Monday, November 26, 2007

Harper's Deliciously Perverse Logic

When it comes to global warming, trust Stephen Harper to say whatever suits him at the moment. Even with Canada's worst polluters, his beloved Tar Sands, he won't tolerate any talk about hard caps on emissions. There, the formula is "intensity based" targets. That's a scam. What he means is cleaning up bitumen extraction and processing - a little bit - while increasing overall extraction and processing - quadrupling or even quintupling operations. The net result - an enormous jump in GHG emissions from Big Oil at the Tar Sands.

When it comes to global warming and Stephen Harper - that's what you're dealing with. Fighting climate change will not come at the expense of Tar Sands expansion and that's the bottom line.

In order to make any sense out of what Harper says elsewhere, you need to keep his Tar Sands perspective in mind.

On the weekend, Harpo made Canada the pariah of the Commonwealth (alright, alright - we're still not up there with Zimbabwe or Pakistan, but... ) by scuttling a resolution calling for binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Harper, being the sleazeball he is, wasn't candid enough to admit that he would not tolerate emissions caps because that would screw up his Tar Sands. Steve knows that sort of honesty could cost him big at home. Instead he resorted to the tried and true tactic of all swindlers - distraction.

Steve looked for another way out and found it - in India. He said the rest of the Commonwealth is flat out wrong in wanting developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions first. Harpo smugly described his knuckledragging as "the only right position."

"If we are all to believe that climate change is a major problem caused by greenhouse gas emissions then we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the only way we can do that is if all major emitters reduce their emissions. It's that simple, so we are not going to settle for anything less." - Harper

It is indeed "that simple" to a real con man. What's simple about it is that it tells it tells the emerging economies that, henceforth, we intend to preserve our per capita emissions differential. That means that every citizen of Canada is going to be entitled, indefinitely, to generate greenhouse gas emissions five or six times that of every citizen of India. Why? Because we're Canadians, civilized, still mainly white folks - and they're not. Why? Because we're already accustomed to monster SUVs and 4,000 square foot houses with three car garages - and they're not.

Then again, remember, this is a con - a distraction. Stephen Harper is not prepared to tolerate hard caps in any case. It's all about "intensity based" targets for him, so all this business about China signing on to this or India signing on to that is just smoke and mirrors.

That, my friends, is what Stephen Harper is all about - and he's laid it right out at your feet. He wants a return to the British Raj. That's what this is all about - White Man's Burden.


Anonymous said...

What will the Liberals do about the "Tar Sands" in Alberta do you think?

The Mound of Sound said...

Any government that commits Canada to a meaningful, climate change treaty is going to have to accept and implement binding measures, or caps. Unless Big Oil actually delivers on its contention that the technology exists to make the Tar Sands relatively carbon-neutral (and if you learn of that happening, please tell the rest of us) caps will mean capping the growth and activity of the Tar Sands. That would send the Alberta government onto some sort of warpath but it's unclear that the people of that province would necessarily support threats against the Feds and the rest of Canada. Ohne thing is clear, don't hold your breath waiting for the Alberta government to act responsibly. That isn't going to happen.

Mike said...


I don't know, maybe stop subsidizing them to the tune of $1.5 billion per year and let them internalize all their costs. And maybe recover the $8 to 10 billion in subsidies already paid to the most profitable industry on earth?

You know, actually make Suncor and the other tar sands companies compete in a market where they are responsible for all of their cost - like pipelines, exploration, waste management etc - rather than depending on corporate welfare to pad their bottom line.

Actually the Liberals wouldn't do this because they are the ones who started it. The questions is, why aren't the Conservatives - who claim to be the champions of the "free market" and less government - doing just this? Oh that's right, its crony capitalism, just like the Liberals...

As a libertarian, that would be what I would like to do, but since that would mean not giving favours to guys like Glyn Evans and the rest of the Alberta corporate base, the Cons won't do that.

They are 'corporatists' after all....

Anonymous said...

I don't think you'd have to kill the Tar Sands, but you'd need to slow down development for sure so that most of it occurs where geologically secure CCS technology is used. And you wouldn't want to make a permanent mistake like with the nuclear industry where you have the public ultimately paying an indefinite (longer than modern civilization and maybe even than the history of the species) annual storage cost for nuclear waste and massive decommissioned reactor components (potentially jeopardizing local aquifers); you wouldn't want to replay this mistake with sequestered carbon eventually seeping to the surface, so the industry would need to fund some sort of "CO2 outgassing" disaster insaurance trust.
Also be prudent to charge residential fresh water rates at least for South Western AB (the area Global Warming will parch).

Finally, the oil sands companies would have to buy a great deal of carbon credits or Green Tags or whatever, something around 2%-10% of revenues, doing things like insulation all Russian buildings or paying for all SE Asian vehicles to have California/Quebec emissions standards.

Given that the oil industry has threatened to blindly pull out of AB, and that the suddenly somewhat progressive AB government has caved in a bit to them in the new royalty regime...I would think the AB government is so eager to avoid a new NEP (by the way, MB got screwed over by the PCs for an aerospace contract much more recently than NEP and still votes in a majority of Conservative MPs) that they will ignore Global Warming analogous to US defence contractors promoting a hawkish line during key Cold War events.

The world only spends $8 billion annual on energy R+D. At triple digit oil prices (since all USD denominated assets are stuck with the American public voting in big oil regularly) the oil patch could easily double this figure and still earn record profits. If the patch were based in Layton/Liberal Toronto, I might expect it.
As it is, reality. The oil industry bankrolls cigarette industry lawyers and American Right Wing lobbyists. Anyone who has ever lived in Calgary knows their housing stock does not rank the A or B a recent survey of Canadian city quality-of-livings gave it.
Is big oil funding a freshwater source for when the Bow and Oxbow dry up? This isn't rhetoric, the rivers will increase in flow and then dry up permanently because of Global Warming. I'm not asking big oil to solve all aquifer problems (ironically, multistage flash looks very similiar from my unengineer eyes to an oil refinery, and ion membrane technologies are surely within the realm of research at Edmonton's *federal* nanotechnology lab), just the ones local to their workforce. The GDP figures look great until you subtract the couple dozen stockholders, the individuals responsible for hiring cigarette industry lawyers and fake scientists.

The Mound of Sound said...

My God, Huggan, you dig deep. If CCS can be shown to work - long term and in adequate volume - you're probably right. The reviews I've read indicate that so far there aren't enough secure underground storage sites with remotely enough volume to handle the existing requirement. Let me know if you're got anything more up to date.

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