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Don’t Cop Out

OK, so no more cop-out blogs for at least the foreseeable future. I am instead going to try, this time around, to do a stream of consciousness style ramble, starting on one topic and moving, hopefully seamlessly, to various others in quick succession, most of them seemingly unrelated except that they probably bother me a little bit. So I guess they do have something in common after all?

 

COP 2162.

 

Or, more precisely, COP 26.

 

While it sounds like a bad sequel to a 1980’s Jean Claude Van Damme movie, COP 26 is in fact an even more inane sequel. Yes, it is the latest (can it be the 26th already?) annual meeting of the who’s who of the environmental egghead community, thousands upon thousands gathered together for a two week (vaccines recommended but not required) confab to supposedly decide how best to implement the Paris accords, the end of fossil fuels and net zero by 2050 thereby avoiding the extinction of the human race by a changing climate.

 

Notable in their absence – most heads of state (including Justin Trudeau), such as President Xi, Smoking Joe Biden, Vlad (the Impaler) Putin and others.

 

Wait, what? That’s right, even though the US government has signed back on to the Paris Accord to great fanfare, all they can send is John Kerry and a couple of bottles of Heinz ketchup.

 

Nonetheless, the rest of the world has banded together in solidarity and vowed to continue to fight on with the implementation of the Paris Accords, buoyed no doubt by the recent declaration of support from the newly installed Taliban theocratic dictatorship in Afghanistan.

 

At any rate, this year’s event is being held at the end of the month in Glasgow, Scotland, the actual home of Glaswegians is also renowned as an industrial powerhouse – producer of cotton, coal and ships as well as the ancestral home of the television, which I suppose makes Glasgow the root of all evil.

 

Although not as posh a locale as some other years (like for example, Paris), it is still a fab enough place that delegates are able to expense account their way through two weeks of exhausting eating, drinking and … whatevering – maybe spreading unvaccinated COVID to the unsuspecting masses. Seriously though, what goes on at these conferences that can’t be accomplished through productive, ongoing negotiation with maybe a few less people and a much smaller footprint, or a half-dressed Zoom call?

 

Seriously, I spent an hour looking at the program and the calendar of events and it seemed like I was looking at the schedule for the world’s fair or the Calgary Stampede. Who pays for this stuff anyway?

 

Not to be outdone, there is actually a “PreCOP” which this year was held in Milan, Italy. Because why not?

 

Against this backdrop of climate angst and fossil fuel fear was a European continent in the grips of the most severe energy crisis in decades as years of over-investment in renewable energy ran headlong into an equal and opposite level of under-investment in fossil fuel and back-up energy systems resulting in… Energy price spikes that would put crypto-traders to shame, line ups for petrol, restarting of coal fired electricity generators, begging to Russia for more supplies (making the energy system more vulnerable BTW), factory shutdowns, anger, frustration and a sea change in sentiment from “all green all the time” to “how will I stay warm this winter”? Here in Canada we look on these developments with patronizing scorn, but I can assure you, given the choice between a holier than thou devotion to intermittent power during a cold snap and a lump of coal for burning, the lump of coal will win every time.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the renewable industry for the problems in Europe. I do however reserve the right to blame the singular devotion to an easy and seamless transition for allowing these problems to be laid bare so quickly.

 

At any rate, the three key goals of the COP 26 hopdoddy are as follows: 1) convince enough countries to slash emissions sufficiently to hit the 1.5 degree reduction in temperatures agreed in Paris; 2) find out what happened to the shakedown fund that was supposed be created by rich countries to allow smaller countries to step up their climate efforts; and, 3) stop using coal.

 

All lofty and ambitious goals. None of which stands a chance of happening.

 

Look. I’m a climate change believer. I’m also a pragmatist and a realist. All these conferences are great and fun. They allow earnest people to feel like they are doing earnest things. But the reality is that the world is fundamentally different now than it was during COP 23 when all these previous policies were adopted and not implemented. What would make anyone think the outcome will be different this time.

 

As it regards coal, I would posit that in the new energy world order – high prices and volatility – King Coal is due for a rally. Case in point, the more than 1500 coal-fired power plants are being built/commissioned/planned around the world (mostly in China and India) as high growth, rapidly industrializing countries seek what we take for granted – consistent, low cost electricity to power manufacturing, water treatment, sanitation, whatever is needed to help lift their societies out of poverty and into the modern world. Then there’s the local hypocrites of the whole climate combobulation, like Germany, which has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by last Tuesday or some equally ridiculous target yet is actually the largest user of coal in Europe (40% – pretty much bang on the large industrial country average) and whose emissions have actually grown in the past year. And now they find themselves in the worst energy crisis since World War 2. Oops! Remember COP 23? In Bonn? Yes that Bonn – less than 100 km from a brand spanking new coal facility.  And why this addiction to coal? Stable, reliable power and… to protect their industrial base and the coal jobs associated with extraction and processing of coal, including lignite coal, which is the dirtiest. Sheesh.

 

 

Moving on from coal, the other big topic this year is how to top up the fund/allocate the massive wealth transfer from developed countries to developing countries. While the original plan called for $100 billion, the current thinking is that it should be higher, raising the amount to… I don’t know, likely as much as humanly possible – certainly higher than a rational person can count.

 

Look, this is nothing more than a shakedown. And while Canada’s leaders seem eager to dole out the cash (we are up to $5 billion!), other countries are starting to balk and I suspect will increasingly do so – even the US is only at a paltry $11 billion.

 

As you can tell, I hate these things. I consider most conferences in general a waste of time – it’s just me. The networking is always less than you think it will be, it always seems like the same people in attendance and after a few years of rehashing the same topics, it’s just plain boring. Unless there’s a tradeshow with a laminating machine, don’t invite me.

 

In the case of the “Conference of the Parties”, by the time you get to the 26th iteration, you have been chicken-littled out by all the calamitous statements of impending doom and all the vapid earnestness and earnest commitments to unchecked, unaccountable action is like pouring artificial sweetener directly from the package into your mouth – blech.

 

 

Concurrent with the COP 26, the IEA released its WEO which contained some BHAGs for the Good ole Globe. Translation?

 

Every year the International Energy Agency issues its World Energy Outlook wherein it prognosticates and pontificates on where oil demand and oil supply are going to go in the future. Notwithstanding the historic inaccuracy of their forecasts and the long term nature of what it puts out, traders and investors around the world will trade front month energy contracts on the basis of these reports.

 

This year’s report was particularly bearish for oil demand, especially post 2025 (hint, it’s supposed to decline) and, true to form, the oil market instantly sold off on its release. And then quickly rallied when reality set in.

 

Ordinarily I wouldn’t pick on these folks too much because forecasting anything is hard and they provide some outstanding data and analysis on the micro level, but there was a level of disconnectedness in this report that was puzzling to me, starting from a slow-footed picture of demand growth in the face of a receding pandemic to the prediction of peak demand beginning in 2025.

 

OK, sure. What? How?

 

It’s hard to reconcile these forecasts with the physical market, which has recovered smartly from the lows of 2020 to just below end of 2019 consumption levels and is poised to climb even higher as the 2-3 million barrels a day of demand still missing from passenger jet fuel comes back onstream. Meanwhile, the IEA itself indicates very pointedly that prior years under investment in oil and gas exploration is going to create an energy crisis and that investment needs to happen to address increasing demand. OK. Sure.

 

The following two contradictory statements tells you all you need to know about where the IEA is at.

 

“The new energy economy will be more electrified, efficient, interconnected and clean. Its emergence is the product of a virtuous circle of policy action and technology innovation, and its momentum is now sustained by lower costs.”

“At the same time, modern energy is inseparable from the livelihoods and aspirations of a global population that is set to grow by some 2 billion people to 2050, with rising incomes pushing up demand for energy services, and many developing economies navigating what has historically been an energy- and emissions-intensive period of urbanisation and industrialisation.”

Maybe the COP26 people can figure it out.

 

 

 And then there were 28

 

As some of you are aware, there is an election coming in Calgary. It’s a momentous election for many reasons, not the least of which is the presence of dark horse candidate Roger Baker who ran a stealth campaign designed to aggregate all the crackpot votes into one pure candidate capable of challenging the bigwigs and boffins of the Big Blue Box downtown. How stealthy? Well apparently too stealthy, because while we did catch lightning in a bottle, it was mostly off Twitter and just a single strike.

 

As the erstwhile campaign manager for the Baker candidacy (www.rogerbforyyc.com), I have to hang my head in shame for not delivering for my client, but on the other hand, for much of his run he wasn’t actually aware he was a candidate.

 

As it turns out, five hundred bones was too much to pony up for the guy who has five 3D printers in his workshop.

 

On the flip side, last Friday was a transformative moment, as Mr. Baker officially endorsed a candidate for mayor.

 

Some background before the reveal.

 

Notwithstanding the notoriety some Calgary mayors seem to achieve (some would say actively encourage – ahem), the mayor’s role in Calgary is primarily as a consensus builder and lightning rod for ideas. It is often said that Calgary’s mayor has only one vote, which is true, but the ability to build coalitions and get often fractious and non-aligned councillors from different parts of the city to support initiatives is  major skill set.

 

Put another way, the mayor needs to be able to get along with others and clearly articulate positive ideas.

 

In addition, the Calgary of today is nothing like the Calgary I moved to in 1998 when the inimitable Al Duerr had his steady hand on the ship of state. The city has twice as many people, twice the diversity, twice the income disparity, easily twice twice the vacancy rate and twice as many simmering racial and cultural issues.

 

All this means that our consensus building mayor needs to understand multiple communities and constituencies. Have an appreciation for the different challenges facing the multiple stakeholders in the city, be able to articulate and advocate positively for those stakeholders and actually come up with solutions and ideas that are remotely viable.

 

On top of that, it would be useful if the mayor had spent a bit more than a cup of coffee in the business community, had a grasp of the economic issues facing the city and actually had some ideas to solve at least some of them.

 

That’s a lot to demand. Maybe a different way to say it is that the mayor needs to be well-rounded and well-versed and not a single-issue populist.

 

Much like our province has a fractious (note – self-inflicted) relationship with the federal government, municipalities in Alberta are almost always at odds with the provincial government which controls not only the allocation of property tax dollars, but the ability to finance operations and capital. The relationship is complicated. It doesn’t have to be friendly, but it does have to be cooperative and firm. The presence of someone too closely aligned or too adversarial (ahem, Nenshi) isn’t going to lend itself to productive dialogue at the best of times.

 

So, what does all that mean?

 

It means Roger was a great candidate. Except for that whole “get along” thing – he is a lawyer after all.

 

No. Here’s what it means.

 

In the current election there are several viable candidates (sorry Roger) but only two have support high enough at this stage to carry the day.

 

Both are sitting councillors but came to their role via different paths.

 

One is the product of a conservative think tank. The other is the product of the pursuit of increasing levels of education and progression through the business world.

 

Both come from humble beginnings and are self-made.

 

On council, one has the reputation of a team player and consensus builder, the other as a questioning contrarian.

 

One has a progressive vision for growth for the city while the other is laser focused on cutting taxes and reducing spending.

 

Both of these visions have their place. But I am hard-pressed to see how the latter is in any way reflective of the broader Calgary community.

 

Our city is at a crossroads. The energy downturn and COVID has quite literally kicked us in the ass. Repeatedly. Our current administration is tired and out of ideas. The provincial government is overtly hostile to the big cities, because their support in the cities is in secular decline.

 

Yet underneath it all, Calgary’s energy and potential is inescapable. The heart beats and the spirit waits to be unleashed.

 

The fully exploit that, we need a forward looking consensus building candidate for mayor who brings more t the table that single issue anger-based grievance .

 

And that candidate is Jyoti Gondek.

 

There. I said it. I don’t normally endorse, but it is what it is. This election is just too important. In any other year, maybe Jeromy Farkas could have sufficed, but there is too much at stake and there are too many questions, for me, about who is actually pulling his strings.

 

And it’s not even because she’s a first-generation Canadian woman of colour. It’s icing on the cake, but in no way should that be the main reason to support her. She is truly the best qualified candidate.

 

As some of you will have noticed, the Baker campaign has also come out in support of the Gondek campaign. So really, I’m just following my bosses instructions.

 

Referendumb

 

OK, last bit. In addition to a mayoral election, we also have a provincial referendum happening with a number of questions.

 

Here they are in no particular order:

 

  • Should Alberta go to permanent DST? No. This is dumb. The centre of this time zone is Moose Jaw, which last time I checked, was still in Saskatchewan.

 

  • Should equalization be removed from the constitution. Look. Is this even a serious question? It’s leading. It’s been completely erroneously represented to the public. It’s pandering to the Wexit kooks and the far right anti-Quebec faction of the UCP and, when all is said and done, even if it does garner a yes vote, will do nothing to alter something that can’t be altered.

 

Look, this bears repeating. Over and over. Everything the UCP has told you about how equalization works, how it’s collected, how it’s paid, what can be done about it, how hard done by the wealthiest province in Canada is by it, how Quebec is having a free ride on your dime, how energy is hated and that’s why they take our money, how it’s the most grievous injustice ever done by a government to a province in the history of democracy itself and how much influence the provincial government would actually have in changing it in any way, shape or form…

 

It’s ALL WRONG!

 

It’s a myth propagated by anti-federation, pro-firewall fossils who profit off the anger and antipathy the misinformation about equalization engenders.

 

This has been covered in great detail by pundits and academics on all sides of the political spectrum.

 

The consensus is that this is a BAD IDEA.

 

And, in true UCP fashion, it is rife with potential unintended consequences. Like what? Well what happens if Trudeau calls Kenney’s bluff and reopens the equalization discussion with the provinces and everyone decides they want more, leaving Alberta with less. Whoops!

 

Reminder, the leadership of this government (I give the backbench a pass on these) lost billions in a KXL investment. Cancelled Crude by Rail at a cost of billions. Has a report on Unalberta Activities that it is afraid to publish and runs a warroom that is a laughingstock of the country. Declined billions in federal government support and is currently begging the military and other provinces for medical and logistical support with a runaway fourth wave of COVID whose existence it denied for too long.

 

 

 

Do you really want them at the table trying to negotiate a better deal and better formula?

 

Nope, No. Nein.

 

That is all.

 

Oh wait. Here in YYC we have a fluoride referendum. I’m a big yes on that.

 

Now I’m done.

 

Don’t forget to vote. It matters. Don’t cop out.

 

Go Jyoti.

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