Crude Observations

Emissions Capped Movie Night

This week is supposed to be all about my top 10 Christmas movies but I have to take a few minutes to do an aside about the recent government policy announcements regarding emissions in general and the energy sector in particular.


For those of you who are living under a rock (or just don’t care) the Canadian Liberal minority government has long teased everyone who would listen about upcoming regulations targeted specifically at the evil oil and gas sector to force it to reduce emissions related to methane and carbon dioxide – both of which are greenhouse gasses or, in the LPC-approved vernacular, pollution.


Earlier this week the government unveiled a series of measures that it believes will achieve a 75% reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector from 2012 levels by 2030. Not to be confused with the government of Alberta’s already in place plan to reduce methane emissions by 45% from 2014 levels by 2025, a milestone that they have already hit. And the pre-existing federal plan that had the same target.


Similar yet not the same. It appears that the new Liberal plan is a tad more aggressive. Being a larger reduction and closing down a bunch of loopholes and exemptions.


Of course, how do you get there? Methane is the main component of natural gas and we are a major producer and user so there are potential “fugitive” emissions all along the natural gas value chain – from well to furnace if you will. This can all be reduced with better maintenance and tighter rules – all well and good. And already in progress.


Another more voluminous source of these emissions is embedded in drilling and industrial processes where natural gas (methane) is regularly vented (to reduce pressure) or flared (common with excess gas produced where there is no pipeline network and you would rather not vent… methane or associated gas that comes with an oil well, or industrial processes).


This of course is not as big a problem here in Canada as it is in other countries because we already have something called “rules” about this stuff unlike places that vent the equivalent of our annual consumption out of sheer laziness or have natural gas fires that have been burning since the 1970s (recall my blog photo from last week).


No matter, the poohbahs in Ottawa have said reduce, so reduce we will. Or continue to do so. We will stop venting and hope things don’t blow up. And then, when we hit 73% instead of 75%, I guess we can just shut down the entire LNG industry to make people happy.


Two days later, the government announced its plan to introduce a “one-of-its-kind” in the world emissions cap on CO2 from the production of oil and gas. A 35’ish percent reduction from 2019 levels by 2030. Not consumption. Production. Not refining (different rules). Production. Not other industries. Just oil and gas. A cap. Not a carbon tax. We already have that. A cap. Not a pledge to reach net zero by 2050. A cap. Like a hat. But a cap. Not only a cap, a magical cap that you can kind of manage by virtue of a cap and trade mechanism.




This cap has been telegraphed for a long time. And the government has pinkie promised that this isn’t a production cap, it’s an emissions cap. So we are free to keep growing production, but emissions have to magically continue falling. So unless we unlock the magic beans of technology for reducing oil emissions we will have rely on the aforementioned shutdown of the LNG industry to meet our emissions cap target. Or stop growing oil production.


Not gonna lie, the province and a majority of the people of Alberta, in general, are not the biggest fans of the emissions cap, notwithstanding the UCP government’s own pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.


Look. We all knew this was coming in some form. And on the surface, it’s not as bad as it could have been.


What really gets my goat about this and the methane thing is how they went about it. As with everything with this annoying government, it’s all about the show and the signal and rarely about the substance.


Rather than roll this out in Parliament and subject it to sober (okay fine, def not that) debate, they instead present it as a “fait accompli” on the other side of the world at the COP28 Climatepalooza so they can accept the adulation and congratulations and pats on the back for taking a dump on an industry that matters massively to a country that – if we can all just step back and acknowledge reality – no one at COP28 gives two shits about.


It’s cowardly. It’s hubris. It’s approval seeking in all the wrong places. It’s the Trudeau brand.


And it is yet another reason why this government is on its way out.


OK, speaking of on the way out – it’s time to let everyone get on with things. Time to do some actual work and present to you my most anticipated blog of the year, which is annually some of my best work. That’s right, here comes my annual paen to the Christmas movie.


This is mainly because as any regular reader knows, I have an uncharacteristic weak spot for Christmas and holiday movies.



Wait, let me restate that. I have a Christmas and holiday movie problem. It’s not pretty. The family is actually concerned and tried an intervention but the Elf on a Shelf didn’t make it on time.



Here’s how it happens. Pretty much the day after American Thanksgiving the binge begins, with our home television tuned nightly to the Women’s Network, Lifetime (Canada’s answer to Hallmark Channel) and Bravo watching a virtual non-stop barrage of such timely holiday classics as Hats Off to Christmas, Christmas in <<insert generic small-town name here>>, Sharing Christmas, A Cookie Cutter Christmas, A Holiday Engagement, A Royal Christmas, A Corgi Christmas, A Wish for Christmas, Crown For Christmas, Family for Christmas, A Cheerful Christmas (this seems mailed in to be honest) – I could go on forever.



And most of these movies have one of two generic plots – either a scrooge-like, non-Christmasy city-slicker is dumped into small-town America (often during a blizzard) where they discover the true meaning of Christmas or some “commoner” American (usually a dress-maker or a teacher) discovers that her new boyfriend/prince charming is in fact a real honest to goodness prince of some made-up European principality and she has to battle both a grouchy queen and bad Christmas mojo to secure her rightful place at his side as he discovers the meaning of love and Christmas at the same time.



Some of the titles seem decidedly lazy with such luminescent tales as “Tell them to come home for Christmas” and “The Nine Kittens of Christmas” (extra points for animal exploitation!) and “Light Up Christmas” (I feel this may have been an ad for a pot store). These titles tell me that the Artificial Intelligence wave has been writing these movies for quite some time.


An added twist in the past few years has been the inclusion of LGBTQ characters and, in a weird trip down memory lane, an uptick in Hannukah themed movies that all seem to feature my high school classmate Alex Poch-Goldin as a kindly, bumbling grandfather.



A few additional factoids on these Christmas movies. First, the vast majority are filmed in Canada. Second, they are legally required to cast Lacey Chabert in 50% of all Hallmark movies with a sentimentality score of 47 or higher.



Where am I going with this? Well since I am an expert and all, I am going to count down the Top 10 holiday movies of all time (in my EXPERT opinion) and, since this is in theory still an energy blog, I am going to provide plot synopses for each as if they were set in the energy industry. You will note that despite my Hallmark addiction, there is nary a one in this list.



10 – Trading Places


As the Christmas season begins, upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer and Randolph Duke. An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.


Two old school oil and gas tycoons – let’s call them Murray Edwards and Mike Rose bet each other a dollar that a down and out homeless man will be as successful predicting the price of oil as the multi-million dollar analyst and hedge fund manager they are currently paying. As the contest plays out over Christmas, it turns out it’s a draw – no one can predict the price of oil. Murray Edwards fires both of them on Christmas Day while sailing off the coast of the French Riviera.



9 – A Christmas Story


This movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker, who spends most of his time dodging a bully and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad but comforted by his doting mother, Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact. Most memorable line of course is “you’ll shoot yer eye out” which he almost does.


In the oil patch version, newly elected premiere Kooky Danielle Smith desperately wants a “Red Pipeline Shovel” for Christmas and spends her time dodging a bully named Trudeau and filing paperwork to bug him. Ultimately, she receives the longed for gift of an emissions cap, except of course it comes with a catch and that’s the unintended consequence of almost shooting her eye out – careful! As the movie ends, we’re still not sure what will happen, but oddly we are treated to a scene where Smith and Trudeau are seen eating Peking Duck and doing Jamieson shots at a Chinese restaurant while laughing about whatever happened to that Kenney fellow.



8 – The Nightmare Before Christmas


The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. Chaos ensues.


The oil patch version follows our protagonist Vlad Putin, the uncrowned king of Russialand who has become bored of incarcerating journalists and enriching himself amid the cold Moscow winters. When he discovers OPEC, the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and all the gold-plated cars and riches he can have, he hijacks the group and appoints himself defacto influencer and invades his neighbour for fun, thus setting off the inevitable destruction of his own country. Chaos ensues


7 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife, Ellen, and children, as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations. However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin Eddie and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.


Clark is the CEO of a major US energy player operating in the Permian Basin and he wants to drive his stock price up so he can get paid a massive bonus. Clark overpays for land, borrows indiscriminately and squeezes all his suppliers and service providers to drop their costs as much as possible so he can show great numbers. Eventually however, the overworked completions crew based in Midland decides they are tired of working for 1992 day-rates so things go sideways fairly quickly and Clark ends up with a bunch of DUCs. Ultimately, the board realizes that Clark has spent a billion dollars in capex in less than 5 years and has never made a dime while cashing obscenely high paycheques. So, they turf him and he loses his bonus. The new CEO decides that an oil company drilling for oil is dumb and takes all his cash flow and gives it to his lenders and shareholders. Anyone who doesn’t want a divvy gets to sell their shares back. Not very Christmasy, I know – maybe this one is more of a documentary.


6 – Prancer


Refusing to give up her belief in Santa Claus, a little girl discovers a hurt reindeer in the woods, which she believes to be Prancer. With the help of a sympathetic veterinarian (played by Abe Vigoda!), the girl takes care of the wounded creature. It’s supposed to be a secret, but eventually a department store Santa Claus, the girl’s dad and the entire town find out about Prancer, leading to big problems for the girl, her family and, of course, the poor exploited reindeer.


In this timeless classic tale of prior years, Rachel refuses to give up her belief that if only she does the right thing, then good things will happen for her province’s energy sector. One day, she discovers a slightly broken carbon levy and thinks that this just the ticket to get good results, so she nurses and nurtures it to the point where it should be fully functional. However, she discovers much to her chagrin that nobody really cares what her province does and that by and large people are jerks and just in it for themselves. Ultimately the townsfolk turn on her and she loses two consecutive elections to people who don’t care as much about carbon as she does. On top of all that, some mean guy halfway across the country drags out his own carbon tax thingy and seemingly makes all her efforts worthless. In a heartwarming finish, a group of sympathetic economists band together to make Rachel realize that the carbon levy in any form was a type of magic. They are all left believers.


5 – Miracle on 34th Street


An old man going by the name of Kris Kringle fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and, more importantly, his authenticity which is proved once and for all through all the letters he receives from children everywhere thanks to, of all things, the Post Office.


In this scintillating re-imagining of the timeless holiday classic, a skeptical energy sector is revived when a country called Saudi Arabia kicks an over-extended tight oil sector to the curb. Subsequent to this, the benign oil power uses its market heft and leverage to calm oil prices, reduce inventory overhang and deliver a goldilocks oil price environment to the world just in time for Christmas. A skeptical investment community is distracted by the IPO of yet another grifty SPAC, some crypto blowups and a video of Elon Musk dancing the Macarena with Donald Trump. Meanwhile energy prices continue their inexorable rise even with Scroogy Joe Biden doing his level best to stop the malarkey and get gas prices down. Saudi Arabia is once again proven to be the Santa Claus of the energy sector thanks to its overwhelming market power, acknowledged by no less an authority than yours truly.


4 – Elf


Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs, a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves his paternity, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results and eventually helps Buddy save Christmas.


A once proud and iconic home-grown Canadian oil and gas company decides that it isn’t cutting it in Canada so it packs up its management and capital and decides to head south into the United States in search of an acceptable short cycle play to sink all its money into. Now firmly in drilling mode, the company overpays for two acquisitions, changes its name to something incomprehensible and relies on some seismic data provided by the same shady local who sold them their land for $167,000 an acre. Drilling well after debt-financed well, the company finally realizes that this isn’t for them, so they eventually decide to retry their luck as close to the North Pole as many of them ever want to get. So they return to the Great White North and the infusion of cash saves the Canadian oilpatch.


3 – Scrooged


In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips. But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk, on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


Justin Trudeau is a wildly successful politician whose dismissive attitude to the energy sector threatens to send his economy into a decades-long funk of stagnant economic growth. After being reduced in an election to yet another minority government (an outcome completely due to his government’s own incompetence), Justin is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


The first ghost (played ironically by his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau) shows him his father and then Energy Minister Marc Lalonde drafting the National Energy Program and laughing about those suckers from Alberta while an eight-year-old Justin plays with a Tonka toy excavator and bulldozer in the background.


The second ghost (Ralph Klein) shows present day Trudeau taking selfies, surfing, changing his socks, blandly promoting a progressive agenda while jet-setting abroad and completely ignoring unemployment, inflation and game changing capital projects at home. Then the ghost shows Justin all the oil workers who are out of work because he was too soft to push the agenda, and the slow deterioration of the Canadian standard of living.


The third ghost – who is really just an apparition, shows a scene that opens with newly minted Alberta Empress Danielle Smith opening the first border crossing station between Alberta and BC, before climbing on a tank and leading a hearty rendition of the new Alberta national anthem “Alberta #1 Dammit”. Then it shows an apocalyptic scene in Ottawa where a broke Canadian government is being taken over by the new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his deputy Ezra Levant. A look of terror shows on young Justin’s face as he is shown the interior of the House of Commons and realizes that his Liberal Party in 2025 has been completely obliterated in the election, winning only one seat, ironically held by Mark Carney.


Waking in a cold sweat, Trudeau gives his friends at SNC and Bombardier each 10 billion dollars and commands them to fetch him the finest pipeline in the land!


2 – Die Hard


New York City policeman John McClane is visiting his estranged wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.


Canadian pipeline foreman Johnny Canuck is doing integrity work and a cutout on a live mainline natural gas pipeline somewhere in the Canadian hinterland when his crew is attacked and taken hostage by dozens of non-descript environmental terrorists on Bombardier snowmobiles. Canuck realizes there is no one there to help rescue the hostages except himself so he takes on the whole lot of them – carefully emptying their gas tanks into jerry cans, collecting their jackets and putting them in the cab of his truck – the usual. In the closing scene, Canuck has been chased to the end of a side-boom where the chief eco-warrior tries to convert him by yelling at him with a bullhorn. “Repent now you fossil fuel exploiting freak” but he slips into the bell hole while he’s doing it and only the fast reflexes of Canuck grabbing his wrist saves him from getting crushed by a length of pipe. “Hey” yells Canuck, “where’s your helmet, your safety tickets and your cover-alls?” before getting him a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa (our hero has both safety skills and food training!). In the last scene, we see Canuck with a lot of concern loading the last of the frost-bitten and chastened attackers into an F350 Crewcab for the long, but warm, drive back to civilization and a Christmas celebration with friends and family.


What? Well seriously, what did you expect to happen? It’s the Canadian oil patch. Safety first. Look out for each other. Everyone goes home.


1 – It’s A Wonderful Life


After George Bailey wishes he had never been born, an angel is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.


After Greta Thunberg, environmentalist and climate change warrior priestess, wishes that oil had never been discovered, a geophysicist and baseball fan is sent to earth to show her what a world without oil and natural gas would be like.


The geo-nerd drops Greta in a world without fossil fuels and underground seismic mapping and tells her to take a look around. After wandering around in the dark and choking on the smoke from all the wood and turd fires required to maintain warmth for 8 billion people, Greta stumbles upon a town where infant mortality is well in excess of 20%, life expectancy is less than 50 years, there are no computers, crop yields are a quarter of what they were, there are no airplanes, war is a constant and what is with these itchy hemp clothes! Topping it all off, Greta discovers that in this world, Donald Trump is the co-emperor with Vladimir Putin. Crying out in desperation, a chastened Greta is heard to exclaim toward the end of the film: “I had it all wrong, surely there is a way we can all co-exist!”


As the movie closes, a smiling Greta is seen driving a Tesla battery-powered side-boom as part of Spread #2 for the TransMountain Expansion project as a bell rings – another geophysicist has earned its wings.


Bonus Movie – Diner


Billy returns home to Baltimore at Christmas to serve as the best man at the upcoming wedding of his childhood buddy Eddie. In the meantime, he and Eddie get together with their friends at the local diner, where they trade stories about their lives. All they really want to do is go back to being the carefree boys they once were, but they know it cannot be. Their funny and at times revealing exchanges help each other face the mounting responsibility of adulthood.


Stu and some fellow Crude Observations subscribers and readers get together at a local watering hole just before Christmas to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine and some good food while swapping stories about the old days when oil was $70 and natty was $5 and people actually spent money in the oil patch. Oh wait, that’s a real thing we’re hoping to do next week!


So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas movies of all time, absolutely ruined by twisted metaphor.



And I know you all wanted Die Hard as the number one, but I just couldn’t do it. To me, the Christmas movie is all about the sappy/happy ending and what could be better than Greta Thunberg acknowledging that oil and gas has made life wonderful?



FWIW, here is an AI list:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life
  2. Home Alone
  3. Elf
  4. Miracle on 34th Street
  5. The Polar Express
  6. A Christmas Story
  7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  9. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  10. White Christmas


Meh – now we know why it’s called “artificial” intelligence.

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