by Lorne Gunter
Thursday, the big news out of the States concerned remarks by Al Armendariz, a regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in charge of enforcing environmental regulations in the oil-producing states of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
In a speech two years ago (a video of which was released Wednesday evening) Armendariz boasted it was his practice to come in like a Roman conqueror and “crucify” a few oil companies for alleged environmental infractions so the rest of the industry would fall in line quickly.
A political appointee of the Obama administration, Armendariz had previously admitted he sees it as his duty to undo eight years of environmental degradation under the Bush administration.
Couple his remarks with the White House’s refusal to permit construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to Texas’s Gulf coast. Then add the admission by U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu that “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe” (about $2.35CAN a litre) to make “green” energy more competitive.
There’s also the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Outer Continental Shelf, and the tens of billions it has pumped into alternative energy, such as wind and solar power.
Together, all of these point to one thing: magic-wand thinking.
Like so many other eco-friendly politicians in the developed world, U.S. President Barack Obama and his supporters nurture the fanciful belief that all that is standing between us and a glorious new “green” future is the greed of Big Oil and the complicity of right-wing politicians.
Wave the magic wand of government subsidy over the problem and – presto! – our so-called carbon economy will be quickly replaced with a morally superior green one that produces millions of new, well-paying, ethically satisfying jobs.
Just how quickly? Well, while I don’t think the Obama administration orchestrated the doubling of gasoline prices in the U.S. that has occurred since Obama took office, I have no trouble imagining they saw the rise coming and weren’t concerned because they were sure that by now (three years into their term) their green energy strategy would have been well on its way to replacing carbon fuels.
That’s how pervasive is this magic-wand thinking.
So what has this to do with Alberta, other than the possible hit our economy will take if Keystone is never built?
I think our new premier, Alison Redford, is a magic-wander, too.
Last November, Redford spoke to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto. In her address, she commended Ontario for its green energy plan. “You are building a smart grid and shifting to renewables like wind, solar and bio energy with incredible ambitiousness.”
Ontario’s plan is ambitious, alright. So far, it has cost taxpayers at least $8 billion in subsidies since 2009. On top of that, it has led to a 30% rise in power bills, all without changing the make-up of where Ontarians get their power from.
According to Ontario’s Energy department, the province’s power comes 42% from nuclear, 25% from coal, 24% from hydro, 8% from oil and less than 1% from renewables.
And Ontarians will continue to pay higher taxes and power bills for at least the next 25 years because renewable energy – even the tiddly amount Ontarians are receiving – isn’t viable without massive subsidies that are now permanent in law and in contracts with power suppliers.
Grandiose schemes to magically create energy alternatives and “green” economies have failed in the U.S., Ontario and Europe.
Let’s hope Alberta’s government thinks twice or even three times before setting this province on the same expensive, fruitless path.