Crude Observations

Lazy. Spring. Break. Stones.

Oy. It’s been a hell of week. But it’s over. And now I need to do a blog. But after this week, my level of motivation is low.


Why? Because after the trials of Hercules (sort of) we finally got to start spring break. If you are in that rarified circle of confidence, you know it’s been a heck of a ride to get here.


So that buys me a modicum of laziness. As a result, I am going to rerun one of my favourite blogs from the last few years.


But first, a couple of quick hits on current events…


Trudeau/Singh Bromance.


This is a move that is 100% allowed in the rules parliament and Westminster traditions etc. But I don’t care. It is a cynical move designed to subvert the actual democratic message delivered by the electorate.


There is a reason that the Liberals under Trudeau are in their second consecutive minority government, even against the weakest tandem of CPC leaders in years. It’s because the electorate is split and wants the Liberals held to account.


There is a reason the NDP is relegated to fourth party status. They are liberal-lite, bereft of ideas and fire and money.


This is a weak-ass marriage of convenience between two flawed leaders who are on the way out. The LPC doesn’t need it. The NDP rank and file should be embarrassed by it. The CPC may even figure out how to win with it.


UCP Leadership Review changes.


The UCP set rules for the leadership review. Then, when too many people signed up and their facility couldn’t handle the registrations, they changed the rules. Now everyone who is a part member can vote by mail instead of in person whether they registered for the formal event or not.


There is only one word for this.


Unethical. Well maybe two words, but this is a family publication.


NCAA Basketball


My bracket is busted.


OK, now on the to the lazy blog and why this particular one? Well mainly because my daughter wore a “She’s a Rainbow” t-shirt yesterday, which is one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs.


But also because it’s got an energy theme and a kickass Spotify playlist (linked at the end) that you can all play at your Spring Break shindigs, wherever that may be.


So, as the Stones say – Start Me Up!




Ironically, back in 2020, I realized OPEC has been around as long as the Rolling Stones. Then I realized I had missed Mick Jagger’s birthday. Not that we send each other cards anymore or anything like that, I just pride myself on remembering these things and remembered that I hadn’t noted it.


Then I read that, unlike OPEC, the Rolling Stones were planning a 60th anniversary tour in 2022, assuming everyone in the band makes it that far (and really, what are the odds Keith Richards would be impacted by COVID, he’s not even human).


Then I got to thinking about set lists and what prolific songwriters and communicators the Stones were and it suddenly came together for me.


Stones. Kenney. Energy. OPEC. Alberta. Messaging. Words. Blog. Theme.


Are you with me on this? Because it’s going to be freaking amazing!


Ideas for Alberta, the energy sector and our UCP overlords, all in the form of a lame-ass tribute to Rolling Stones songs. What could go wrong? Aside from plenty? Not so much.


Alright, Start Me Up people.


First off, a little Sympathy For the Devil. Without a doubt, Jason Kenney has been dealt the mother of all lousy hands in the current circumstances what with COVID, price wars, pipeline angst, foreign funded activists who may or may not be plotting against him and the son of sometime Mick Jagger party mate Margaret Trudeau foiling him at every turn. He could easily be forgiven for reaching for Mother’s Little Helper or telling everyone to just Get Off My Cloud.


Further to that, I think it’s important to note that in the general scheme of things, the energy world is going through some serious transformation and self-reflection and demand curves notwithstanding, the old way of doing things in the oil and gas industry is just that – the old way. I think it’s unfair to say, as many people do, that It’s All Over Now, but for a province used to fabulous booms and good times on the back of rampant exploration activity and runaway commodity prices, that we are Out of Time on that.


So there’s two ways to go – double down on the old ways, hope for a boom and be the stick in the mud denialist  trying to do the same things over and over again OR we need to maybe emulate the Rolling Stones way of doing things a bit more and embrace change (without the substance abuse of course). Look, no band in the history of rock has adapted itself to changing times as well and with as much success as the Rolling Stones while staying true to their roots and origin story.


Alberta can have that too. We can figuratively embrace country, honky tonk and the disco era while still realizing that energy in all its forms informs what we are as a province and economy. Time is (not) on My Side in this, but the economy is a far cry from being Shattered, no matter how far prices have fallen.


So no more booms like we are used to. Well, tough. You Can’t Always Get What You want. However, if we can at least learn to adapt to the new environment and embrace change we can avoid a 19th Nervous Breakdown.


I’m thinking something along the lines of Jumping Jack Flash and pursuing a strategy of gas, gas, gas. I know we are already doing that but the clock is ticking. There is a real opportunity to double down on natural gas’s status as a so-called transition fuel and opportunistically ramp up exports to the United States where their own export capacity and shale induced decline rates are chewing up their supply surplus. This creates opportunity for Canadian gas producers in the medium term while projects like LNG Canada will provide critical export avenues for BC and Alberta. That said, a second and third LNG plant on the BC coast, as hoped for by the UCP, are about as likely finding yourself 2000 Light Years From Home.


So, given the whole Good Times, Bad Times vibe for large LNG infrastructure projects for LNG and the prospects for more development of oilsands being primarily Love in Vain, what strategies should we pursue for fossil fuels aside from letting CNRL buy it all up?


Well, we might consider the Bob Dylan idea – helping the oilsands go electric. Wait, what? That’s right. Going electric baby. Which is ironic, because the Stones were electrocuted on stage in 1965. Anyway, Right now, the bulk of SAGD operations in the oilsands are powered by electricity and heat generated by burning natural gas which contributes to their massive CO2 footprint. But imagine for a moment how we could change the carbon footprint of the oilsands if, say, we got power from a renewable source like Site C instead of just burning stuff. Don’t believe it works? Well considering that the Norwegian Johann Sverup oil project gets close to 90% of its low-carbon bonafides because the whole operation is powered by an underwater power transmission line energized by onshore hydro projects, why not? Look, I’m Free to suggest any crazy scheme I want, do you have a better idea? Are you telling me that we can’t do that kind of thing here in Alberta? Look, I have No Expectations that this is going to be easy, but it’s gotta be easier than  Small Modular Nuclear Reactors that use technology that doesn’t even exist yet. When given a choice between The Spider and The Fly, don’t be Pence, pick the spider.


Since I’m clearly on a roll, I’ll move on. Pipelines are always a big topic here in Alberta where we currently have two under definitive construction (the Federal govt owned TransMountain Expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement) and one under sort of construction (Joe Biden’s favourite Keystone XL). These pipelines are important to Alberta and if two of the three are built, we should count our blessings. If all three get built, we should buy lottery tickets. It’s The Last Time. Seriously, it’s time to be truthful with ourselves, we are way more likely to get rich on a lottery ticket than betting on a fourth pipeline happening. The ones being built will serve the needs of Canadian producers well into the 2030s, regardless of growth scenario. Even the Underassistant West Coast Promotion Man can’t help with anymore pipelines.


Another thing I have been thinking of regarding our future is that why do we feel the need to study and panelize and invent own solutions. In the world of renewables, because that is where I am going with this, there is a well-worn compendium of successful projects and implementations in jurisdictions that are very similar to our own. We should not be ashamed to steal ideas that work. Like any successful band, the Rolling Stones didn’t write all of their own music, they have a great legacy of outstanding covers and pilfered genius. Don’t believe me? Route 66, Harlem Shuffle, I Wanna Be Your Man ring a bell? Look, I Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and neither should the government be. If there are highly successful programs that will further stimulate the renewable energy economy here in Alberta, let’s get that Little Red Rooster out of storage and use it.


Moving on to the next leg of solving the Alberta economic conundrum is addressing the over-reliance of the economy on oil and gas and looking for ways to diversify. This silver bullet is easier said than done, and is way harder than empty sloganeering. We need some pretty potent incentives rather than some of the disincentives our critics say we have in spades. Like enough Sittin’ On A Fence, let’s get on with it. Government can be the Beast of Burden here with both broad based and targeted tax incentives to encourage the burgeoning technology sector set down deeper roots, occupy some empty buildings and get employment moving in the right direction. If it means we have to put on a bigger and better Stampede and roll out the Honky Tonk Women to get commitments, so be it.


I know I wrote a whole column about this previously, but we need to have a serious conversation about a provincial sales tax in Alberta. We need to get off the populist referendum delay and just do it. It is the most direct path to plugging the revenue hole and getting off the royalty rollercoaster. Come on UCP, take a chance – let’s see those Tumbling Dice!


Next up is the highly fractious and fraught relationship with the federal government and our overall beefs about equalization, provincial powers and the like. My own take on this is that, rather than complaining all the time about transfers and equalization, maybe we should be looking to make even bigger equalization contributions to Ottawa. Sacrilege right? But hang on – clearly I’m out there on this and I’ve been warned not to Play With Fire plus if I push too hard I’m going to need someone to Gimme Shelter, but I think I’m on to something. In a case where Alberta contributes more to confederation, it’s way more than just more cash in the jeans of that Trudeau devil and his dreamy Far Away Eyes, rather I think it can serve as a reminder to Justin that “You Got the Silver, but…” you know how it ends. Not to mention, higher tax transfers too Ottawa means that Albertans are back to earning substantially more per capita that the rest of the country. Which is a good thing, right? Beats Waiting on a Friend to fix things for us As Tears Go By.


The next little bit is maybe going to seem obvious, but I think we lose track of this in our world of constant conflict and hyper partisanship. First off, someone needs to come to this government’s Emotional Rescue. We spend way too much time in perpetual conflict. I feel like everyone would benefit if we could just simply calm things down, I mean, It’s Only Rock and Roll right? The rhetoric and ill will that is endemic in the United States does not need to be here – they’ve even wrecked Sweet Virginia.


Here in Canada, we simply don’t conflict that way, it’s not terribly Canadian. Civility in politics, we Miss You! Take it from me, Canada is not Black and White, east and west, French and English. She’s a Rainbow but if you take her for granted, well, man, She’s So Cold.



So here’s my message to Jason Kenney, you don’t have to be a Fool to Cry, stop trying to tame Wild Horses. You can be the Midnight Rambler. Just stop trying to be the Street Fighting Man.


There you go. I did it. I managed to get a play list down and ruin the Rolling Stones for my readers. All in one sitting. But what can I say? When you decide to take a cut at something, you have to Let It Bleed.


Click here for the Playlist

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