From 3 Sep 2012
From 3 Sep 2012
That’s right, Golden America, the Shining City on the Hill, is on the verge of utter, complete ruin. Put it this way: “Making a Garbage Heap Great Again” is nothing but a fool’s errand. Lamentably, there do seem to be a lot of fools running around who have not yet come to grips with that starkly brutal fact.
I have been blogging for years about precisely this salient reality, the rapidly unfolding Event Horizon that will change everything and everyone in a comparatively short period of time. In fact, the changes will be so dramatically severe that a whole series of mass mortality events of all kinds are all but baked in the cake at this point. To be blunt, large hordes of people will most likely be going bye-bye. Whether there will be a resident human population on this planet in 2050, or even in 2035, remains to be seen. What comes next will be vertiginously fast, kaleidoscopic pandemonium.
The causes of the upheaval(s), which have already begun, are and will be myriad: abrupt climate change and associated massive crop failures due to unseasonable cold, heat waves, drought or alternatively flooding/too much rain; rampant deforestation of the large tropical and boreal forests; death of the global ocean, i.e., poisoning of and industrial overfishing of the world’s seas and oceans; ongoing radioactive contamination of the environment from Chernobyl, Fukushima and 400 other nuclear power plants around the world, all of which have grave problems; plagues of dangerous pathogenic organisms, whether naturally occurring or bio-engineered; the already begun, chaotic collapse of the global economic order; profoundly-unfriendly-to-humans-and-other-living-things 5G communications technology and related A.I. and robotic technologies, including on a swarming micro- and nano-scale; major warfare employing various weapons of mass destruction, both novel and non-novel; ongoing accumulation of plastics and hundreds of other toxic substances in the global ecology; the continuing, run-away global extinction event that not one person in one hundred has yet fully grokked — but they will! they will! – though only when it is already far too late to do anything about it but weep in desperation, and the concomitant collapse of the global food chain; the already underway, confused failure of national governments all over the world; powerful geological, volcanic and seismic events, some of them impressively large; and very much more.
It goes almost without saying that ordinary politics, as we have known political affairs, are about to be completely swamped by a great tidal wave of turbulent, unpredictable change that will have much greater momentum. Think about it: the present cohort of stupid, ignorant, sleazy, lying, thieving, corrupt politicians who think they run the world, can scarcely manage the greatly degraded, declining, poorly functioning societies and political, monetary, industrial, agricultural, diplomatic and military affairs that currently fall under their purview. Imagine how that corrupt, mobbed-up, marginally competent, global political class will perform when the system(s) that they ostensibly oversee catastrophically fail.
It is not a pleasant prospect, and yet, that is precisely what is on the way, as surely as night follows day.
I have repeatedly been shown this word or symbol inwardly, in dreaming and visionary states. The way I have rendered it is a close approximation of the way it appears, the nearest I could find in my word processing program’s special character list.
I have always seen it written or tattooed on the back of a serpent that closely resembles the copperhead pit vipers native to the eastern region of the mainland USSA.
In recent days, I have again seen this symbol or word, as well as the serpent on which it invariably appears. It is clearly written on its back, right behind the head. My subconscious deems this viper and the message that it bears to be important, because it keeps showing it to me. The serpent itself was a bit lethargic and groggy. I sensed that it was warming up, gathering itself. I had the distinct impression that it was awakening from a long period of hibernation, and was soon to be released into the wild.
For me, the clear purport of the vision is that the heavily leveraged, debt-based, vastly criminally corrupt, global financial and economic systems are about to catastrophically unwind with deadly effect, not unlike the way a coiled pit viper unwinds when it bares its fangs and suddenly strikes its prey.
Debt. Death. Dead.
I don’t doubt for one second that Paul Craig Roberts is correct about the future of “America” — what is left will be a ruin.
By Emily Smith and Ebony Bowden, PageSix.com
Aug 1, 2019
The world’s rich and famous have flocked to a posh Italian resort to talk about saving Mother Earth — but they sure are punishing her in the process.
The billionaire creators of Google have invited a who’s who of A-list names — including former President Barack Obama, Prince Harry, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry — to the Sicilian seaside for a mega-party they’ve dubbed Google Camp.
The three-day event will focus on fighting climate change — though it’s unknown how much time the attendees will spend discussing their own effect on the environment, such as the scores of private jets they arrived in and the mega yachts many have been staying on.
“Everything is about global warming, that is the major topic this year,” a source told The Post.
Their three-day summer camp will cost the tech giant some $20 million, sources said.
Many of the guests, including Obama and DiCaprio — who has his own climate change foundation — have described global warming as the biggest threat to future generations.
But according to Italian press reports, the attendees were expected to show up in 114 private jets, and 40 had arrived by Sunday.
The Post crunched the numbers and found that 114 flights from Los Angeles to Palermo, Italy, where Camp guests landed, would spew an estimated 100,000 kilograms of CO2 into the air.
“Google Camp is meant to be a place where influential people get together to discuss how to make the world better,” one regular attendee told The Post.
“There will likely be discussions about online privacy, politics, human rights, and of course, the environment, which makes it highly ironic that this event requires 114 private jets to happen,” they said.
Attendees pay for their own travel to Sicily, but then Google foots the bill for everything at the opulent Verdura Resort, which reportedly features two golf courses and where rooms start at $903 a night.
Sources tell The Post that guests were personally invited by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Stars there also include Harry Styles, Orlando Bloom, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, who arrived on their enormous $200 million yacht Eos, which has both sails and two 2,300-horsepower diesel engines.
Billionaire Dreamworks founder David Geffen, meanwhile, gave Perry and Bloom a ride on his $400 million yacht, Rising Sun.
Also on hand for the environmental gabfest was the megayacht Andromeda, a 351-foot behemoth owned by a New Zealand billionaire and which features its own helipad.
Many of the attendees were seen in photos tooling around the island in high-speed sports vehicles, including Perry, who has made videos for UNICEF about climate change and was seen in a Maserati SUV that gets about 15 mpg city.
Stella McCartney, Bradley Cooper, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra plus Gayle King will also be on hand. Even Mark Zuckerberg of Google’s rival, Facebook, was invited, according to local reports.
Guests dine among ancient temples and are treated to performances by the likes of Sting, Elton John and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, before retiring to their suites at the Verdura Resort.
The tech company goes to extreme measures to keep its camp a secret — all hotel staff and security have to sign non-disclosure agreements, a source told the Daily Mail in 2018.
JULY 23, 2019
It is fair to say that most people in the modern world regard nature as a collection of “resources” that exist solely for our aggrandizement. Even the foremost putative “progressives” now on the national stage (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, et al.) argue that we should continue to exploit resources to keep the capitalist growth machine humming, but that we must do it more gently, more ”sustainably,” with more intensive application of advanced technology, with “green” production of energy from wind, solar, hydro, and the like.
The central problem of our time, I’ve come to conclude, is that humanity now consists predominantly of “resourcists” — which is to say, humanists. I mean humanists in the ugliest and most benighted sense of that word: that man is the center and measure of all things, and all other life is subordinate, reduced to a resource.
Too much of Earth, as we know, has been subjugated by techno-industrial Homo sapiens, and that we regard this collectively not with the horror it merits is a testament to our complacent self-regard as vaunted humanists. Maybe in this late hour of modernity, when our dominance is leading to suicide via capitalogenic climate upheaval, it is time to imbibe a dose of anti-humanism.
Toward that end, I would suggest a strenuous interrogation of the anthropocentric principles at the core of Western civilization, which is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian civilization. This sounds like an odd place to start for the establishment of a truly progressive view of the natural world. Bear with me.
In 1966, a professor of medieval history named Lynn White Jr., attending the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, presented a lecture that would go on to live in infamy. Later published in Science, it was titled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” Ending the ecological crisis was White’s primary concern. White singled out Judeo-Christian religion as the historical villain, calling it “the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.”
He argued that the Judeo-Christian conception of a planet made solely for man’s exploitation, as laid out in the book of Genesis, freed humankind to lay waste to the environment. The message of Judeo-Christianity is that man alone is infused with the spirit of the one true God while everything else is soulless matter relegated to human use.
Pause a moment to recall the words of Genesis:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
It was this worldview, White argued, that replaced pagan animism, with profound consequences. In pagan animism, “every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit,” wrote White. “Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.” With this disenchantment “man’s effective monopoly on spirit [was] confirmed” — and the inhibitions that held back the total pillage of the natural world crumbled.
Then White made a fascinating leap:
The present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which [originated] in the Western medieval world [and which] cannot be understood historically apart from distinctive attitudes toward nature which are deeply grounded in Christian dogma. The fact that most people do not think of these attitudes as Christian is irrelevant. No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.
This was the claim which earned him infamy: that the ideology of techno-scientific humanism, forged in the crucible of the European Middle Ages and bequeathed to the world by Western civilization — an ideology that now holds sway over every corner of the planet — grew directly out of Judeo-Christian values. Humanism was the secular realization “of the Christian dogma of man’s transcendence of, and rightful mastery over, nature.”
The subject of This Land, my first book, is the American West, a region that can be understood in part as a Judeo-Christian artifact, as a province whose native people and wildlife have been colonized by a civilization that regards nature, and will never regard it otherwise, as an object to be exploited. Dig beneath the skin of the livestock rancher, the oilman, the coal miner, the logger, the wildlife manager, the Chamber of Commerce official, the tourism booster — you’ll find a dominionist.
The killing of wild predators to protect cattle, the damming of wild rivers for hydro energy and irrigation to feed industrial agriculture, the logging of forests for what the timber industry calls “sustained yield,” the landscape-scale fracking of the public domain, the management of national parks as zoos for mass visitation: they are all expressions of the same urge to use and control, with wild nature as an afterthought, subsidiary to the all-encompassing vision of resourcism.
It’s always about use — and that’s the problem. That’s where we are intellectually defective, unable to grasp what’s at hand, unable to forge a humble, reverent, altruistic relationship with the natural world. Even among those who claim to be environmentalists I see a secularized variant of this same toxic Judeo-Christian anthropocentrism that views the natural world as providing, for example, “ecosystem services” — clean air, clean water. A resource!
But what about the natural world that doesn’t provide any resource for the chosen ones? What about the rich tapestry of useless lovely wild things whose vast intelligence we will never know? Unveiling and celebrating the wild that serves no human end is the unspoken purpose of my book.
A version of this article originally appeared on Powells.com
Invited to the session by an environmental caucus called Accellerons – formed to fight what its members call “the climate emergency” – Thunberg will speak before French lawmakers on Tuesday.
However, some MPs from the conservative Republicans and National Rally parties are unimpressed.
“We don’t need apocalyptic gurus to fight climate change intelligently, we need scientific progress and political courage,” Republican Guillaume Larrivé tweeted, calling on his colleagues to give the session a miss.
J’appelle mes collègues députés à boycotter @GretaThunberg à l’Assemblée nationale. Pour lutter intelligemment contre le réchauffement climatique, nous n’avons pas besoin de gourous apocalyptiques, mais de progrès scientifique & de courage politique.https://twitter.com/LCP/status/1152590233000714247?s=20 …
[ÉVÈNEMENT] La jeune militante pour le #climat @GretaThunberg sera à l’Assemblée nationale, le mardi 23 juillet.
Suivez son allocution sur les comptes Twitter et Facebook de LCP. #DirectAN Cc @amisdelaterre @PrFeuillage @EncoreTemps_ @Alternatiba_ @RACFrance @Reporterre
Calling Thunberg the “winner of the Nobel fear prize,” Republican Julien Aubert announced that he wouldn’t show up to “applaud a prophetess in shorts.”
Thunberg has been referred to in similar terms before. Rising to fame for organizing school strikes against climate change last year, Thunberg has since switched her rhetoric from demanding action to welcoming the apocalypse with religious fervor.
“We probably don’t even have a future anymore,” she told British lawmakers in April, in a likely preview of her upcoming address in France.
“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day,” she told the power-brokers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, several months earlier.
Against the dying of the earth, Thunberg offers only one solution: the immediate lowering of carbon emissions to net zero, a move that would see modern civilization – including car and plane travel, electricity, and affordable food for the masses – essentially wiped out.
While European politicians have yet to put any of her radical proposals into policy, they have still applauded her speeches and lined up for photo opportunities with her.
“If I say that I do not want to prostrate myself before Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old child invited to the Assembly in front of the national representation, am I (still?) Politically correct?” asked National Rally MP Sébastien Chenu.
Criticism came from the political center too. Echoing criticism of Thunberg’s messianic worldview, Lawmaker Benedicte Peyrol of President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! Party asked why France couldn’t “honor its own scientists who’ve been active for years in trying to save the planet,” albeit with less theatrical flair.
With permission from
JULY 12, 2019
The most important political project of the modern era is an appropriately conceived and implemented eco-socialist Green New Deal. If done right, such a program would facilitate a transition away from the environmental and social pathologies of industrial capitalism to a world where people exist in symbiosis with the bounty of nature. If done wrong, it would be the last gasp of a relationship with the world that has brought a collective ‘us’ to environmental ruin.
The social problem is one of transformation, of taking apart the ways of doing things that aren’t working— and they are myriad, to create new relationships that work in concert with ‘the world,’ most particularly for its inhabitants. Given the trajectory of environmental decline, Western political economy will either be used to ring-fence rich from poor to leave the poor to their own devices, problems will be deemed unsolvable and decline will take its course, or capitalism will be overthrown and replaced with something workable.
The logical and humane path forward is to undertake a profound transformation of global political economy beginning with reconsidering the human condition— what meaningful existence entails, with a grounding in social justice. Given that background political and economic relations aren’t conducive to collective action, the path forward— should such be possible, will come through creating the conditions in both spheres for democratic participation.
Urgency comes through the relationship of existing ways of doing things to the rising costs of correcting environmental imbalances. The greater these become, the more cumbersome, and therefore the less politically likely, solutions will be. It is long-term environmental relationships that have been altered, meaning there are no quick fixes. The only guarantee is that whatever the costs in the present, they will be exponentially greater in the future.
Analysis and arithmetic argue against capitalist solutions to capitalist problems. Green production is neither green, nor can it replace existing dirty technologies fast enough to sufficiently reduce environmental harms. The issue gets to the heart of the capitalist conundrum. In a narrow sense, making products that are more environmentally efficient will lower their carbon footprint. In a broader sense, making clean products is intrinsically dirty.
The popular imagining of ‘the problem’ emerges from the logic of capitalism where intended outcomes are considered unrelated to unintended outcomes even though they 1) both emerge from the same production process and 2) are indissociable in the sense that one can’t be produced without the other. In like fashion, green technologies solve specific problems while creating others. When the total costs of green technologies are considered, what becomes apparent is that the broader logic is flawed.
The arithmetic problem is laid out by the IPCC, sort of. The realm of the IPCC report is climate change, meaning that species loss (mass extinction) is considered in a separate silo. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade requires radically reducing carbon emissions as well as actively de-carbonizing the atmosphere. The popular conception of a Green New Deal is to 1) increase carbon emissions to build low emission technologies while 2) gradually phasing out existing technologies.
A typical way of calculating the impact of green production is to reduce estimated emissions from existing technologies as more efficient green technologies replace them. But the old and new technologies both exist in broadly integrated webs of economic production. By analogy, an electric car may (or may not) produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gasoline powered car, but this tells us little about the environmental impact of manufacturing cars more generally.
What of the infrastructure— factories, roads, transmission lines, industrial inputs, etc. that must be built and maintained to produce them? And what of the inputs that must be mined, transported, processed, transported (again), processed (again) and transported (again) to production facilities? This research paper by economist Jan Kregel provides a description of the distribution of capitalist production. The environmental impact of ‘green’ products is the totality of what went into their production, not end-use calculations.
Regarding the manufacture of solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles, not only should the environmental costs be calculated as carbon emissions, but also in terms of the arable land, breathable air and drinkable water consumed. And what of the natural systems destroyed? These have bearing when habitat loss is considered. Habitat loss is also both a product of industrial agriculture and it impacts the future viability of all agriculture. These in turn are aspects of natural systems, interrelated webs of life that people disrupt at our own peril. This is a central finding of research into mass extinction.
A Green New Deal conceived as tampering around the edges of industrial capitalism— employing the un- and under-employed to manufacture solar panels and batteries for electric vehicles, would add to carbon emissions and other environmental harms at a point in history when the collective ‘we’ can’t afford it. However, when considered more broadly as a social and environmental program operating under a strict carbon budget, it is the best chance for making the transition to a sustainable and just future.
The carbon budget should both be taken to heart and broadened to include a concept of sustainability beyond just the climate. Within the carbon budget laid out by the IPCC, there is no way to implement the conception of a GND (Green New Deal) as existing political economy with green manufacturing added to it. In fact, there is no conception of a GND other than as funding a radical transition away from almost everything that defines current economic production. And the alternative isn’t business as usual— environmental decline will force the issues.
Given the central role of agriculture in both climate change and species loss, land reform is needed to decentralize, rescale and localize agricultural production. This has historically been among the most contentious issues between capitalist and socialist visions of political economy. Powerful corporations currently own or control vast swaths of agricultural land. A GND could compensate large tract owners for their land and the proceeds be taxed to assure that democratic political control is maintained.
Second, agribusiness should be removed from anything related to agriculture in favor of regenerative farming methods. Animal agriculture should be nationalized, with humane conditions mandated and the price of animal products made to reflect their true production costs, including environmental costs. Local and regional agricultural cooperatives should be created as autonomous and democratic collectives, with legal mandates to grow and distribute nutritious food to everyone in the region while minimizing the environmental footprint.
Local and regional agricultural collectives could serve as models for green production of non-agricultural goods. Using comprehensive environmental accounting methods that have been around since the 1970s, all environmental costs related to producing and distributing goods should be mandated to 1) minimize environmental production costs while 2) prioritizing the production of necessities (housing, clothing). Inclusive employment would be used to produce and distribute necessities according to need.
Prototypes for this system already exist across the U.S. Amish communities use organic and regenerative farming methods, minimally participate in consumer culture, avoid energy intensive technologies, support specialized production within their communities and grow what makes sense for their respective regions and growing seasons. They also partake of modern medicine and dentistry, participate in the cash economy and trade goods and services locally and regionally.
There is no agrarian romance at work here. In the poor rural areas where I meet the Amish, they are conspicuously healthier than the non-Amish, have established community support systems and seemingly functioning lives, relationships and economies. This, despite having little to none of the consumer accoutrement considered essential in the wider culture. Life is hard everywhere, but the essential nature claimed for capitalist culture— of consumption, acquisition and individual self-realization, seems improbable given this focus on community. Left largely unconsidered regarding ending capitalism is that there really might be better ways of doing things.
Despite the deep instantiation of agrarianism in the American imagination, most Americans don’t / won’t see reversion to primitive agrarian collectives as viable. And such a vision is utopian without taking apart the large, complex and deeply integrated relations of Western political economy. And even if these were addressed, the rest of the world shows little indication of abandoning capitalism.
If the world could be sectioned off and environmental decline with it, these would be good counter arguments. However, that China has been reinvented with a heaping helping of green technology has done little to slow global environmental decline. Russia is a petrostate with a long history of human-inflicted agricultural calamities. Like the rest of us, the Russians will need a functioning climate and the species-abundance that makes agriculture possible.
The proposals deemed realistic— green tinkering around the edges, won’t solve the environmental problems the world faces. And the reason that potential solutions are so complicated is that social complexity has been built into modern political economy. Addressing the parts means addressing the whole— witness the systemic carbon footprint that green production is indissociable from. The problem isn’t aspects of capitalist modernity, it is the whole of it.
The attractiveness of pre-modern political economy is that there is several thousand years of accumulated knowledge to support it. Homes built before the existence of mechanical systems were situated to capture sun and shade and could be opened to allow air flow in summer and closed to restrict it in winter. They were built using materials and methods that allowed single rooms or areas of houses to be heated with degrading the broader integrity of the buildings.
Traditional agricultural methods likewise descended as accumulated knowledge to ‘passively’ control insect damage, use the entire growing season to maximize fresh food production and produce crops that last through the winter. Monoculture production is an industrial package that includes genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Agribusiness and regenerative agriculture are fundamentally incompatible.
Industrial agriculture has historically replaced traditional farming methods by externalizing costs. In economic terms, industrial food costs less to grow than through traditional farming. However, regenerative agriculture has low environmental costs while industrial agriculture has high environmental costs. Through this mismatch between economic and environmental costs, what is efficient by capitalist logic is suicidal by environmental logic. The environmental reckoning that is upon us tells the true story.
The idea of commensurability is crucial here. A forest felled to build a shopping center represents the loss of a functioning ecosystem. A price or tax charged for doing so, e.g. a carbon tax, doesn’t replace the forest in environmental terms. Money is to a forest as a horse is to a rocking chair. Outside of capitalist theology, the concept is nonsensical. And neither God nor the forest set the price or received the payment. Even in capitalist terms the market price is contextual— it depends on factors like scarcity to which the forest bears no relation.
As it regards land redistribution, the Amish way of spreading their communities isn’t scalable because of land costs. They go where arable land is cheap. Any large-scale redistribution of land as part of a Green New Deal could only work if land costs are near zero. Borrowing money to buy agricultural land immediately imparts the logic and relations of capitalism. The lender would own the land until the debt is repaid, giving it say over how the land is used. The same would be true for agrarian collectives globally.
In the most basic sense, capitalism must be gotten out of the way for a GND to produce environmentally sustainable political economy. Gresham’s Law implies that solar panel producers can undercut their competition by externalizing their costs (polluting). This leaves the firms that can most effectively pollute as the survivors of market competition. Regenerative agriculture can’t compete with industrial agriculture because the competition is rigged.
The proposition laid out here isn’t that the whole of Western political economy be shifted to primitive agrarian production. It is to suggest that there exists accumulated knowledge about how to get by in the world that preceded capitalist modernity. The ‘end of history,’ the broad and deep replacement of the knowledge, methods, relationships and logic that preceded modern capitalism, leaves few places to turn as it is proved unworkable.
The first battle to be fought toward environmental and social justice is political. The politicians who used a Green New Deal as a talking point, as well as the few who actually thought about it, can’t win the political battle without a broad political movement backing them. However, such a movement would be foolish to muster the political strength and then hand it over to stewards of the existing order.
The 2020 presidential election seems the time and place to raise the political stakes. Given the improbability of resolving environmental problems within capitalism, and that Bernie Sanders is the only national political figure to take a stand, however qualified, against capitalism, his candidacy can serve as a rallying point. Unless radical action is taken quickly, events will unfold that pose a risk to large numbers of people. Once Mr. Sanders has been pushed out of the way by establishment Democrats, and he will be, events can take on a life of their own. Crisis by default or with a purpose, the choice is yours.
Justin Trudeau is in over a barrel. In 2015, he made a deal with Alberta. He would get an oil pipeline built to a coast if the province joined his pan-Canadian climate plan. After his election this past April, Conservative Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ripped up Alberta’s side of the bargain and declared war on Trudeau’s climate plan.
What should Ottawa do now after being jilted by Alberta?
Should the Liberal government maintain its side of the bargain, and proceed with the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to the Vancouver area and lose credibility as a climate warrior? Or should it kill the pipeline expansion now and say this was a bargain gone bad?
In the long run, the latter course would save Ottawa lots on further subsidies. But there’s that little short-run thing – the looming federal election on or before Oct. 21.
How could Trudeau explain taking a big loss of taxpayer money on a pipeline that no private sector investor would touch last year? Either choice will look bad. No good options is a predicament.
Kicking the can down the road beyond the federal election is one way out. But Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi promised a decision by June 18.
Remember Justin Trudeau’s grand entry onto the world stage at the Paris Climate Summit in November-December 2015? Canada is back, my friends. That was just six weeks after his stunning electoral upset, leapfrogging his party from third to first place, winning a solid majority.
In Paris, Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna promised to catapult Canada from environment laggard under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to a global climate leader. While most rich countries at the Paris talks aimed to limit global warming to a 2 C rise above pre-industrial levels, Canada joined low-lying island states to champion a stricter 1.5 C global limit.
How then did Trudeau get stuck with a pipeline that makes no environmental or financial sense?
The pipeline is not going to change the fundamental disadvantages of Alberta’s oilsands. At $90 a barrel for new projects, their break-even cost is among the highest in the world. And their emission intensity is through the roof. Environment and Climate Change Canada scientists found that CO2 emissions were more than 60 percent higher than industry had calculated.
The sands are in a remote part of a remote, landlocked province. Their main market – the U.S. – where 99.9 percent of Canadian oil exports now head, is now their main competitor. The U.S. produces cheaper, lower-emissions oil.
The idea that the Trans Mountain expansion would open new markets in Asia is illusory. The price of heavy, sour crude oil in the Far East is $1 to $3 a barrel lower than on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Transport costs via the Trans Mountain line and tankers will be at least $2 a barrel higher to Asia. China does not have the capacity to refine bitumen. Besides, the world is swimming in light crude oil.
In recent years, only a few oil tankers have left Vancouver harbour. Most of that oil has gone to the U.S., not China. So the premise behind the Trans Mountain pipeline is faulty. The pipeline expansion will likely be a white elephant, owned or subsidized by taxpayers.
The pipeline expansion could cost up to $10 billion, in addition to the $4.4 billion purchase price that the auditor general said was $1 billion too much.
If by some miracle the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is built, gets filled to capacity and finds markets, it would encourage the production of 590,000 barrels a day more oil from Alberta’s sands. That would add another 13 to 15 megatonnes of carbon pollution.
So it doesn’t make environmental sense either.
The Trudeau government got a special exemption in the new NAFTA (USMCA) to enable it to subsidize the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Why would a government so publicly committed to climate action throw more good money at a dodgy pipeline expansion, especially when Alberta has torn up its side of the climate understanding? Better to cut your losses now.
Gordon Laxer is a political economy professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and author of the Council of Canadians report “Billion Dollar Buyout. How Canadian taxpayers bought a climate-killing pipeline and Trump’s trade deal supports it.”
Featured image is from Canadian Dimension