The race is on. Monday’s U.N. climate summit, entitled “catalyzing action”, was designed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a sort of opening stage of the Tour de France, which like that epic race, ends in Paris.
The recent shelving of the Joslyn mine oilsands project in Alberta is a reminder of the fragile economics of the oilsands. No economic formula could be found to make the $11 billion project work and it has been put on hold indefinitely.
On May 1st, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources considered the issue of “Energy Security of Ukraine and the Rest of Europe”. Government MPs likely picked this topic because they were expecting the export of Canadian oil and gas to be the “solution” to Europe’s challenge.
What they learned, however, was unexpected. What was the most realistic way to promote energy security in the Ukraine and Europe? Energy efficiency!
But there is more to be said about this report and what it tells us about the ways that conservative forces attempt to appropriate (and de facto, even if this is not their intent, undermine) environmental policy. In part this is because behind the ideological obfuscation, the report asks a good question – can we say anything sensible about the political conditions under which good environmental policy is made?
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any slower, Ottawa has yet another rationale for delaying greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for oil and gas companies. Worryingly, this one comes straight from the top.
In a year-end interview with Global News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he hasn’t introduced regulations to curb GHG emissions from oil and gas production because he wants to move at the same pace as the United States.
In the prime minister’s words, oil and gas “is an integrated sector continentally …our government is certainly prepared to work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down. But I think this would be best done if we could do this in concert with our major trading partner, given as I say it is a seamless industry in North America. So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll be able to do over the next couple of years.”
Five years ago, when Bruce Lourie and I started work on our first book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, it wasn’t immediately obvious to some why two environmentalists would concern themselves with toxins in the human body. The topic didn’t fit neatly into the “environmental issue” pigeon hole. “Isn’t that the domain of yoga enthusiasts and nutrition nuts?” we were occasionally asked.
First she was against Northern Gateway — now she’s for it. What a difference an election makes.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s reversal on the Northern Gateway pipeline project is typical of these cynical times we live in, when the lure of quick oil wealth outweighs any responsibility for the threat of climate pollution.
In 1939, the United States and much of the world were still struggling to exit the Great Depression that had begun a decade earlier. In that context, Alvin Hansen – the prominent economist and disciple of John Maynard Keynes – famously argued before the American Economic Association that the underlying problem was not cyclical, but rather “secular stagnation.”
Mr. Hansen anticipated an extended period of sluggish growth and high unemployment, due to a structural shortage of demand compared with already existing productive capacity. Under such circumstances, there were few profitable investment opportunities for business, resulting in excess savings and idle resources.