Crude Observations

Money Well Spent?

Well that’s annoying. As you can tell, this week’s blog is late (again). Rest assured, this is not a new thing I plan on doing. It was partially a deliberate choice. I had decided some time ago not to publish on 9/11 for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it was my daughter’s birthday and we had a small, socially distanced and masked birthday party planned at the Cat Café (it’s a thing – you get coffee and pet cats). Anyway, that was to be my afternoon, so I delayed publishing until the 12th.


But I did write the blog yesterday. Well most of it anyway. Then apparently sometime last night my waste of money computer crashed with said document open on the screen. No problem though, because we have the auto-recover file, right? What? No? Where is it? Gone. Along with my entire blog. Which was quite frankly pretty good. But now it’s gone and I have to reinvent it.


Fortunately, I have a great memory and can just rattle these things off as quickly as I can type.


Hmm. Not true at all. Rats.


Now what? Well, my carefully crafted review of US shale will have to wait another week. But how about a short reboot on the subject of wasting money, as there has been a topic trending recently that really bothered me a year ago and continues to bug me to this day.


And a word of warning – The following may well be an unpopular point of view. But hey, I like to speak my mind.


I am referring of course to recent developments regarding the ongoing inquiry into whether there is a campaign targeting Alberta oil by ENGO’s or as I referred to it when it started:


The House committee on Unalbertan Activities.


This is one of those things that the UCP announced as part of their election strategy that I thought was a bit pandering, but well-intentioned – a review of some of the purported evidence of foreign NGO interference in the energy sector.


This review was presumed to build off the work of Vivian Krause, an industry supporter who has catalogued the many millions of dollars that flow into Canadian environmental groups to support their anti fossil fuel causes. This of course has led many to believe that there is some form of sinister campaign to kneecap the Alberta economy by American dark money. There are a great many sector participants who talk about this, but I don’t think too many believe, but this was going to be a nod to those convinced – a “sure, we’ll take a look at that”. Form a committee, poke around, issue a confirmatory report and move on. Bob’s your uncle, right?


But the way the committee was formed immediately rubbed people the wrong way because it seemed unnecessarily heavy handed and biased and was led by a super connected political insider.


By way of update, the committee, after being duly formed and funded came back for more money, they revised their mandate to be way more general, the report is due soon, the NGO’s are saying they haven’t been consulted, the committee says don’t worry, we are still working on procedures but as I said like 50 words ago, the report is due soon. But if they don’t have procedures, how can they submit a report? It all feels like an exercise in genuine futility. And that’s because by and large it is.


Political theatre masquerading as an industry defense tucked into an echo chamber. Another grievance box for the Wexit crew along the lines of the Fair Deal Panel. Look, in all fairness the Fair Deal panel did come back some intriguing ideas, but I am skeptical that this report will come anywhere near that. I imagine instead that the final report of the Committee, which we will have to wait until 2021 to see will conclude that yes indeedy-do, there has been an ENGO funded campaign operating against the Canadian oil patch in general and Alberta in particular for decades which to anyone who follows these things should come as absolutely no surprise at all. I mean isn’t that why these organizations exist?


All for $3.5 million. Delivered late.


What a waste of taxpayer dollars.


I could have saved them a ton of cash, bad press and an online thrashing or 51.


I even tried, I really did. I offered up the following last year:


Look, can I make all this easier and just cut to the chase? Great.


Are US, international and Canadian ENGO’s engaging in a campaign to landlock Alberta oil with the stated goal of reducing GHGs and phasing out the fossil fuel industry? Are they targeting pipelines as part of that strategy? Are they targeting Canada because we are an absurdly self-loathing, rule of law obsessed and progressive globalist attention-seeking soft target? OF COURSE THEY ARE! It’s their jobs! Is it a conspiracy? I guess if you consider parties working together to achieve a desired result against a colossal and well-financed opposition and, let’s face it, a population that cares more about cat videos than energy infrastructure a conspiracy, then yeah. It is.


But it’s not a “conspiracy”. And the movement isn’t just targeting Canada. It just feels that way because it works better here. Vivian Krause has done a great job following the money. But the money doesn’t lead to a smoking gun, it leads to environmental groups. Whose purpose is to develop plans and campaigns to protect the environment. We don’t need a commission to find this out. They advertise it.


I think in general, we didn’t need government to ferret out the bad actors in this. We already know who they are. They are the ENGO’s who whisper sweet nothings in the ears of First Nations, get them to sponsor challenges and lawsuits and disappear to the next cause if they lose or after the photo op. It’s know-nothing celebrities doing drive-by smears of what is generally a well-run and conscientious industry. It’s also pipeline operators and marginal producers who cut corners and defer maintenance and get caught out when something goes sideways. It’s right leaning NGOs like the Koch Foundation funneling money into right leaning and fossil fuel industry supporting think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Fraser Institute and similar groups. It’s everywhere.


Don’t go looking for dark money unless you want to ferret out the whole truth, not just one side.


But this particular inquiry never appeared to want to strike that balance. It caters to the lowest common denominator, is unnecessarily confrontational and, with a seemingly predetermined outcome, it’s just political theatre. How can it be anything but theatre – it barely has a budget and has anyone actually participated in a session that you know of?


As such, no matter the conclusion, it won’t change any hearts and minds. Those who believe will continue to believe. The rest of Canada outside of Alberta won’t be moved, won’t care and thinks we’re off our rocker. The left and the ENGO cohort will continue to have a field day mocking everything that is going on.


The end result for people like me is that I am wanting to promote and defend the oil and gas industry and instead of being proactive and operating from a position of strength, I’m forced to fight a panicked rear-guard action against an army of ironically named Twitter trolls that stalk and mock all things Alberta.


Look, industry is changing. The traditional lines between different types of energy production are getting increasingly blurry. The pandemic and climate change is driving this. Industry gets it. Net zero is the lexicon of the day. We can have a robust energy sector when the pandemic starts to fade in the rear view mirror – we have to – because in Alberta and Western Canada we are blessed with the best combination of resource availability anywhere on the planet whether it be oil, gas, solar, wind, geothermal or hydro. But they need to all work together. Battling the insidious boogeymen of US and international ENGO’s is fighting yesterday’s battle when we have so many other more pressing issues to deal with to get our industry and our entire province moving in a positive direction.


The oil and gas industry is populated by sophisticated and intelligent businessmen and women. They, and we, will be fine. We can handle the waves of negative press and protest. Always have. I have always said that what industry needs is a stable and predictable regulatory framework, not a cheerleader. Protest Federal government intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, strengthen ties with existing and potential customer jurisdictions. And encourage the energy sector to do a better job at self-promotion, self-regulation and listening to what the public is telling them.


But please, park the witch hunt against bearded hipsters, grandmothers and stewards of the land backed by funds and foundations that “just want to save the planet”. That battle was lost before it even started.


I know it was campaign promise. But some promises don’t need to be fulfilled.


Well there you have it. I didn’t set out down this path. But as luck would have it, thanks to Office 365 and an unstable Windows 10 Dell laptop this is where I ended up. Blame Bill Gates I guess.

Crude Observations
Sign up for the Stormont take on the latest industry news »

Recent Posts