David Suzuki takes a look at Canada's petro-pols in an op-ed in the Georgia Strait.
Politicians often justify their undying support for the fossil-fuel industry by claiming they're looking out for jobs and the economy—but those claims don't hold up.
Despite assertions of some political representatives in Australia and the U.S., coal doesn't have a bright future, and "clean coal" doesn't exist. In Canada, pipeline opponents, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups aren't putting bitumen jobs at risk; automation, market forces, and change in the face of the climate crisis are behind the declines.
Suncor Energy recently switched to automated haulage systems at its North Steepbank bitumen mine, and expects to increase to 150 driverless haul trucks in its oilsands operations over the next five years—affecting hundreds of jobs. Other companies are following suit. Industry is also switching to automated technologies like drones for work ranging from surveying to pipeline inspections. In 2017, Kieron McFadyen, then Cenovus Energy's executive vice president, told investors that his company's long-term vision was to "de-man oilsands" operations.
...Calculations of "energy return on energy invested"—the amount of energy output over the amount required to produce it—show one reason for bitumen's lower price compared to conventional oil. The latter historically delivered 30 units or more for each unit invested, although that is declining as easily accessed sources become depleted. Recent research shows wind energy can also reach this level, while solar is closer to 9:1 or higher. Oilsands bitumen is 5:1 or lower, because large amounts of energy are required to extract, process, and refine it, which makes it costly, inefficient, and much more emissions-intensive than conventional oil.
Transporting bitumen through pipelines is also expensive, as every 10 barrels of bitumen must be diluted with three barrels of condensate, which costs more than light crude. Costs and inefficiency make oilsands products less desirable on world markets.
...But instead of a rational debate about how to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy with minimal disruption to workers and society, media and shortsighted politicians inundate us with logical fallacies and absurd conspiracy theories about who's funding the people and organizations that want a prosperous future with clean air, water, and soil and a stable climate.'Liberal, Tory - same old story.' There was a time that old NDP saw would get me angry. Those days are gone.
Decision makers who care about the people they represent and understand science, social trends, and technological potential know that a low-carbon future offers better health, livability, and economic resilience. The fossil-fuel industry is still the most profitable (and among the most destructive) in human history, but those days are coming to an end. True leaders understand this.