Don't Blame Canadian Oil For America's Poor Climate Record
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Don't Blame Canadian Oil For America's Poor Climate Record

Many Canadians were surprised last week when they read an editorial highly critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's record on climate.

But I wasn't surprised in the least. In spite of the usual rhetoric from the writer, anti-Keystone XL campaigner Bill McKibben, readers can rest assured -- Canada's record on climate is strong. McKibben's analysis? Not so much.


A demonstrator holds up a sign during a march in Washington on Feb. February 17, 2013 to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link the oil sands of northern Alberta to U.S. refineries. (Photo: Richard Clement/Reuters)

The piece, published by the left-of-centre U.K.-based Guardian newspaper, ridiculed the Canadian PM for his appearance and claimed he was capitalizing on U.S. President Donald Trump's attention-grabbing political controversies so that Trudeau could fly under the political radar.

"Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible... that it's hard to look away," the Vermont-based activist wrote. In fact, claimed McKibben, Trump is so bad "that other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don't believe me? Look one country north, at Justin Trudeau."

As logic goes, McKibben's opening statement is pretty much a write-off. If they really feel so negatively toward their own elected leader, McKibben and 350.org should spend more time working on domestic politics rather than blaming Canada for selling into the U.S. market and helping satisfy American energy demand.

More simply, instead of attacking our elected officials, he could work at reducing U.S. demand.



Enormous progress has been made already, to the point that Canada is a leader in the world for clean energy production.



McKibben charges the PM with "having your cake and eating it too" -- that is, working to reduce carbon emissions through pricing and through clean energy investment, while at the same time committing to get natural resources to market.

I prefer to call that "working responsibly on issues of importance to our federal government" or "working on a prudent transition plan."

On the other hand, when I think of "having your cake and eating it too," I think of anti-oil activist groups like 350.org and Greenpeace, groups that are short on solutions but who know how to mount a negative media campaign and then carry it out through hundreds of thousands of miles of fossil-fuelled personal air travel.

Showing he's willing to cloud his editorial with misleading data, McKibben cites the activist group "Oil Change International" as a reputable source on carbon reduction information. He castigates the PM for saying it was reasonable for a country like Canada, sitting on 173 billion barrels of oil, might like to place some of it on the international market. Which country wouldn't?





But what neither McKibben nor Oil Change International mentions is that it will take about 200 years at current production to "dig up and sell" that Canadian oil that he mentioned. What will the transition to clean energy technologies look like in 200 years? Nobody knows.

What we do know is that enormous progress on clean tech has been made already, to the point that Canada is a leader in the world for clean energy production. (What? No praise from McKibben and 350.org? I'm shocked!) And while that Canadian leadership continues, the U.S. imports nearly 1.7 million barrels per day of heavy oil from countries other than Canada.

Where are the 350.org protesters standing up against those imports? Don't worry, it's a rhetorical question.

McKibben's rant doesn't simply attack the PM. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is equally hammered for working to transition away from fossil fuels at a rate consistent with human needs and technology.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Philippe Huguen/Pool/Reuters)

Let's be clear; the idea of transitioning away from fossil fuel-generated energy isn't exactly straightforward. Many are skeptical about the time it will take to find sufficient non-fossil energy to power industry, health care, transportation, communication and the built environment.

But McKibben is dismissive of Canadian support for research and development toward cleaner energy technologies while we continue to meet society's demands for affordable, reliable fossil energy. But ask yourself how his students at Middlebury College -- and their local families -- would survive a Vermont winter without any fossil fuel-generated energy?

They wouldn't.

After a few minutes of reading the same old fear-mongering from an activist that seems to refuse to take personal responsibility for what's happening within his own borders, I start thinking about the satirical South Park song, "Blame Canada."



There's plenty of work to be done on his side of the border.



Its final two lines, written in the voice of an American that's looking for a scapegoat, sum up 350.org's apparent strategy over the Canadian energy issue pretty well:

"We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before someone thinks of blaming us."


McKibben should know better. But until he does, I respectfully suggest he stick to Vermont. There's plenty of work to be done on his side of the border.

Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.

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