Crude Observations

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

So after the momentous elections that we just went through, and the fiery referendum (results pending!), you would think that us folks in Alberta would be ready to pack it in and take a wee siesta for a bit. After all, how much more excitement can one take, what with a newly elected mayor, who suddenly finds herself the talk of the town, for accomplishing something that has never been done – a woman as mayor of Calgary.


Not only that, we had close to 35% participation in a referendum about stopping the shipment of propane to Quebec or something like that. Of that 35% of the eligible population, it looks like close to 65% voted in favour of shutting down Line 5 which sends oil to the Sarnia, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec refineries. That means a whopping 22.75% of our voting population voted yes on a clear question to stop funding the CBC.


If that’s not a clear majority speaking it mind on a clear question, I don’t know what is!


Speaking of clear, it was nice to see that the long-awaited Steve Allan inquiry into Anti-Albertan activities has finally been released. And let me tell you, it was worth every penny of the $3.5 million it reportedly cost because there were some barn burner revelations in it.


Some of my favourites?


  • There are environmental groups that, in their pursuit of defending the environment, will actually undertake targeted activities to protest things that in their estimation will harm the environment.
  • It’s not always just Canadians. There are a lot of Americans who care about the environment
  • Some people care so much about the environment that they will actually give money to organizations that reflect their views, about the environment and will lobby government and the public at large about these views.
  • Alberta is a country that has both great natural and environmentally sensitive spaces as well as a lot of fossil fuel resources underground.
  • Not everyone is in agreement that all those resources should be developed. Some people actually think they should, shudder, be left in the ground.
  • $1.3 billion in foreign money has directly funded close to 50 organizations that campaigned against our energy industry. Except we’re not going to name all of them. And it wasn’t really $1.3 billion. A lot of it was general funds and donations to groups with many causes. Some of it was directly targeted. But it wasn’t really that much. A whole heck of a lot came from Canadians. And $400 million went to Ducks Unlimited alone, which really doesn’t fund anti oil and gas campaigns anyway. But they’re all really, really bad and sinister
  • If it wasn’t for these nasty environmental groups, we would have Northern Gateway, Energy East and Keystone XL already built and a bazillion tankers plying the Coast of BC.


OK, enough mocking. I’m an industry guy. I will defend the industry as much as I can, but if we can’t take criticism and respond to public pressure, then we’re not evolving with the times then we are the dinosaur-like monoliths everyone says we are.


Oil and gas is a dirty business. There’s no avoiding it. Fossil fuels are basically a toxic substance than can be recovered by aggressive and disruptive drilling practices, pulled out of the ground and shipped by pipe via closed systems to refineries and petro-chemical facilities where they are cracked, refined, processed and converted into the products that make out every day life better.


It’s no secret that there are steps along the way that are fraught with risk, environmental or otherwise. So it is entirely fair that organizations AND GOVERNMENTS hold the industry to account for this.


This is how beneficial change happens.


Do environmental groups go too far, mischaracterize the industry, cherry pick facts, misrepresent and misunderstand the absolutely crucial part of our lives that the energy industry represents? Of course they do! That’s how you get attention in a world where everyone is clamouring to get noticed.


Do they raise money on the back of the preceding and look for soft targets? Of course they do. Is Alberta a soft target? You bet. We have oilsands, Mordor, a giant energy industry, rule of law and a government so thin-skinned that their reactions just reinforce the fund-raising cycle.


And we’re not alone in this. Energy and all its aspects are being targeted and are under scrutiny around the world.


Will they ever protest this intensely in Saudi Arabia or Russia? No. They may be naïve to the industry but they aren’t stupid. They go where it’s easy. Wouldn’t you?


For the energy industry, or any polluting or environmentally suspect industry (just you wait lithium boys) these types of protests, organized resistance and demands for reform and better practices are just the price of admission. Don’t like it? Get out.


And please, no more commissions, inquiries, rebrandings, communication strategies, war rooms, whatever.


We are in the middle of a messy, poorly organized energy transition. We’ve pushed too hard on the ability for renewables to rapidly take up the slack of a beaten down fossil fuel industry with now significant inflationary implications. This transition is going to take decades and there is plenty of room for a newly responsible and net-zero committed, financially viable oil and gas industry in Canada to co-exist alongside solar farms the size of New Mexico, avian-genocide windfarms and geographically isolated geothermal wells that aren’t proximal to the grid. In fact, it’s essential. Can we move on to helping that happen?


Harumph. Got a bit off my chest there. Sorry. I have a real problem with theatre and waste which is what I think this self-evident result inquiry was.


And now that I’m feeling all environmentally defensive, I feel like we need to do at least two of the infamous R’s of the enviro world – reuse and recycle.


You see, we have all this inquiry infrastructure in place, plus there has to be some budget left over (no way this report was $3.5 million, right?!?), so I figured now might be a good time to conduct a few more studies. You know, to get full value from our inquiry resource.


I have many ideas, but here are five that I think should be high priority items.


Inquiry into the Canadian Energy Centre


Aside from the Inquiry into Unalberta activities, no provincial government organization or initiative in recent memory has been as controversial as the Alberta War Room, colloquially known as the Canadian Energy Centre. Whether it’s strangely awkward billboard campaigns in Times Square or ranty, partisan diatribes attempting to deflect the criticism du jour about the energy industry.


Inquiring minds want to know many things, but really are concerned about who owns this entity. What’s the budget? Where is the accountability? How are decisions made? How is effectiveness measured? Why is the government trying to do the energy sector’s job? Who makes editorial decisions? Why do so many of the CEC staffers have deep political connections to the UCP? Why does the Allan Inquiry imply the CEC is an embarrassing laughing stock?


So many questions. Not very many answers.


Inquiring minds want to know.



Inquiry into the Baker Campaign’s use of PAC and Union money


This inquiry is really timely as Albertans in general are deeply concerned about dark money influences at the sub-municipal electoral level. It is no secret that the guerilla Baker campaign could never have got as far as it did without the influence of dirty money. No one individual can get that much support on the back of the shoestring budget they purported to have. No, it is clear that conservative leaning Political Action Committees and the Communist, pinko Unions duked it out with mucho dineiro to curry favour with Calgary’s favourite 3D printer maestro. Where did the money come from and where did it go? These are important questions that will dog our electoral landscape for years and unsolved, could actually undermine democracy as we know it.


One can only shudder to think what would have happened had Mr. Baker put his name on an actual ballot or, heaven help us, set his sights higher.


Is Roger in the pocket of Big Union? Or is Roger in the pocket of Big Right?


Inquiring minds want to know.


Pipeline Investment Inquiry


Sometime back, the UCP government made an investment in a section of a pipeline that for some reason didn’t get built. Now, it isn’t uncommon for governments to squander money chasing pet projects, especially if they are egged on by such well-respected lobby groups like the Canadian Energy Centre, but this situation begs questions.


Was this pipeline ever going to get built and how poorly capitalized was the commercial partner that they needed government money?


We all know that Joe Biden quashed the project in question south of the border. Was he influenced by the Baker campaign? Were the same environmental groups who were outed by the Allan inquiry also part of the economically devastating decision to revoke a permit for a pipeline that had a 25% chance at best of ever seeing a right of way approved in Nebraska?


The government lost more than a billion dollars on this investment. Who suggested the investment? Who approved it? How happy was TC Energy to receive it?


Would we have been better off buying lottery tickets?


And crucially, has there ever been an example where an investment into a pipeline project by a government, be it municipal, provincial or federal has been remotely beneficial for the oil and gas industry and the province of Alberta. Probably not, but it’s a question worth asking.


Inquiring minds want to know.


Crude by Rail Inquiry


Some time back, a crude by rail strategy was developed and put in place by a government that was concerned that egress out of the province was insufficient and was holding back both prices and investment. Then, as these things happen, that government was turfed out by angry voters and the new government decided that crude by rail was a really dumb idea, no one wanted it, they were smarter and that they were going to make a pipeline investment anyway that would solve all the problems so they ditched the crude-by rail program and sold off the contracts at a steep loss and washed their hands of the whole affair.


Now, a mere two years later, we are in the midst of a bit of a supply crisis south of the border such that the actual President of the United States is asking other countries to produce and ship more oil.


Hmm. Who’d a thunk that.


At any rate, with only one new pipe in operation (finally) it would have been super cool to have some oil moving by rail, since according to CP, it’s super profitable and easy.


Question for the inquiry. Why did we ditch that strategy again? Was it spite? Hubris? A desire to lose money?


Inquiring minds want to know.



Whisky Inquiry


When he was busted on the Sky Palace balcony, Kenney and crew has a bottle Jamieson’s with them. Last time I checked, none of these dudes were irish. And Alberta has an award winning distillery right here in Calgary, conveniently named Alberta Distillers so you can’t get confused as to where the (Canadian, ahem) whisky comes from. Why weren’t these government types drinking local, especially since Jamieson’s is hot garbage.


Inquiring minds want to know.


Have a great week. Sorry for the short blog.

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