse emissions reduction targets and often result in an increase in emissions.

“Canada has missed two separate emission reduction targets (the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto target) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. In fact, emissions in 2020 are expected to be nearly 20 per cent above the target.” (https://www.cpacanada.ca/en/news/canada/2018-09-18-canada-failing-to-red...)

In March 2018 the auditor general concluded  the Trudeau Liberal government "is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well". (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_otp_201803_e_42883.html)

In April 2019 Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand in her last report concluded "Canada is not on track to hit its 2030 target,". These targets were actually those of the Conservative Harper government. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/environment-commissioner-julie-gelfand-...)

The fossil fuel industry only continues to exist in Canada, despite all its financial and environmental costs, because of the massive regulatory and financial subsidies that it receives. 

. “The lesson of the COVID crisis is that biology is real,” environmentalist Bill McKibben says. “Trump can’t intimidate the COVID microbe. The fact that he calls it a hoax doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean anything.” This makes the coronavirus crisis, like the climate emergency, “different from other political issues,” says McKibben.

Another lesson of the pandemic, McKibben says, is this: “Delay is fatal. Countries like the U.S. that didn’t flatten the COVID curve early on are paying a huge price compared to ones that did, like South Korea. This is exactly the same comparison — just played out over weeks instead of decades — with the carbon curve." ... Trying to restore the global economy as it was would be like “setting up pins in the bowling alley so they get knocked down again,” said McKibben. (https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/04/20/Bill-McKibben-Talks-COVID-19-And-Clim...)


Having just described how the Trudeau government has subsidized the fossil fuel industry and is redefining away much of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions so that it can claim to be lowering them while these emissions continue to rise in posts #4 and #5 yesterday, the federal Liberal government today has offered more subsidies to the fossil fuel sector because of the large drop in fossil fuel prices.

Needless to say the industry is very happy that it will receive funding to help it keep emitting during a time when Covid-19 and the Russia-Saudi Arabia gas war have driven oil prices to zero and below, thereby enabling these corporations to keep on emitting greenhouse gases. 


A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Federal financing relief for large Canadian companies announced Monday was welcomed by the oil and gas sector and the Alberta government despite conditions that linked the aid to climate change goals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A federal financing relief package for large Canadian companies was applauded by the oil and gas sector and the Alberta government on Monday despite conditions that could link the aid to an individual company's climate change goals.

In Edmonton, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews welcomed the announcement, saying that the province's large companies, particularly in oil and gas and aviation, need relief quickly. ...

Oilsands producer Cenovus Energy Inc. is pleased that Ottawa recognizes large corporations need help as well as the small and medium-sized ones, said spokeswoman Sonja Franklin.

"Today's announcement is an important signal for the markets that the government will stand behind viable businesses in this country," she said in an email.

"The federal government recognizes which sectors contribute most significantly to its revenues and needs to ensure these sectors — like oil and gas — will be there to help it pay off the massive debt it's accumulating as part of the COVID-19 relief."

The company is in a strong financial position with access to more than $6 billion in liquidity, she added, but government support is important because there's no way to know when low oil prices will recover.

Cenovus has set targets of 30 per cent greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction and flat overall emissions by 2030, as well as achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2050, and therefore should have no problem meeting federal climate change requirements, she said.

The federal program goes a long way to addressing the industry's request for short-term financial liquidity help and will likely be well used as long as there are no issues with accessing the funds, said Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.



After Elizabeth May said the "Oil is dead" comment, John Ivision argued in an article argued that "The Canadian oil industry is not dead yet — in fact, it may be getting better.", noting that afterwards Barclays PLC in London voted down a proposal by activist group Share Action, to quit the Canadian oilpatch. Ivision did admit that, "Financial institutions around the globe have been buckling before the might of such activist groups", but Barclays was willing to continue to invest in the Canadian sector because "the industry here is supported by the Canadian government". (https://nationalpost.com/news/john-ivison-liberals-best-to-ignore-certai...)

This is exactly what the problem is with Canadian oil beyond its greenhouse gase emissions - it doesn't make economic sense, as May details below in her respons to Ivison's article below. 

Despite all the evidence that fossil fuels are a declining industry that now survives in Canada only through the gargantun government subsidies outlined in post #354, the Trudeau Liberal government on Monday provided a new federal financing relief package for large Canadian companies that was applauded by the oil and gas sector and the Alberta government, proving oil in Canada can only survive on life support through massive infusions of government money.

A stack belches smoke and a flare burns off gas at the Syncrude upgrader plant near Fort McMurray, Alta.

National Post columnist John Ivison contends that when I said that “oil is dead,” it was “wishful thinking,” yet the very same thing could be said of oilsands true-believers.

The difficulty in approaching the current state of the global oil market, and particularly of the lack of a future for the oilsands, is that the conversation starts with a huge number of assumptions. It is a tribute to the communications, lobbying and propaganda power of the fossil-fuel sector that wild exaggerations are made so frequently that they are accepted as true.

For example, the contribution fossil fuels makes to Canada’s gross domestic product is nowhere near what is routinely claimed. Ivison writes that the oil and gas industry is “responsible for 10 per cent of GDP; employs more than half a million people; and, contributes around $8 billion in tax revenues.” According to Natural Resources Canada, however, the oil and gas sectors combined make up 5.6 per cent of GDP (the oilsands alone have never hit three per cent of GDP), employs 169,000 people and generate $2.13 billion in tax and other revenue (federal and provincial.) ...

 Tourism, for example, contributes roughly the same amount to GDP as the oilsands and sustains far more jobs (1.8 million), right across the country. Yet the tourism sector does not have as large a megaphone as the energy sector. ...

It is also true, as Ivison writes, that, “The price of Western Canadian Select has stabilized, trading at around $22 on Thursday, but that’s still below break-even for many producers.” But it is worth knowing what “break-even” is for new oilsands bitumen. According to the Alberta government, that price is in the US$75-$85 ($105-$119) range. ...

In declaring that the oilsands lacks investors, I was relying on a great deal of evidence. The exodus of large multinational firms from Alberta’s oilpatch began long before COVID-19 or Saudi Arabia and Russia colluding to drive down prices to historic lows. Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, Statoil (now Equinor), Conoco Philips, Imperial Oil, Marathon Oil, Exxon Mobil and even Koch Industries pulled out long ago. ...

Teck’s decision to shelve its huge proposed oilsands project, the Frontier mine, had a great deal to do with its lack of any realistic prospect of breaking even. As CEO Don Lindsay admitted when still pressing for approval, the company was uncertain it would make sense to proceed, even with government approval.We absolutely must invest in Alberta. Public funds must assist in the diversification of the Alberta economy. We need to be prepared to support the workers and communities that are impacted. Yet the reports that have been released in the last week alone make a compelling case that no federal bailout funds should go to trying to keep the existing oilsands sector afloat. One from the International Energy Agency noted that all fossil fuels were facing unprecedented drops in demand. ...

That is no surprise given the pandemic. The chief financial officer of Royal Dutch Shell told shareholders that demand might never return. Smart investors will recognize this and move their money to renewable energy, which is expected to grow by five per cent in 2020.

Still, the most authoritative study, which involved interviews with hundreds of G20 central bankers and energy analysts, was authored by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Sir Nicholas Stern, the former chancellor of the exchequer in the United Kingdom. It concluded that to support economic recovery, governments should invest in energy efficiency and renewables — not fossil fuels.

Oil’s not yet dead, but it’s on life support. It’s time to move it to palliative care.



Elizabeth May elaborates on her "Oil is dead" comment in the following article. 


Greg Perry: Oil prices limbo

When we got to questions, the first one was CBC’s Julie Van Dusen. She asked about a possible bailout to Big Oil. And I explained that the evidence was coming in thick and fast that oil’s day was done. And she zeroed in on: “Are you saying oil is dead?”

“Yes,” I said, “oil is dead.” I went on, at length, about concerns for the people of Alberta. I stressed the need to invest in Alberta and to diversify its economy. Just the day before, the CFO of Royal Dutch Shell had told shareholders that the demand for oil “might never come back.” I didn’t think it should be a surprise that investing in the oilsands was not something our government should do. ...

Of course, it is something the Liberals promised never to do in the 2015 election campaign. It was something former prime minister Stephen Harper promised to stop in 2009 at the G20 summit in Cincinnati. 

Still, the assumption from media seems to be that it is only a matter of time before the feds roll over and give Big Oil $20 billion. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is so used to calling the shots that it had the gall to ask for huge levels of financial bailout, plus weakened environmental protections, and getting rid of Lobbying Act requirements. ...

What seems to be ignored in the way in which we talk about such a bailout is that economists fear that bailing out Big Oil will worsen our chances of economic recovery post-COVID-19. And no one wants to point out it will worsen our chances for the survival of human civilization. ...

The International Energy Agency report this week was stunning. The only energy commodity not being pummelled in the pandemic is renewable energy. Sure, it would have done better if not for COVID-19, but the market forces are clearly moving away from fossil fuels. Global demand for coal, oil and gas is plummeting. And so are the prices for oil and gas. The only energy product in demand is renewable energy, which will grow 5 per cent in 2020 to produce 30 per cent of the world’s electricity by year end.

More writing on the wall came from a massive study released by the Oxford Review of Economic Policy. A team of economists, with lead authors Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Nicholas Stern, interviewed more than 200 experts from central banks and economic policy and energy analysts from G20 countries. They took all the information they gathered, laid out against measurable indicators, to determine the strongest economic policy to avoid a deep post-pandemic depression. Their prescription for post-pandemic recovery is to invest in renewable energy and retrofitting buildings to maximize energy efficiency. Trying to support fossil fuels would be far less effective.