While Alberta's Premier is interested in leading a discussion on a National Energy Strategy, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has come forward with her own proposal. In her essay "National Energy Strategy Possible, Federal Leadership Missing" May advocates energy souvereignity and the scrupulous vetting of state-owned energy corporations (namely China). Obviously foreign companies originating in the U.S. should also be vetted and their subsidies reduced.
National Energy Strategy equals National Energy Program (If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and smells like a duck, it's probably a duck).
Prime Ministerintroduced he National Energy Program (NEP) after a deadlock in negotiations with Alberta Premier Lougheed in 1980. The program was introduced without consulting with the oil industry. Along with the NEP Trudeau introduced a tax that funded the national petroleum company, Petro Canada, and gave grants to Canadian owned companies to encourage exploration.
Ms May, in her proposal, advocates eliminating all subsidies to fossil fuels and placing a price on carbon. She say an energy strategy must set out a reasonable plan for capping and reducing greenhouse gases throughout the Canadian economy.
Her proposal is not unlike Trudeau's NEP, which resulted in a downturn of investment in the energy sector. Foreign companies started selling off energy assets and eliminated jobs in Alberta. As a consequence, Albertans couldn't afford their mortgages and the housing market crashed.
It is also noteworthy that the Alberta government challenged the federal government on its ability to tax oil wells in Alberta. The Supreme Court of Canada sided with Alberta and in 1982 ruled that the federal government couldn't legally tax provincially owned oil and gas wells. The NEP was amended to reduce oil industry taxes by $2 Billion.
So Ms May's proposal appears to be dejas vous all over again. Hopefully this is not what Alison Redford had in mind.
The future lies in renewable sustainable energy
These are favourite buzz words used by green energy proponents. What is the reality though? May suggests that a viable energy future is found in diversifying our energy portfolio. Canada has huge potential in renewable energy – wind, solar (both passive and photovoltaic), geothermal, district energy, small scale hydro, tidal and, where sustainable, biomass. So far, our energy conversation seems limited to fossil fuels.
While a sustainable energy future is desirable, what is often neglected are the effects on the environment of windmill and solar panel farms. They require large areas to produce sufficient amounts of energy and at this stage, they cannot provide the energy needs of the country. In Germany, for example, Merkel's government had to backtrack on shutting down its nuclear plants. Industry is almost in a rebellion over the additional costs of this green energy.
To make a long story short, the politics of oil and green alternatives are explosive political issues.
Green energy, such as wind and solar, are not ready for prime time and affordable alternate energy is still a few years away. Of course environmentalists will never discuss the real estate required for solar panel farms or wind turbines nor the fact that thousands of birds get killed by wind power. Solar power is very expensive and for now can not sufficiently provide the energy required to run a household. As an example, an Edmonton solar company is offering to rent solar panels to home owners. The panels, which require an initial investment of about $1000 can only provide 18-30% of actual power required. Home owners must remain on the grid. The savings in energy costs are minimal. The biggest part of an electricity bill in Alberta are the riders and fees and not the actual energy used. The lease contract is long term.
To make a long story short, whether we like it or not, oil will still be around for decades. Sending oil to the United States and Asian markets will reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. Coal, which is currently used in power plants in China is a much larger emitter of carbons. The recent application of Enbridge to reverse it line 9 to move oil to the east is a step in the right direction to gain some energy independence.
Yes we should be mindful of our energy use with fossil fuels, but change should come gradually and rather than punishing people with a carbon tax, why not provide them with an incentive to reduce the use. Crippling an already fragile economy doesn't make sense. It seems politician can only ever think of taxing.
Elizabeth May's proposal seems attractive until you bring it under close scrutiny. Our energy use is far from perfect and oil revenues are already shared through transfer payments. We need some real thinkers to come up with an innovative strategy that doesn't resemble the National Energy Program. Are politicians really up to that? Maybe Premier Redford should release her proposals.