No country in its right mind would need the premier of Alberta to explain to the federal cabinet why Canada needs pipelines to get our land-locked oil and natural gas resources to international markets.
But since Canadian politicians are seldom in their right minds on the related issues of energy policy and man-made climate change, that’s what Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was doing in the resort community of Kananaskis, Alberta with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s befuddled cabinet earlier this week.
The irony is that prior to moving from the opposition benches into the realities of power, Notley and Trudeau contributed significantly to the hysterical anti-pipeline rhetoric in Canada that now makes the job they have to do — getting our natural resources to market — more difficult than it needed to be.
The basic arguments in favour of pipelines are that (a) not being in favour of them amounts to Canada voluntarily agreeing to slit its own economic throat and (b) pipelines mean greater public safety, as well as fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, than the alternative methods of transporting natural resources, such as oil, by rail.
Any politician confused about what that means should look up the July 6, 2013 Lac-Megantic train derailment in which 47 people died and the U.S. State Department studies that concluded in the absence of the Keystone XL pipeline, GHG emissions will in fact go up.
Trudeau, when he was in opposition, frequently compared former prime minister Stephen Harper unfavourably to Trudeau’s Jolly Green Giant — U.S. President Barack Obama.
Except Obama, save for his hypocritical rejection of the border-crossing Keystone XL pipeline after seven years of acting like Hamlet on the issue, has been approving U.S. pipelines like stink.
In fact, Obama’s boasted that during his administration, the U.S. has laid enough new oil and gas pipeline to more than encircle the Earth, and that even more pipelines are needed.
Regardless of know-nothings who believe in fairy tales like the Leap Manifesto, oil, gas and coal are not going away for the foreseeable future as the major method by which developed and developing countries produce energy.
Some day, due to technological advancement, we may have batteries capable of storing excess electricity on an industrial scale, at which point wind turbines and solar panels will make economic sense.
Some day, carbon capture and storage may be viable on a societal scale.
Some day, we may figure out an economically viable way to replace gasoline with hydrogen and traditional cars with electric vehicles, although how much environmental good the latter will do depends on the electricity sources used to recharge them.
Some day, scientists may discover the secret of non-radioactive cold fusion (renamed Low Energy Nuclear Reactions because of the stigma surrounding past hoaxes), resulting in the widespread acceptance of non-emitting nuclear power to replace coal-fired electricity.
But that day is not today, nor is it in the foreseeable future, meaning fossil fuels will be the major method by which we power our world for many decades to come.
That means, if Trudeau intends to run his government in the best economic interests of Canadians, he must find ways to build the consensus needed to approve environmentally responsible pipeline construction.
He cannot simply be, as former prime minister Brian Mulroney rightly noted last week, a referee between pro and anti-pipeline interests.
He must be an advocate for pipelines, for Canada’s own good.