It’s hard to come up with the proper adjective or description for the Green Party of Canada’s energy policy in its platform released on Sept. 16. Devastating doesn’t come close. Apocalyptic is closer. As much as I hate to say it, this is Elizabeth May’s “final solution’” for the Canadian oilpatch.
She’s not talking about wiping out people, true. Just the entire industry – one of the most valuable industries in the entire nation. The one that pays the bills for things like equalization. The vast majority of the Alberta economy. All gone, supposedly to be replaced by green jobs.
I had seen the headlines throughout the day here and there, but I didn’t really clue in until I read the platform statement itself.
“Since producing and burning fossil fuels is the largest source of emissions, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and retool society to run on non-polluting, renewable energy sources. This is entirely possible, according to studies by the Stanford University researchers and the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project,” it said.
This means, “No new pipelines, or coal, oil or gas drilling or mining, including offshore wells, will be approved. Existing oil and gas operations will continue on a declining basis, with bitumen production phased out between 2030 and 2035. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations will be banned outright due to impacts on groundwater quality, methane release and seismic activity.”
Let me unpack that for you. This one paragraph is the complete and utter destruction of the Canadian oilpatch, from Hibernia to Kitimat. The oil downturn has already reduced Canada’s land drilling rig fleet from 800 to 549. This would reduce it to zero. Absolute zero.
As a rule, every well produces less today than it did yesterday. Without continual drilling to replenish reserves, natural declines will mean every well, oil and gas, will eventually run dry. If you do not keep drilling, your existing production will decline at an exponential rate, down to nothing.
Unless we import it from the United States, every home heated by natural gas will go cold, lest they install electric or some other form of heating. Every petrochemicals plant will shut down. Every fertilizer plant that converts methane to ammonia will cease operation. Every barbecue – propane, natural gas and likely coal briquettes – will go cold.
With no new wells, and a ban on fracking, the ascendant natural gas industry in British Columbia would come to a complete and quick halt. LNG Canada? Done.
In just 16 years – well, 15 really – bitumen production would cease. That means the vast majority of Canadian oil production would go to zero. Fort McMurray, the economic engine of the nation, would soon look like its not-too-distant neighbour, Uranium City. And there would be no money to pay for remediation and cleanup. Forcing an entire industry into oblivion means they will quite obviously not be able to meet their obligations. It would all fall upon the taxpayer. Taxpayers with no oil, gas or coal revenue, related jobs, or indirect jobs.
A few short years ago, Saskatchewan’s oil revenue paid for the equivalent of half of our entire expenditure on health care. Everyone’s doctor, nurse, hospital, nursing home, pill and dressing south of Davidson. That would all be gone. Estevan, Lloydminster, Carnduff, Kindersley, Weyburn, all would be ground under the Green heel to dust And we would be getting off easy, compared to Alberta.
While Fort McMurray would be the worst hit, almost the entirety of Alberta, from Zama to Medicine Hat, would lose its primary industry. There would be an armed rebellion before Alberta lets that happen. The succession referendum would be immediate, and overwhelmingly passed.
That’s the upstream side. On the downstream side, the Greens would, “Ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030.” If you get rid of the fuel, you might as well get rid of what consumes it, right?
Except that the platform offers no solutions for transport trucks, heavy equipment, or farming equipment. Where will they get their diesel, if we shut down all oil production? Will there be batteries capable of running 600 horsepower tractors 24/7 in seeding time?
But not to worry – they would reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. So not only will the farmers have no fuel for their tractors, but not be allowed to use all that much fertilizer. And how would they make nitrogen without natural gas?
Apparently we’re all going to get around with rail whenever possible as part of “zero-carbon public ground transportation.” Would that be on the tracks abandoned decades ago?
Where will all the electrical power come from, to replace all the fossil fuels? “Implement a major ramp-up of renewable electricity. By 2030, 100 per cent of Canada’s electricity will come from renewable sources,” it says. Do we dam every river? How, if we have no fuel for the bulldozers?
The platform suggests existing oil wells could be repurposed for geothermal energy. Does that mean all of them?
“A Green government will create a just transition framework for oil, gas and coal sector workers that reflects the unique conditions of each province,” the platform says.
I don’t think their transition will be to an enlightened, electrically-powered age.
A return to the stone age is more likely.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at email@example.com.