A look back at our look forward – Energy

Evaluating our 2006 predictions.

As we usher in the New Year at Dogwood Initiative we begin a rigorous and esoteric ritual of predicting the events of the year to come. After drinking copious quantities of tea (which I don’t like), consulting the astrological charts (or at least the daily papers) and gazing for hours into a crystal ball (well, watching a lot of TV), I sit on the seat of my pants and start writing.

Last year we made our predictions public for the first time, forecasting upcoming trends for democracy, energy, First Nations, forests and communities. The laborious process seemed to work as most of our predictions for 2006 came to fruition.

This is the 1st bulletin in a 5 part series looking at our predictions concerning the challenges and opportunities we expected to present themselves in BC in 2006.


“Canada’s attempts to be a leader on climate change and Kyoto are likely to be torpedoed by the new Conservative government. This puts Mr. Harper’s government at odds with the vast majority of Canadians, 74% of whom support Kyoto.”
-Dogwood Initiative, Jaunuary 2006

Although Stephen Harper has recently begun to backpedal on his laisser-faire attitude to global warming the Conservative Government’s contempt for all things environmental is still in evidence by a de-facto energy policy lead by oil and gas interests.

As predicted, both the Federal Conservatives and BC Liberals continue to approve fossil fuel based energy projects which will increase, not reduce, carbon emissions. In Victoria their policy is built on coalbed methane, coal-fired power and increased oil and gas production. In Ottawa the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, the tar sands and new pipelines lead the way.

As forecast we saw a tectonic shift around public concerns about global warming and energy. The federal and provincial governments have responded to this by trying to paint themselves green while still gutting regulations and subsidizing fossil fuel production.

We saw it coming.

Global Warming and Kyoto

“Despite vigorously critiquing the Liberals’ Kyoto efforts, Mr. Harper has failed to identify his plan for addressing climate change.”
-Dogwood Initiative, Jaunuary 2006

Right again

Harper’s short and destructive record on the environment has become a political liability. His initial attempts to play a shell game and try to convince Canadians that tackling smog-causing pollutants (Nitrogen Oxides, Sulphur Dioxide and particulates) is an acceptable response to the growing climate crisis backfired. The climate crisis has reached a public tipping point and the Conservative’ are now scrambling to regain credibility on global warming and the environment.

Also as predicted, following the lead of George Bush, Mr. Harper’s focus is not on conservation and transitioning away from the use and production of fossil fuels, but on magic new technologies.  Despite the fact that new technology will never be able to offset the enormous emissions caused by projects such as the tar sands, offshore drilling on both coasts, and the Mackenzie Valley gas and pipeline projects, all of which contribute vastly to the climate change problem.

Coastal drilling and oil tankers

“The fish, wildlife and peoples of BC’s fragile coast may face the biggest challenge presented by the new Conservative government. Our crystal ball sees a Conservative government trying to move quickly to withdraw the existing ban on offshore oil and gas development and tanker traffic.”
-Dogwood Initiative, Jaunuary 2006

Right on both counts.

The bans, which have been in place since 1972 to protect BC’s vulnerable coastline from oil spills, were challenged by both the Federal Conservatives and BC Liberals.

In the face of First Nations pressure the Conservative’s backed away from renewed coastal drilling but are attempting remove or create loopholes in the ban on tankers. They do so at their peril as two BC-wide polls commissioned by Dogwood confirmed that three in four (75%) of British Columbians oppose tankers in BC’s inland coastal waters with support for a ban cutting across all political parties with over 72% of voters intending to vote for parties that oppose oil tankers in northern waters.

This is where the rubber hits the road in BC on climate change. The proposed tanker traffic on our coast serves no purpose other than facilitating the growth of the tar sands, Canada’s largest contributor to new greenhouse gas emissions.

We expect the profile and opposition to tanker issues to grow in 2007 and to become a wedge issue in some coastal ridings in the coming federal election.

NAFTA and the lack of a Canadian Energy Policy

“The lack of a coherent, sustainable and secure plan for Canada’s future energy needs is a political omission with potentially disastrous consequences. Expect the debate to get more attention in 2006, as more human and natural crises interrupt supplies, cause spikes in prices at the pump and ferment the debate about the effects of ‘peak oil’.”
-Dogwood Initiative, Jaunuary 2006

Looks like we were a bit early with this one.

While Canada’s lack of a coherent energy policy did garner more attention in 2006, it hasn’t yet taken off. Expect this to become an issue as Canadians begin to see and feel the consequences.

NAFTA’s “export markets first, domestic second” rule locks Canada into exporting current levels of oil and gas to the U.S. We are obliged to export 70% of our oil and 56% of our gas even if we face domestic shortages. This also restricts our ability of put the restriction on the tar sands necessary to reduce our greenhouse gasses. As we predicted in 2006, we expect this to become an issue of concern to Canadians.

Harper’s blunders on Kyoto and global warming and Stephan Dion’s new leadership for the federal Liberals has ignited the debate on a national energy strategy. Expect this to be the issue in 2007
We also predicted cracks to form in the Alberta-led, fossil fuel dominated approach, particularly as Canada is framed as the “tar nation” internationally. This was just beginning as the year came to a close.

Stay tuned for a look at our 2006 predictions on Democracy, First Nations, Forests and Communities.

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