Dear Mulcair: Connect your short term oil goals with energy transformation

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has finally listened to the legions of Globe and Mail comment thread participants (and some other people, of course!) who repeatedly urge policy makers and oil companies to build a pipeline West -> East. I believe Bob Rae has talked about this idea approvingly as well. Why? Because Western Canada exports oil at a “discount”, and Eastern Canada pays “full price” from non-Canadian sources.

In a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto at the Royal York Hotel, the federal NDP leader gave his clearest sign of support yet for the notion of a West to East pipeline that would allow producers to receive higher prices for their crude oil.

The NDP leader’s speech also repeated his concern that western energy developers are not paying the full cost of the environmental consequences of their projects. He said this is leading to an artificially high Canadian dollar, which hurts other sectors of the economy.

Mulcair wants East-West Pipeline

The full text of his comments can be seen at iPolitics and has much more than Globe and Mail Report (it wouldn’t have fanned the flames otherwise).

Mulcair spoke about this pipeline, he also talked a lot about income inequality, robust government, and making polluters pay. He talked about strengthening environmental safeguards, ending fossil fuel subsidies and more.

What he didn’t say: That tackling climate change requires a fundamental transformation of our system.

Sometimes, what is not said is more important than what is said.

If this proposal to use Canadian oil more “judiciously” by building a short-term closed supply chain is just part of a clear plan to go to a renewables and demand-reduction based energy transformation, propose away. We do need to hold both these truths in our heads at once: The tarsands are a big source of short-term revenue feeding our fossil fuel based culture, and unchecked climate change will kill many. It isn’t possible to cut fossil fuel use to zero next year, but it is imperative to cut emissions from fossil fuel use to near zero in the medium-term. Any policy that makes sense within that main objective should be looked at on its merits, but ending fossil fuel emissions soon HAS to be a cornerstone of any progressive energy policy, the crisis demands no less.

So Mr Mulcair, propose oil pipelines if you wish, it may make for good short-term politics (read comments below the article), and who knows, maybe even tolerable policy. But remember to frame it as part of the necessary energy transformation. Politics is messy, and lasting change requires a broad coalition, don’t alienate progressive supporters right away.


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