"Oil is over" -- "Oil is dead" (May 10, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning! 

And to all mothers reading this, Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mother’s Day was made on Friday with a delivery call from the door of our building to say I had flowers. It was the first time my 28-year old Cate has ever sent me flowers. And what a gorgeous bouquet of local flowers and ethically sourced and packaged! (A shout out to the Victoria florist Cate found on line, for COVID precautions and ecological blooms – Bespoke Blossoms) And a note: “Happy Mother’s Day – Sending lots of contact-free love and hugs!”

So, in an odd way, I can thank this oppressive time of pandemic and distancing for my first-ever Mother’s Day flowers. If we had hugs, I would not have needed the flowers nearly as much. John says I light up whenever I look at my bouquet – as if I am smiling at Cate.

I got back Thursday night from the stretch of 10 days in Ottawa. I was able to cover two face to face sessions in Parliament– now held every Wednesday – as well as the non-stop, all day long sessions of various standing committees, as well as virtual sittings by zoom on Tuesday and Thursday. The 24-7 work on COVID19 and responding to pandemic hit a milestone yesterday – the 50th daily briefing for parliamentarians by telephone conference from senior civil servants and officials. We deal daily, and, for most of the last few weeks, seven days a week, on the wide array of problems and technical details of new well-intentioned and invariably flawed programmes.

As Greens, we have not had any media coverage in quite a while so we decided to hold a news conference on Wednesday morning May 6th. My theme was to discuss the various options under study for virtual parliament. I had no intention of creating a media storm. Nor had I planned to say what I wrote in last week’s GSM: “Oil is over.”

CBC reporter Julie Van Dusen asked about a bail out for the oil sands and attempted to summarize my response. I shared with the media the many reports I wrote about in last week’s GSM. She asked “are you saying oil is dead?”

Would the outraged protestations been any different if I had said “oil is over?” I doubt it.

I am not uncomfortable with being attacked. It is not a happy place to be, but someone had to be the first one to say what a gathering global consensus knows.

We are being bombarded with demands that the federal government provide a further $20 billion in bail out funds for an industry that is struggling against market forces, an historic plunge in demand, Saudi-Russian manipulations to push the price through the floor, inherent low value, with the added reality that “saving” it poses a threat to our future.

The defense of oil has a predictable number of recited facts, most of which are exaggerations. John Ivison wrote what was, at least, a respectful piece disagreeing with me. His column in the National Post gives me a perfect opportunity to confront some of the wild and false claims about our dependence on oil and gas. (I have written a reply to the NP. We’ll see if they decide to print it!)

It never ceases to amaze me how frequently the so-called facts are cited as a compelling reason that we absolutely must prop up a dying industry.

Ivison: “It is the country’s largest export industry, responsible for 10 per cent of GDP; employs more than half a million people; and, contributes around $8 billion in tax revenues.”

Fact: Oil and gas are 5.6% of GDP; 169,000 jobs (1%) and $2.13 billion revenue and taxes combined at federal and provincial level.

425 foreign owned, so 42% of dividends go offshore.

Source: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/energy-and-economy/20062

Ivison: “The price of Western Canadian Select has stabilized, trading at around $22 on Thursday, but that’s still below break-even for many producers.”

True enough, but does a $22/barrel price make bitumen viable?

Not according to the Government of Alberta (2019): “the breakeven [WTI] price for a new stand‑alone mine is currently within the US$75‑85/ bbl range,” while in-situ production is lower, at around US$55 or US$60 per barrel”

I hope to continue this conversation. You can watch my debate with former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall today on CTV “Question Period” -11:00 AM ET/8:00 AM PT. It also airs on the CTV News Channel at 2:00 PM PT.

See below in the post script a number of important announcements and the links to my full press conference and my article in Policy magazine setting out the case for the end of oil sands bitumen as a viable product.

Stay well. Stay safe.

We will get through this together – and Happy Mother’s Day!

Love and thanks,



The results of the Green Party federal council election will be released today.

On May 13, please join Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin and me for a national bilingual webinar on what kind of world we want after the pandemic.

Register at this link.

May 6th Press conference

Speech: Elizabeth May speaks on the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands

Policy magazine article explaining why “oil is dead".

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