Trudeau is betting against himself on climate

Sure, bitumen has a market in 20 years – if climate action fails

Prime Minister Trudeau let his mask slip the day he approved two new heavy oil export pipelines:

“There isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it,” Trudeau said as he gave the green light to both Enbridge’s Line 3 and the Kinder Morgan expansion.

So is there a market for Alberta’s high-cost, low-quality bitumen?

Yes, if you believe the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Over the next ten years, CAPP is aiming to fill those new export pipelines with another million barrels per day of increased heavy oil production – thanks to Trudeau.

In the year 2030, CAPP forecasts have the world burning 1.8 billion barrels of Canadian oil as global demand keeps rising.

But that projection falls apart in a world where we fight to avoid catastrophic ecological collapse. In November, the International Energy Agency released its own forecasts, comparing different pathways for climate action.

The IEA’s “450 Scenario” describes a future where we manage to limit heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere to 450 parts per million. Scientists say that would give us a 50-50 chance of avoiding global warming over 2 degrees Celsius – a line the international community agrees we really don’t want to cross.

If we’re successful, the IEA says “by 2040 oil demand returns to the levels of the late 1990s in the 450 Scenario, at under 75 mb/d.”

That’s a drop of more than 20 million barrels per day from what we’re burning right now. In fact, if we follow that path oil demand would peak and begin to drop as early as 2018 – the same year Kinder Morgan plans to spend building a massive new export pipeline.

So who’s still pumping oil in the IEA’s “50 per cent hope of climate stability” scenario? The producers who can get easy-to-refine crude out of the ground at the lowest possible costs – which unfortunately means countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

Alberta’s heavy, sour crude – which requires high global oil prices to remain profitable – simply can’t compete with low-cost exporters in a world where oil demand is falling. So the only way these expansion pipelines make sense in the coming decades is if Trudeau expects global climate action to fail.

“The pipelines are very much integrated into our Pan-Canadian framework on fighting climate change,” Trudeau told the Vancouver Sun in a livestreamed editorial board meeting this week.

What he means is his ministers will keep driving around in $100,000 electric cars, talking up symbolic improvements to our domestic emissions – while exporting billions of barrels of cheap, dirty crude.

Remember, Canada can buy carbon “credits” from overseas to cancel out domestic emissions, but we never count exports of coal, oil or fracked gas once the raw product leaves our borders.

Trudeau says nice-sounding things about leaving a better world for our kids. But he’s a member of an exclusive global elite. He doesn’t have to worry if rising temperatures unleash a chain reaction of global crises. His family has bodyguards, jets and political connections all over the world. They’ll be safe.

The rest of us are not so lucky.

And while Canada’s carbon ledger may not count what we export to developing countries, those emissions don’t respect national borders. We’ll feel the impact in the form of melting glaciers, crop failure, floods and fires – not to mention mass migration from the world’s hot spots.

We have a choice: plan for the world we want to live in, or profit from the one we don’t. Unfortunately our Prime Minister is betting on the latter.

15 Responses to “Trudeau is betting against himself on climate”

  1. Joys Chow says:

    One point I’d like to bring up, If there is such a market and such a huge amount of oil available, why does the government need billions of taxpayers dollars to shore up the fossil fuel industry?
    Canadians in central Canada may not be immediately effected by the destruction of our coasts by increase tanker traffic and pipelines going thru our land, but as people of the whole of Canada, we can decide whether we want our tax dollars to continue to shore up an industry that is destroy our land and unsustainable on so many level.

  2. Blaize says:

    I agree with the analysis but don’t think it serves our purpose to make this a personal attack and talk about Trudeaus children. Better to focus on the bigger picture and the political realities a PM faces with 10 provinces. What does the future look like for alberta with no pipeline deals? Team up with CCPA and show a future Canada without pipelines with more than a 60 cent dollar. We need a plan, not personal attacks.

    • Fair points, Blaize. I definitely appreciate all the great research think thanks like CCPA do on alternatives as we transition Alberta and Canada’s economy away from oil dependence. And in the meantime, at Dogwood, we’ll be hard at work to prevent the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion — a big step in the wrong direction for our climate.

    • Although Sophie sees (all?) your comments as “fair”, there’s an obvious non sequitur from “no pipeline deals” to “a future Canada without pipelines” when we clearly already have some pipelines. This is a common misinformation meme used by almost everyone who supports these new and expanded pipelines: imply that without them we have no pipelines and no access to tidewater. The issues are whether we need any more pipeline capacity than we already have, have much and how soon, and will the extra capacity be used in the way and for the reasons advertised or just to create excess capacity that CAPP and others will then argue must be used, so we must continue to expand and speed up oil sands development. “There isn’t a country in the world that would” let a large excess pipeline capacity go to waste with “billions of barrels of oil…in the ground while there is a market for it”.

    • Trudeau needs to come up with a plan for.Alberta’s future the smog crisis in
      Beging China tells me fossil fuels espically
      the tar sand bitenium is fading fast .
      Why take all the risks and costs for a dead
      horse industry . Use oil domestically until
      change s come but chasing a risky expensive
      pipeline to export tar/oil Canada s gotta do better then that .The futures in clean renewable s
      China knows that and rest assured that’s where they have to go Canada needs to service that demand if possible if not then use the tar oil domestically to subsidize manufacturing whatever is in demand worldwide . Canada then at least keeps working and makes some progress and no pipeline tanker risks . Better save then sorrey as World Class oil spill clean ups are just political hack s BS

  3. Hadia says:

    Trudeau is a pampered ,short-sighted and inept fool who does NOT understand anything about running a country or honouring the promises that he made to the citizens during his campaign or the entire world in Paris!! His father was a great and powerful politician but obviously did NOT teach Justin anything (perhaps because this information would interruptt his teacher classes)!

  4. In response to climate change, the AB and federal govts decided to support fossil fuel expansion: oilsands, new export pipelines, and LNG plants. Last July the AB Govt introduced two new drilling incentive programs.
    These big infrastructure projects will have to operate for decades for investors to recoup their investments.
    Ramping up fossil fuel emissions flies in the face of climate change science, which mandates swift emissions in reductions now — not after we have filled our pockets with oil money.
    Acknowledging the science but ignoring its implications is the most insidious form of climate change denial.

    Oilsands emissions = 68 Mt (StatsCan, 2014).
    That’s 9.3% of Canada’s total. 25% of AB’s total (274 Mt). More than the entire province of BC (63 Mt). Far more than the Maritimes and the three northern territories combined (46.5 Mt). More than most nations.

    The oil & gas sector is the largest GHG emitter in Canada (26%).
    The oilsands are Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
    The oilsands emissions cap is 100 Mt plus exemptions. (I.e., actual emissions are likely to exceed 100 Mt.)
    The oilsands cap of 100 Mt represents nearly one fifth of Canada’s inadequate 2030 target. (And the oilsands is only one subsector of the oil industry. And the oil industry is only one sector of AB’s economy.)
    The cap is temporary. It is unlikely to survive the present govt. So oilsands emissions may go higher still.

    PM Trudeau’s and AB Premier Notley’s climate change plans are a plan to fail.

  5. Douglas Jackson says:

    Trudeau offered a glimmer of hope that has now turned into his political suicide. Whoever is running this gong show doesn’t really give a hoot what Canadians think about the P.M.

    Politicians are a dime a dozen and a line up of them is forming to the left, the right and the center. Try this crap in Europe and see what happens. Time for Canadians to stand up and save this great country from ourselves.

    Re Blaize – “We need a plan” ??? We need a lot more than a plan Blaize…we need a population that defends our ambitions and goals as a Country and not the age old apathetic excuse of “what can I do about it?…I’m only one person”

    Become knowledgeable and engaged in the issues, let others know what you have learned, speak out to protect your right to speak out before that is also a thing of the past. Trudeau was voted into office on his promises…time to show him what happens when he betrays our trust by voting him, and all those that support him, to the backbenches..and all those who follow that would aspire to high office on false claims…they will figure it out, sooner or later, that their words and promises mean something to Canadians. It is ultimately us that will protect our Country and ourselves, not some flavor of the day political plan put forth by just another self serving wannabe politico.

    • Gerry says:

      I am beginning to believe this is indeed the only way we will see change. That these issues must be fought over and over it is pretty obvious that Canadians are not smart enough to use democracy in a way that will support their children’s future. ‘Educate up’ and get involved folks….and then convince your neighbours to do the same so we are not always preaching to the converted.

  6. Mister-eWatcher says:

    I wonder if anyone else noticed the ironic fact that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has an acronym “CAPP” (as in capping the amount of fossil fuels we extract and use?)

    I would like to remind people what happened in Alberta and Saskatchewan when oil prices hit their lows. Thousands of well sites were abandoned by their owners, left in dangerous unCAPPed conditions, in the middle of farmer’s fields and elsewhere. As these owners filed for bankruptcy, no one demanded they return these areas to some form of their former condition. In fact, hundred of millions of dollars in costs are anticipated to just make those sites safe, let alone doing any restoration. This will all fall to taxpayers to fund, if it even gets done. The Premier of Saskatchewan actually suggested it as a federally sponsored “make work” program for out of work oil field employees.

    So, let me ask the obvious question. When the demand for petroleum, especially the low value, high cost to extract petroleum produced by most of Canada’s wells, drops off in the next 10 to 20 years, as most nations align with the Paris Accord, and turn to alternative energy sources, just who do you think will be paying for the decommission of these expanded pipelines for which there is no longer any demand for their product? Kinder-Morgan and their ilk? Not likely. Just like every sector which does major damage to the planet, be it logging, mining, or oil and gas, when their product can no longer be produced at a profit, they just walk away and leave their mess for someone else to clean up. So, how much will it cost to decontaminate and decommission these pipelines, and restore the land, and who will pay? I’ll give you a hint, starts with a “T” and ends in “payer”.

    At the very minimum, all these projects should require about a billion dollar escrow account which can be tapped if a disaster occurs, or if the company runs away without fulfilling their obligations to put things back the way they found them. That might just be the deterrent needed as their investors are left recognizing there is no real profit in these industries, if they actually fulfill their legal obligations to pay for damages they create.

  7. scraggyjack says:

    When Trudeau says, “There isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it,” he is unconsciously pointing to the largest difficulty faced within the topic of global warming and climate change, and our adaptation to it — the political system of nation-states. The zero-sum economics they each follow makes the decision to “exploit the resources” seem rational, though in the larger systems thinking that we elect our government leaders to engage in, the decision is suicidal. So, are we a culture of national patriots still marching in lockstep with the hung-over thought patterns of past nation-state wars, or are we a culture of humans who would like to continue as a species? And where are the government leaders who give credence to this argument?

  8. Donna Cawker says:

    Please direct my tax money towards clean energy production,eg solar energy,tidal and wind energy. Stop paying the big boys to dirty this wonderful planet we inhabit.

  9. Nancy Lowe says:

    Get rid of Christy and then Trudeau. Both do not deserve to be in the trusted positions they were put into.

  10. Ona Head says:

    How about using “wind power” like some countries are using already?

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