It's about the economy

Good Sunday Morning

suzuki.jpgGreens often feel misunderstood when we are perceived as being a one issue party. Fact is Green policy platforms have repeatedly demonstrated that we offer a comprehensive approach and that we seek complete solutions to the challenges of our time. But all those solutions are, in the end, intrinsically linked to the environment. When David Suzuki wants journalists to forget about the Dow Jones and report on climate change every day, it's because he understands that our civilization (which includes the Dow Jones) depends on it.
Except for the nuclear option, all our energy is generated by the sun. Plants capture that energy through photosynthesis and power the food chain. Ancient plants used photosynthesis to capture carbon and sequester it underground over millions of years. Eventually this made it possible to have a 10,000 year sweet spot of climate stability that allowed us to invent agriculture. We all depend on the natural processes powered by the sun. As we have exploded our human numbers, we depend on our ability to grow food reliably for our survival. And when we feel all powerful and in control, it's good to remind ourselves that the industrial revolution has not yielded a single new staple in our food supply.

But it's not just agriculture. All our natural resources come from our environment. Forestry, fishing, mining, and yes, even oil, are not human constructs. They all come from the natural world that surrounds us. It's obvious to most that our tourism industry depends on the environment but so does every other sector. Every programmer, every designer, every tech entrepreneur needs clean water and food to survive. Every waitress and administrator depends on clean air to breathe. Every one is hoping for a better future for their children. The wealth that makes it possible for us to invent, innovate, even to enjoy sports and culture is extracted from our environment.

It's a simple economic argument that even an investment banker should understand. Do we live off our interest, or do we draw down our principle? Are we prepared to leave an empty bank account to our children? Or do we protect the future and draw our wealth from the fruits of our ecological assets? Do we really want to mortgage our future to supplement the income of large corporations and the billionaire class? Sustainability and responsible government is about answering these questions.

enbridge_pipe.jpgThe other day I attended an all candidates debate at a local school. The BC Liberal candidate answered a query about the risks of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and associated tanker traffic by declaring that they will never have a spill. An investment banker by profession, he was obviously prepared to dismiss the risks. It reminded me of the brazen reliance on alternate facts that are offered to support mega projects and unfettered economic growth again and again. The housing bubble will never burst. Banks can't fail. Oil will rebound to $100 a barrel. Electricity rates will rise to make 16 cents a kilowatt seem cheap. Fracking will never contaminate our water supply. LNG tankers can't explode. Pipelines don't leak.

Artificial intelligence, automation and the convergence of cheap solar, wind and mega battery capacity are global in scale and scope. The speed of this revolution alone make it foolhardy to invest billions in carbon infrastructure that has to be amortized over decades. Markets are neither reliable nor predictable anymore. The Chinese brag that they don't care about legislative bodies or protests from the people, they simply make the decision on the numbers and can change their mind (and their direction) in a heartbeat.

Oil produced from tar sands requires $80 oil prices to be viable. Brakken shale oil, bitumen's biggest competitor which although fracked is promoted as a sweat crude, arrives at the market for between $40 and $60 a barrel. Meanwhile, as we have discussed before, solar is now able to deliver energy in many parts of the world at an oil equivalent price of $10 per barrel. The writing is on the wall that the age of burning fossil fuels is coming to a close. And when it does, who pays the price? Who will pay off the debt? Who will pay for the cleanup? Who will pay for decommissioning outdated, toxic infrastructure?

boon_doggle.jpgHow ironic that conservatives are prepared to roll that dice. How ironic that so many conservatives don't actually believe in conserving. The mantra of "bringing our resources to market" now adopted by the Liberals is both misleading and simply does not fit our time. It is a last century construct. It is rooted in an outdated paradigm. To cling to that paradigm we have to ignore the dramatic changes that are occurring in the global economy and be prepared to bet our economic future on the failure of effective climate action. 

But the Kinder Morgan pipeline wasn't approved by the Conservatives. As Elizabeth recounts in her recent keynote at a Raincoast fundraiser, they simply paved the way by gutting our environmental review process. Elizabeth May, Adam Olsen and Andrew Weaver were intervenors in the NEB review process; a charade to put it mildly. When the federal Liberals promised Real-Change and evidence based decision making, many were led to believe that this sham would come to an end. Instead we saw the fallacy of the "in the interest of Canada" argument perpetuated. We saw the Liberals accept the NDP narrative coming from Alberta that "Rachael needs a pipeline." Then we heard them trumpeting that by approving pipelines they were able to do what the Conservatives failed to accomplish.

BCSEA_debates_poster_twitter.jpgIn the end it seems to matter little what commitments are made during elections by the entrenched establishment parties. The old cycle remains. Make lots of promises - win a majority government - do what you like. The only way to break that cycle is to distinguish between those who deeply believe in the future and those who are committed to clinging to the past. Those who can freely represent the people and those who are forced to tow the party line. Those who are financed by special interests and those who care about you.

Hitching our economic wagon to a dying carbon industry or an out of control housing bubble is dangerous, whether we do it to generate phantom wealth for speculators or in the hope of reviving the industrial jobs of the past. To embrace the future, government has to ensure that responsible, sustainable choices become the default option for everyone. It has to be prepared to lead.

I suspect the candidates debate I attended isn't going to be the only one that highlights these contrasts. No doubt the next BC Leaders Debate will do just that. On Monday you can also attend an all candidates debate about BC's energy future sponsored by the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.

walk4salish_sea.jpgIf you live in the lower mainland you can hear Elizabeth deliver a keynote address at a public meeting on tankers and pipelines in Vancouver today. And on May 2nd you can participate in a Kinder Morgan Pipeline debate at the Vancouver Public Library that asks the question: Boon or Boondoggle?

And finally, don't forget to mark your calendar for the Walk 4 the Salish Sea. It starts in Victoria and goes all the way to Vancouver. You can walk as much or as little as you like. It will be a fabulous demonstration that we stand united with the Indigenous people, determined to protect our home.

Have a great Sunday,
Thomas


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