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Well, if I'm being redundant, than those who support the oil and gas industry are delusional.

When one looks at the profits they take, as opposed to what they pay in taxes, then couple that with the subsidies that the oil and gas sector get, well, how do you rationalize that?

Alberta complains of paying the rest of Canada, but what does Alberta get to give to the oil and gas companies from the rest of Canada?

Here's a hint...



Canada’s oil and gas sector received $18 billion in subsidies, public financing during pandemic: report

Despite long-held promises to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, Ottawa increased assistance to the industry in 2020 with public funding for pipelines, inactive well clean-up and policing of Indigenous opponents
Included in the $18 billion are $3.28 billion in direct spending and $13.6 billion in public financing for oil and gas companies that primarily comes from the opaque crown corporation Export Development Canada, according to the report, Paying Polluters: Federal Financial Support to Oil and Gas in 2020.
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15 hours ago, Kargokings said:

Loans that require paying back are not exactly handouts.  

Why would they require subsidies and loans when they are so profitable?


Suncor Energy earns $877M on increased production; doubles dividend

Edited by deicer
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3 hours ago, deicer said:

Why would they require subsidies and loans when they are so profitable?


Suncor Energy earns $877M on increased production; doubles dividend

Thu Oct 28 2021 02:30:41 (7 hours)
# 5.
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21 minutes ago, Kargokings said:

Wow!  What a tragedy!

They only made $4.1 BILLION PROFIT in 3 months.

It was only 400% greater than the profit in the same quarter the year earlier, and they dropped their debt by $10 billion in three months as well.

Yep, companies like that really need government support.

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A Primer for deicer:

National Post

Kelly McParland: Trudeau's climate crusade ensures oil profits won't be invested in jobs

Kelly McParland  1 hour ago
Like24 Comments|


Readers of the National Post may have wondered what got into its editors after the prime minister revealed he was entrusting the climate change portfolio to a man with a history of radical environmental activism and anti-oil zealotry.

%7B© Provided by National Post Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as he speaks during a news conference after the swearing-in of a new Cabinet in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada October 26, 2021.

“ ‘Heads exploding’ in oil patch,” ran the headline on a story about the appointment of Steven Guilbeault as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environment minister. “Trudeau names his no-growth cabinet,” warned a report denouncing Guilbeault’s appointment as “absurd” in a country as dependent as Canada on energy revenues for its financial health.

Bracketed with the bad news was a seeming contradiction. “Oil firms flush with cash,” read the headline next to the “Heads exploding” story.  Nearby was a commentary predicting “The oil party has just begun,” in which a senior investment manager outlined his belief that huge profits are in store. “Could things get any better for Canadian energy investors?” it began.

It might seem impossible that both situations could be true. If oil is doomed, why is it doing so well? But in the weird world of energy supplies, they might be. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, though.

Trudeau’s positioning of Guilbeault as environment minister is an unmistakeable signal that he’s placed the climate file above all others. For better or worse, he’s decided that the perceived threats from climate change outweigh other considerations, and decisive action must be taken, come what may.

Given the implications of an all-out effort to remake the country as a zero-emissions economy, those considerations could be staggering. Energy prices are already at record levels due to shortages caused by government policies around the world. Higher energy prices impact every aspect of life. Higher costs to heat or cool homes, higher costs for transportation, for manufacturing, for construction, for clothes, for food…

Anyone who lived through the challenges of the 1970s, when a sudden spike in oil prices sent economies around the world into a tailspin, knows how bleak the impact can be. Spiralling inflation is a weapon for destroying jobs, businesses, hopes and ambitions on a frightening scale. Inflation mixed with slow growth produced a decade no one who remembers it wants to repeat.

Trudeau is gambling that won’t happen. Like his father, he shows no deep interest in, or understanding of economics. Throughout his years in office, he’s borrowed and spent at unprecedented levels in a seemingly blind conviction that somehow it will all work out in the end. In turning Guilbeault loose on the oil patch he’s telling those who proclaim faith in the markets, “OK, here are my changes, let the markets figure a way through it.”

While all Canadians will feel the pain if the gamble doesn’t work, the greatest danger is obviously to Alberta. Again, Trudeau is daring others to sort things out: the province has lived through booms and busts for 50 years, regularly pledging to find a means to wean itself off its energy dependence, yet has never managed to resist the urge to spend when the cashbox is full. With prices back at lofty levels, it has another chance; Trudeau is leaving it to the province to use the time granted by rising revenues to figure out another way to make a living.

He may also be counting on Premier Jason Kenney’s unpopularity to give him a helping hand: Kenney’s low standing with voters raises the possibility of a second chance for opposition leader Rachel Notley’s New Democrats, who are far more philosophically in tune with Trudeau’s aims.

So if all this explains the first set of headlines — the “woe is Canada” ones — how about the second set, the ones about the oil party? That’s easy. Smart people with large amounts of money to invest don’t think Trudeau’s dream will come true, and certainly not without an enormous amount of disruption. In particular, they don’t believe the shift to renewables can be made in the timelines being touted by governments in Ottawa, Washington or Europe. They think demand for fossil fuels will remain high, greatly aided by scarcities already in evidence, and that the squeeze will last for years to come. They see huge money to be made from government failures.

There is plenty of reason for that belief: the very people at the United Nations who are clamouring for change already say the follow-through on previous promises has been far too little to produce success. Inflation is already growing, and western countries are girding for  a winter of shortages caused by shutting down traditional energy sources without finding replacements.

The biggest emitters — China and India — are turning back to coal in panic. Europe is forced to hope Vladimir Putin’s Russia will keep the taps open until spring to save them from a public backlash. U.S. President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate package is in tatters thanks to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from the coal-producing state of West Virginia, whose vote is crucial to passing the multi-trillion-dollar spending bill that is the hallmark of Biden’s administration. At last report, White House figures were meeting with environmental groups in search of ways to cut emissions without touching coal.

Good luck with that. All the signs suggest the climate crusade will fail to meet its goals. Neither Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping — whose countries produce a third of global emissions between them — will even attend the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow, having discovered issues at home preventing them from sparing time for a gathering touted as a last-chance, make-or-break effort to save the world from catastrophe. Biden will be there, but much reduced in stature given his inability to deliver on his promises.

It’s a fair bet Canada’s prime minister has been apprised of this, though he’s never shown himself to be a ready listener. He prefers his own counsel, and his gut appears to tell him to forge ahead in spite of the dangers and the low odds of success. The great gain would be a Canada that wrestles its emissions to a negligible level, allowing a country that represents less than two per cent of the global total to claim success before countries whose emissions are of far greater consequence. It won’t make much difference in the big picture, but it would enable Trudeau to claim a triumph of principle over whatever pain it may produce.

Canada’s oil giants already have so much cash on hand they can’t decide how to spend it: hand it to shareholders via dividends, buy back shares to support the stock price, or pay off debt? The one thing they’re not likely to do is risk it on the sort of investment that creates jobs, income and productivity. Trudeau has made clear his priorities lie elsewhere.

National Post

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New Alberta bill looks to push oil and gas companies to pay municipalities taxes owed

A de-commissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Landowners and legal experts are criticizing Alberta's hastily passed new legislation intended to help clean up the province's huge stockpile of abandoned energy facilities.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
A de-commissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Landowners and legal experts are criticizing Alberta's hastily passed new legislation intended to help clean up the province's huge stockpile of abandoned energy facilities.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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By Josh Ritchie and the Canadian Press

Posted Oct 28, 2021, 7:33PM MDT.

The Alberta government is introducing legislation that it says would help municipalities recoup some of the millions of dollars in unpaid property taxes they’re owed by energy companies.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver says a bill introduced in the legislature on Thursday would give communities the ability to place liens on assets of companies that aren’t paying their taxes — and seize them if necessary.


The bill would also put municipalities at the front of the line when it comes to collecting unpaid debts from bankrupt companies.

He says this restores a tool that communities lost two years ago after a court ruled that such liens didn’t apply to the oilpatch.

McIver says the changes won’t solve all the problems, as some municipalities may be reluctant to use them if they would force a wobbly company to go under.


The bill would also extend for two years a program that allows municipalities to forgo their education tax allotment if their arrears are due to nonpayment from the energy sector.

Rural Municipalities Alberta says its members are owed about $245 million from energy companies that haven’t paid their taxes, about half of which is from solvent companies.

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COP26 aims to banish coal. Asia is building hundreds of power plants to burn it

By Sudarshan Varadhan and Aaron Sheldrick  10 hrs ago
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By Sudarshan Varadhan and Aaron Sheldrick

%7B© Reuters/YUKA OBAYASHI General view shows JERA's Hekinan thermal power station in Hekinan, central Japan

UDANGUDI, India/TOKYO (Reuters) - On the coastline near India's southern tip, workers toil on a pier carrying a conveyor belt that cuts a mile into the Indian Ocean where the azure waters are deep enough for ships to berth and unload huge cargoes of coal.

The belt will carry millions of tonnes of coal each year to a giant power plant several kilometres inland that will burn the fuel for at least 30 years to generate power for the more than 70 million people that live in India's Tamil Nadu state.

The Udangudi plant is one of nearly 200 coal-fired power stations under construction in Asia, including 95 in China, 28 in India and 23 in Indonesia, according to data from U.S. nonprofit Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

This new fleet will produce planet-warming emissions for decades and is a measure of the challenge world leaders face when they meet for climate talks in Glasgow, where they hope to sound the death knell for coal as a source of power.

Coal use is one of the many issues dividing industrialised and developing countries as they seek to tackle climate change.

Many industrialised countries have been shutting down coal plants for years to reduce emissions. The United States alone has retired 301 plants since 2000.

But in Asia, home to 60% of the world's population and about half of global manufacturing, coal's use is growing rather than shrinking as rapidly developing countries seek to meet booming demand for power.

More than 90% of the 195 coal plants being built around the world are in Asia, according to data from GEM.

Tamil Nadu is India's second-most industrialised state and is one of the country's top renewable energy producers. But it is also building the most coal-fired plants in the country.

"We cannot depend on just solar and wind," a senior official at Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp told Reuters.

"You can have the cake of coal and an icing of solar," he said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

Graphic: Coal-fired power plants in operation, construction and in permit phase by country https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/egvbkmlrlpq/CoalFiredPowerByTop20Country.png


Despite dramatic jumps in renewable energy output, the global economy remains hooked on coal for electricity. In Asia, coal's share of the generation mix is twice the global average - especially in surging economies such as India.

In 2020, more than 35% of the world's power came from coal, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Roughly 25% came from natural gas, 16% from hydro dams, 10% from nuclear and 12% from renewables like solar and wind.

This year, coal demand is set for a new record, driving prices to all-time highs and contributing to a worldwide scramble for fuel.

Record coal demand is contributing to a rapid rise in emissions in 2021 after a fall last year, when restrictions on movement for billions of people to slow the pandemic caused fuel use to plummet.

While some of the new coal plants under construction will replace older, more polluting stations, together they will add to total emissions.

"The completion of the capacity that is already under construction in these countries will drive up coal demand and emissions," said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clear Air.

The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the new plants alone will be close to 28 billion tonnes over their 30-year lifespans, according to GEM.

That's not far off the 32 billion tonnes of total worldwide CO2 emissions from all sources in 2020, according to BP, highlighting how tough it will be for leaders gathering in Glasgow - including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi - to make meaningful progress on climate change.

India's Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta told Reuters in a recent interview that India was on track to reach its target of cutting back the country's carbon footprint, and with that coal, too, would fall - but it cannot be abolished.

"Look, every country has its strengths. We have coal, we have to depend on it," Gupta said.

"Our position is once you take up targets of reducing carbon intensity, that will have impact ... Leave it to us whether we do it in coal, or somewhere else."

Anil Swarup, a former Coal Secretary, took the same line in an interview. "Renewable energy expansion is critical, but coal will remain India's main energy source for the next 15 years at least, and production needs to be ramped up to address our energy needs," he said.

Graphic: Number of coal-fired power plants in operation or under construction https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/dwpkrajxqvm/CoalPlantsUnderConstruction.png


Across India, 281 coal plants are operating and beyond the 28 being built another 23 are in pre-construction phases, GEM data show.

These numbers are dwarfed by China, the top global coal miner, consumer and emitter, whose leader, President Xi Jinping, is not expected to attend COP26. More than 1,000 coal plants are in operation, almost 240 planned or already under construction.

Together, coal plants in the world's second-largest economy will emit 170 billion tonnes of carbon in their lifetime - more than all global CO2 emissions between 2016 and 2020, BP data show.

Graphic: Lifetime CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by region and stage of development https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/xmvjolegxpr/LifetimeCO2CoalPlantsRegion.png

Despite also boasting the world's largest renewables capacity, China is now suffering a major energy crunch and has urged coal miners to raise output.

That's likely to boost coal consumption in the near term, even though China plans to reduce coal use from 2026.

Even so, total global coal consumption looks set to rise, driven by accelerating use in South and Southeast Asia, where projects under construction will raise coal-burning capacity by 17% and 26% respectively.

Graphic: Lifetime CO2 emissions from coal plants by country https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/myvmngxmrpr/LifetimeCO2CoalPlantsbyCountry.png


Even in economies committed to slashing emissions, coal's grip remains strong.

Japan, with its nuclear power industry in crisis since the Fukushima disaster, has turned to coal to fill the gap and is building seven large new coal-fired power stations.

Leading generator JERA plans to add clean-burning ammonia to be used with coal to help meet its target to be carbon neutral by 2050, and potentially keep old units operating longer.

On a bay near Nagoya, JERA's 30-year-old, 4,100 megawatt Hekinan station - once Asia's largest - supplies electricity to the likes of auto giant Toyota Motor Corp.

Like many power plants, Hekinan's boilers rely on fuel from top exporters such as Australia, where coal is both a vital source of revenue - $18 billion in the current financial year - and a bone of contention with allies urging ambitious emissions cuts.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to attend the Glasgow talks. But resources minister Keith Pitt has said there would be demand for coal for decades and made it clear the country would not be swayed by pressure from banks, regulators and investors to hobble the industry.

"While the market exists, Australia will look to fill it," Pitt said.

($1 = 1.3398 Australian dollars)

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42 minutes ago, st27 said:

How many Canadians know what goes on at Robert’s Bank Terminals??  Still waiting for Guilbeault/Trudeau to “discover” BC’s dirty little secret.


Deicer will likely blame it on Harper....... 🙃 However the port was started in 1968 with the blessings of the then Liberal Government of Pierre Trudeau and the Social Credit Government of BC.  It has grown like topsy since then.

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13 hours ago, Kargokings said:

Deicer will likely blame it on Harper....... 🙃 However the port was started in 1968 with the blessings of the then Liberal Government of Pierre Trudeau and the Social Credit Government of BC.  It has grown like topsy since then.

Are you also falling into the hole of when you don't have any logic to contribute, you will make it a personal attack?

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YIKES….with the forecast of a cold  winter, it’s going to be an expensive one. We live outside of town and rely on propane to heat. Just had a top up at 83c/litre.  (Last winter it was around 62). People will be happy to know that we are doing our part to fight climate change.as there was a 6c/litre carbon tax to stay warm and HST on top of everything.

Bottom line …… cost of propane…. $210

                          cost of tax.        ….. $ 45.      

        Wtf !

No wonder why people heat with wood around here…which produces way more CO2 emissions to avoid the cost of electricity, oil, or propane.

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In case you still believe that it's governments and taxes that are causing your energy woes.  Those numbers are just for three months.


Saudi Aramco posts 160% rise in third quarter profit, chairman calls for ‘stable’ energy transition

  • Aramco reported a 160% surge in third quarter net income to $30.4 billion, free cash flow jumps 131% as the oil giant capitalizes on market recovery.
  • Aramco declared a significant dividend of $18.8 billion to be paid in the fourth quarter. The payout can be covered by a jump in free cash flow to $28.7 billion in the third quarter, up from $12.4 billion for the same period in 2020. Gearing, a measure of the company’s debt position, also improved to 17.2% from 23% due to higher oil prices and stronger cash flows.
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Opinion: Renewables are making Europe energy-poorimage.png.5d89ad418219bb0d14ee966db6a51280.png

© Provided by Financial PostRenewables have more than doubled as a share of EU electricity production, from just over 16 per cent in 2000 to over 34 per cent in 2019.

With the recent rise in the price of natual gas in Europe to five times where it was earlier this year, expect to see many more Europeans, including Brits, plunged into “energy poverty” — too poor to pay their utility bills on time and/or keep their homes adequately warm. Why is not hard to grasp: from Greece to Great Britain and everywhere in between, the European electricity grid is increasingly de-linked from reliable, affordable fossil fuels and hooked up to more expensive and intermittent wind and solar projects. When wind and solar are not available, Europeans and others end up chasing the same supplies of oil, natural gas and coal, pushing their prices dramatically higher.

Canadians should pay attention. What Europeans are already enduring and will suffer through again this winter will only intensify thanks to government efforts at COP26 this week to mandate an even faster “phaseout” of fossil fuels. But existing policies were causing substantial energy poverty in Europe even before the price spike this autumn. Stefan Bouzarovski, a University of Manchester professor and chair of an energy poverty working group, estimates that pre-pandemic, 80 million Europeans were already struggling to adequately heat their homes. Meanwhile, at least 12 million European households were in arrears on their utility bills.

The European Union has attempted to provide an objective measurement of the problem but its best data is six years old. The EU Energy Poverty Observatory’s most recent estimate — from 2015 — showed that 16 per cent of EU consumers faced a “high” share of energy costs, with “high” defined as energy expenditures relative to income that were more than twice the national median.

To get a better sense of the challenge faced by European households and energy poverty, we used 2008 as a start year and then compared the rise in household median incomes (with the full set of data ending in 2019) with the rise in electricity prices (ending in 2020) in 30 European countries.

We found that in lower-income European countries that have seen strong growth in incomes since 2008 (mainly ex-communist states such as Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland), median incomes rose faster than power prices. Not so in many richer European countries, however. For example, though median household income rose just 19 per cent in France, electricity prices were up 61 per cent. In the U.K income rose just 14 per cent, compared to a 51 per cent rise in electricity prices. In Ireland, income was up 11 per cent, electricity 48 per cent. Worst off was Spain, where median household income rose by just eight per cent, while electricity prices soared 68 per cent.

The response of some European governments has been to subsidize utility bills — as in Ontario, which did it to mask the effect of policies that drove the province’s electricity prices dramatically higher. All that does, however, is shift the burden of high power costs from the “consumer pocket” to the “taxpayer pocket.” But, of course, both pockets are in the same coat: so, either way, households bear the cost, or their children and grandchildren do if today’s utility bills are subsidized through government borrowing.

Why electricity is so costly in the EU and U.K is clear: policy. Governments there have attempted to “transition” from fossil fuels despite their superior energy density — their “power punch,” as Vaclav Smil, retired environment professor at the University of Manitoba characterizes it — vis-à-vis renewables.

The result can be seen in the declining share of fossil fuels in EU electricity production: from about 50 per cent in 2000 to 38 per cent in 2019. Nuclear-generated electricity, which has also been discouraged,  has declined from 32 per cent of electricity production in 2000 to just over 26 per cent in 2019.

Meanwhile, renewables have more than doubled as a share of EU electricity production, from just over 16 per cent in 2000 to over 34 per cent in 2019. That would be fine, except solar and wind are not exactly inexpensive. They are also not as reliable as fossil fuels, something Brits were recently reminded of when wind power dropped and coal again had to be used to prop up their country’s electricity grid.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The policymakers gathered in Glasgow evidently want to speed up the killing of fossil fuels even thought it has already led to widespread energy poverty in Europe. Are they expecting different results?

Financial Post

Mark Milke and Ven Venkatachalam are with the Canadian Energy Centre, an Alberta government corporation funded in part by taxes paid by industry on carbon emissions. They are authors of Energy Poverty in European Households: An Advance Lesson for Canadians.

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Rex Murphy: Trudeau's 'Glasgow declaration' throws Alberta under his minority bus

Rex Murphy  6 hrs ago

I’ve written a variation on this theme before, but after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Glasgow declaration, it is worth restating: if oil and gas were Quebec’s main industry, defending it, promoting it and declaring it as being in Canada’s national interest would be sacramental imperatives.Quebec citizenship. Trudeau would be preaching from the altars of Quebec’s most majestic cathedrals about the wretched and nation-breaking attacks on the central Quebec industry.

If oil were in Quebec, it would be a law that people have to bathe in it before going outdoors. Politicians would bring thuribles (incense containers) to swing and spread holy odours before every oil rig. They would genuflect at every Esso sign, and kiss the gas pump at every rise in price.

But oil is not in Quebec. It is in Alberta. And that, as Robert Frost once remarked, “has made all the difference.” And so it comes to pass that a son of the nation-province of Quebec, the Canadian prime minister, jetted off to Glasgow to toss Alberta under his minority bus.

Think of the arrant and arrogant dismissal of Alberta’s recent equalization referendum in contrast with Quebec’s declaration of French as its only official legislation. That was a brazen exception to Canadian bilingualism, but Quebec’s assertions were treated with respect and compliance. Alberta’s referendum, by contrast, was barely glanced at as an odd gesture from a poor and restive relative.

As some poor toad wrote at the time, Quebec is the only province that can unilaterally alter the Canadian Constitution it did not sign, and cozily receive at the same time billions in equalization payments it did not earn — monies that come principally from a province whose product it abjures, stymies and derogates.

But let us return to Glasgow. There, Trudeau essentially excommunicated Alberta from Confederation. He spoke to a global audience, and what he had to say was that he would sacrifice the most essential commodity of the modern world, energy, to sip tea in congruence with Prince Charles and try to evade the vulgarities that Greta Thunberg has taken to lately.


Video: What to expect from Trudeau’s new cabinet (cbc.ca)

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The question must be asked: has Trudeau forgotten that he is prime minister of Canada and not a United Nations bureaucrat or some sort of messianic figure of the green movement? If he wants a job in Brussels, let him apply for it, make it official and tell the rest of us. If he wants to be the president of Greenpeace, let him also say so. If neither of these options are on the table, let him consider being a guardian of Canada’s national interests.

And now back to Alberta and the other western provinces. Why is every western MP not fuming with rage at this peremptory, unilateral declaration from Ottawa to halt oil and gas development in Alberta?

I have totally given up on Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s ability to provide an effective opposition to the Liberals, but surely the members of his team, who earned their status as parliamentarians for standing up for their provinces, should be kicking up a storm over this outrage.

Alberta, you have a question to face. Up to Glasgow, there may have been the slim thought that the federal government would see that a province that has contributed so much, and is patriotic to its core, is a net benefit to Confederation and worth forging a constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with. It is very difficult to see, after Trudeau’s Glasgow declaration, how you can hang on to that hope.

Which raises the only other question that matters: why put up with a political arrangement that betters provinces that abjure your industry, demean your voice and offer your well-being as a sacrifice for the applause of jet-setters, Hollywood trendoids, environmentalist obsessives and UN globalists?

Alberta is a province of quality and spirit. It is so bad to see it used as a trading card for cheap cheers in service to a specious cause, from the world’s self-appointed, and so well-off, worthies.

Were I an Albertan, I would first be puzzled, then angry, that I am being forced to weigh my love for this country against the disrespect for my province. It is not a choice I ever wanted to have to make, and one over which I would give long and tormented thought.

Glasgow, Trudeau and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault have placed this unhappy dilemma on the plate of all Albertans.

National Post

The big issues are far from set


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We must face the facts: Our economy still needs hydrocarbons, says Jeremy Warner.

  • Calgary Herald
  • 8 Nov 2021
  • Jeremy Warner, assistant editor of The Telegraph, is one of Britain's leading business and economics commentators.

The irony could scarcely have been greater. There he was on the world stage at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow lecturing China and others on their tardiness in consigning fossil fuels to the dustbin of history. But in almost the same breath, U.S. President Joe Biden was urging Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to increase their production of oil and gas so as to lower energy prices and reduce the pressure on inflation.

You cannot have it both ways, yet as it turns out, President Biden is as much a cake-and-eat-it man as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

If nothing else, the apparent contradiction in aims highlights a basic truth about “Big Oil”; like it or not, the world remains overwhelmingly dependent on hydrocarbons for its energy needs; however fast we invest in alternatives, that's not going to change for some time to come.

Both of Britain's oil majors, BP and Shell, have ambitious plans to transform themselves into clean energy enterprises, yet to the fury of Extinction Rebellion activists, the bulk of their investment is still heavily focused on oil and gas.

As it is, they are arguably not investing nearly enough to sustain production of hydrocarbons for as long as they will be needed.

Since the start of the pandemic, ongoing global investment in energy has fallen by around a third. According to some estimates, it is running at approximately half the level needed to power a world economy that is firing on all cylinders.

The deficiency is at its most acute in hydrocarbons, where the proselytizing pressures for divestment have become almost irresistible.

Nor has investment rebounded in the way it normally would in response to higher prices. With their climate change agendas, governments are perilously close to imposing a hugely costly energy crisis on themselves. Investment in alternatives is still nowhere near the critical mass needed to fill the growing gap being left by old, dependable energy sources.

“If you take away supply, but demand does not change,” Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, said this week in response to calls to halt further North Sea drilling, “all that happens is that prices go up.”

By curtailing emissions within the U.K., we merely export them to places that are less choosy, notably China, whose economies benefit at our expense. It's a high price to pay for virtue.

Today's surge in oil and gas prices would historically have been mirrored in the share prices of the oil majors. The fact that it largely hasn't been is not primarily about an industry in terminal decline. There is plenty of money to be made from time-limited runoff — as the growing brigade of “vulture funds” and activist investors stepping in where mainstream investment institutions increasingly fear to tread readily appreciate.

Rather, it is that the likes of BP and Shell have become pariah companies, and are shunned accordingly in much the same way as the tobacco giants were 20 years ago; once a core holding for any pension or investment fund, few mainstream money managers any longer want anything to do with them.

As with tobacco, their place is increasingly taken by the less squeamish at rock bottom prices.

But despite the superficial parallel, there is a key difference. Tobacco is an indulgence. However much we might wish it otherwise, oil and gas will long remain our primary source of life-enhancing energy.

And yet the industry is being driven underground by politicians and regulators too cowed to stand up to the hysteria of the climate-change activists. The enemy within is almost as bad as the holier-than-thou pressures from without; oil company boards, together with those of their bankers, are these days stacked with well-meaning do-gooders more focused on bowing to the campaigners than the demands of shareholder value.

The history of companies that attempt to jump from one horse to another is not good. Nearly always, value ends up destroyed. Virtually all past attempts by BP at “green investment” have failed.

Managements should stick to what they know, however unfashionable it might have become. Vulture funds trying to force Shell's directors to divest itself of its renewables arm, and refocus on the old endeavour of cash generative hydrocarbons, have got a point.

The collective judgment of millions of investors on where to put the money generated by oil industry runoff is likely to be a good deal better than that of those clambering aboard a politically directed bandwagon.

Rishi Sunak, Britain's chancellor, dreams of making the City of London the green finance capital of the world, threatening to delist companies that don't comply with net-zero targets. I imagine that this will have the very opposite effect to the one intended. Rather than acting as a magnet, it threatens a mass exodus of companies to less demanding jurisdictions or into the hands of secretive private equity.

Boris Johnson believes the green transition offers the chance of economic rebirth. I hope he is right.

Just as likely, it marks another staging post in self-inflicted western decline.

You go first, says China, vacuuming up the world's productive capacity as it goes.

If you take away supply, but demand does not change, all that happens is that prices go up.

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