Energy East is bad for Albertans too

Building another pipeline is not a nation-building exercise, it's a step back in time


 energy east

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CALGARY, Alta. Feb. 10, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Energy East would be bad for Alberta, contrary to popular opinion.

Building the pipeline would contribute nothing to solving the most serious economic problem we face: excessive dependence on the oil and gas industry.

Many pipelines already carry Alberta-produced hydrocarbons to market every day. We don’t need more.

But we do need to quit our extreme dependence on oil and gas as quickly as possible. The desperate promotion of Energy East by the industry and some government officials is both a distraction from this task and an exacerbation of the problem itself.

Sadly, Alberta’s NDP government is among those Energy East promoters. Many in government probably know better but are by now too intimidated by industry to object.

This is not an argument in favour of shutting Alberta’s oil and gas industry down. The industry’s continued presence in our economy should not be in doubt. Alberta will have an oil and gas industry for generations if the rate of production is slowed and industry operations are managed sustainably – very differently from the way they are now.  It simply needs to be scaled down so we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and be regulated much, much more strictly for environmental and social impact.

The claim that Energy East is a nation-building project is ludicrous. Unlike a railroad running across the continent, or a program giving young people the experience of other parts of Canada (such as the now defunct Katimavik) or a countrywide push to take in thousands of refugees, a buried pipeline does zero to bring people together.

It is also pointless to argue that the foreign oil that Eastern Canadians import should be replaced by product shipped via Energy East. Easterners, too, should be moving off oil.

The oil and gas industry is concerned with maximizing profit, not in helping Alberta adapt to this century’s challenges. The industry serves Albertans when it is getting its way but turns very ugly when things go bad, such as when prices decline and thousands of people are dropped from payrolls.

The oil and gas industry is the business establishment in Alberta and it uses that immense power to suppress Albertans’ need and desire for change. And those in politics who servilely cheer the industry on are part of the establishment problem. As Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. presidency, says, “. . .  it’s just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.” The same is true in Alberta.

Prolonging our heavy reliance on fossil fuels will be a disaster for Albertans. The necessary move away from fossil fuels has begun globally and unless we are part of the transition to renewable energy sources, we won’t get an appropriate share of investment and jobs in the new low-carbon economy. In that event, Alberta will be a grim place indeed.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, recently put it this way: “Whether you build the next pipeline or not . . . the economy of Canada will not be centred around a fossil-fuel-based extractive economy.”

The world is moving on and we’d better get with the program.

Albertans’ time, money and political capital should be devoted to rapid development of clean, renewable energy and other sustainable industries, not Energy East.

We need urgently to move on, too.

Janet Keeping is leader of the Green Party of Alberta.

Janet is a Troy Media contributor. [popup url=”” height=”600″ width=”600″ scrollbars=”0″] Why aren’t you?[/popup]

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.

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