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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

The energy revolution, as seen from the business pages

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I always enjoy reading the business pages of the Globe  Mail.  For one thing, it’s not an echo chamber of what I usually read.  For another, it often gives a snapshot of what moneyed people – our movers and shakers – care about.

Today’s headlines (January 22 2020) give the impression that we are well into an energy revolution, with fossil fuels on the way out, surprisingly quickly.  But also, one gets the impression that Canada is sleepwalking when it comes to energy.

Take these two headlines:

Tesla’s valuation tops $100-billion as stock rally continues

Daimler profits fell by half in 2019, despite strong sales

Interesting, isn’t it?  One of the best run car companies can’t make a profit, tied as it is to the internal combustion engine.  Tesla, the maker of electric cars (and battery packs and solar cells) has surpassed the valuation of GM despite all naysayers.  Three other headlines add context; Germany is well aware of the need to transition “German energy shift will be like an ‘open-heart surgery,’ Economy Minister says”.  Some of this is a fallout of dieselgate, obviously. “Volkswagen pleads guilty to all Canadian charges in emissions-cheating scandal.” “German prosecutors probe Mitsubishi for suspected illegal defeat devices.”

But Canada seems to think that investments in oil are justified; consider “Teck oil sands project splits Canada’s indigenous people, poses challenge for Trudeau”.  This despite headlines such as Oil falls as surplus forecast overshadows Libya disruptionorHalliburton takes $2.2-billion charge on slumping shale activity”.

This is all happening while the powerful are meeting in Davos.  One who is not sleepwalking through the transition is Trump, obviously; he is engaged in active rearguard, sabotage action as reported here “Trump dismisses climate pessimism at Davos, boasts of U.S. economic strength”.  This earned him a rebuff from the Globe’s Eric Reguly: “Donald Trump condemned climate activists at Davos. His hero Maggie Thatcher would not have done the same.” (He’s not the only one to react, obviously; Mark Carney is quoted in the Guardian as siding with Greta Thunberg, for instance.)

But getting back to the issue of Canada sleepwalking, the same issue of the Globe has this headline “Climate not considered a top 10 risk by CEOs: surveywhile columnist Gary Mason blasts AlbertaAlberta needs to wake up to a rapidly changing world – and to stop listening to the deniers”.

It’s worth quoting Mason a bit (he’s behind a paywall – the whole opinion piece is worth reading):

There isn’t a day that goes by now, it seems, that doesn’t include some ground-shifting announcement in the fight against climate change.

Last week, for instance, the European Union laid out a €1-trillion ($1.45-trillion) plan to lower carbon emissions and get the continent carbon-neutral by 2050. That amounts to nearly one quarter of the European Commission’s annual budget, money that will be used to underwrite the new “green deal” announced in December, which will affect the economies of virtually every member state.

As big as that development was, however, it took a back seat to the news that broke recently on Wall Street: the revelation that Larry Fink, head of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, had written to clients and fellow chief executives to say his firm will be making investment decisions in the future with environmental sustainability as a central mantra.

Mason goes on to lambast the Alberta government for hosting a summit of deniers including Conrad Black. But elsewhere in the paper is this interesting opinion piece, by an Albertan researcher: Alberta has a rare rare-earth opportunity on its hands – if it chooses to seize it

Meanwhile, the federal government is wrestling with whether to approve the giant tar sands mine proposed by Teck: “Teck oil sands project splits Canada’s indigenous people, poses challenge for Trudeau”.

There is no lack of opposition to this.  You can read an open letter from First Nations here.  But I will leave the last word to U Lethbridge professor Jim Byrne, in a facebook post:

 Vancouver-headquartered Teck Resources Limited will go bankrupt within a few years if they proceed with the massive oil sands mine plan for Alberta. The company has told shareholders the price of oil for the next 40+ years will remain in the $70-$90 US range. That’s absolute foolishness given the very rapid expected rise of electric vehicles, and electrification of most transportation and other energy sectors across global societies. Electrification will eliminate the need for fossil fuels with 1-3 decades. TECK’s proposed development is climate science denial… an absolutely blind, lemming-state that fails to recognize the climate emergency we are already experiencing globally, and assumes that somehow one of the most expensive, and environmentally damaging fossil fuel resources will continue to have a market. The global price of oil will continue to decline as humanity needs less and less oil given electrification. The federal government should save TECK from their suicidal, blind #FossilFuel beliefs!

“Blind, lemming-state”.  Jim has a talent for the turn of phrase.  I’ll stick with sleepwalking.

Written by enviropaul

January 22, 2020 at 12:10 pm

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