Canada buys a pipe line - Rivers buys his first EV - thinks the feds paid too much for the pipe line while he is saving a bundle on gas.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 1, 2018



I got an EV (electric vehicle) earlier this year. It is really quiet and really fast. No more oil spills on the driveway, no more stinking exhaust fumes nor visits to drive clean, and no more oil change stickers plastered on my windshield. And best of all I now just smile when I pass gas stations with their pixel boards displaying those ever escalating pump prices. I feed my EV on a diet of electrons from the comfort of my garage every evening. So I can say thanks but no thanks to Doug Ford and his maybe ten cent gas price cut.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province - they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

There are thousands of small solar panel installations like this across the province – they work very well and in many cases provide revenue for the owners.

The oil industry is dirty and toxic and otherwise environmentally destructive. And the oil sands are arguably the worst example of all that. So I’m one of those who has always been in favour of ending the subsidies for that sector – or at least offering the same level of subsidy for greener energy sources, like wind and solar – to level the playing field and encourage the transition to green. Canada is the fifth or sixth largest oil and gas producer in the world but we’re also the seventh biggest in wind power.

Despite government promises to the contrary, the oil industry still feeds at the public trough to the tune of over $3 billion dollars a year. So I wasn’t really surprised when the federal government announced it was buying up the Trans Mountain pipeline from Texas based Kinder Morgan (KM). KM is the son of Enron, the notorious and scandal plagued energy trading company which was once the fifth largest corporation in the US, and which became the largest bankruptcy in US history ($74 B) sending its CEO to prison for fraud.

Critics of the Finance Minster abound on this topic, as on everything else. Those opposed to oil sands and pipelines, like the Green Party, Neil Young, Al Gore and just about every environmental group, could be heard screaming out ‘climate change’ so loudly I could hear them even in the quiet of my EV. And many of those who support the pipeline, as does the opposition federal conservative leader, still found fault, complaining that the feds had paid too much, or they shouldn’t have had to pay at all.

SLUG: ph-cyclists DATE: April 15, 2010 NEG NUMBER: 213218 LOCATION: Constitution Avenue, NW at New Jersey and 6th streets intersections. PHOTOGRAPHER: GERALD MARTINEAU, for TWP CAPTION: We photograph morning rush hour bicycle commuters amidst traffic on Constitution Avenue, NW. Photo shot at Constutution Ave, NW. and 6th Street. StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Thu Apr 15 11:19:04 2010

There is this huge inventory of gasoline and diesel powered cars that are going to need fuel.

$4.5 billion is a lot of money. And then there will be at least another seven or eight billion more to complete the twinning and actually get the diluted bitumen moving. But finance minister Morneau is confident that the project is economically viable – after all the global demand for oil has been increasing almost every year and is likely to continue to do so into the near future. There is this huge inventory of gasoline and diesel powered cars which we’ve acquired over the years, and still more being sold as we speak.

Too bad Mr. Harper isn’t in the House to quell the ranks of his party by explaining why he bought into the Hibernia offshore oil project when it was failing, or why he decided to invest heavily into GM and Chrysler when they were heading for receivership. And what about Bill Davis and Pierre Trudeau buying into Suncor and saving Peter Lougheed’s sorry butt after Atlantic Richfield pulled out of the oil sands? And didn’t Pierre also create PetroCan? And none of this bankrupted the nation. Besides, it’s only right that Justin should try to save the industry his father helped build.

Like the railways and Trans Canada highways It is what Canadian governments since confederation have always done. And while many Albertans will always hate the Liberals because of something in the 80’s called the National Energy Program, at least the the political leader with the most at stake right now, Alberta premier Notley, doesn’t. She praised the move and offered to back up the deal with a couple billion dollars from her own treasury.

Pipeline -Transmountain

Close to 100,000 people work in the oil and gas extraction business

There are almost a hundred thousand Canadians involved in the oil and gas extraction business and most of those are in Alberta. But while this is a very important sector for Alberta, it is also essential today for the country as a whole. And without pipelines to convey the disgusting black gold to foreign markets offshore we are left with the railways and selling to and through the Americans, who are becoming more self-sufficient in petroleum products every year. Without the pipelines we are told that leaves about $15 billion off the table for us.

The Trudeau government’s intervention is a lifeline for the Alberta leader. And why not? For one thing she isn’t a Tory so she won’t be insulting him the way Alberta’s opposition leader Jason Kenny recently did. For another Notley gets climate change and wants to do something about it. Kenny doesn’t, much as Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford don’t.

Notley, like the PM understands that while she must serve today’s market demands with her provinces petroleum products she needs to be thinking ahead to tomorrows markets. Which is why she introduced a carbon tax, and is diversifying Alberta’s economy, and moving the province’s electricity system off coal, as Ontario has done. For that is the future that we all should look to – the day when we will be driving electric cars and breathing cleaner air.

Rivers hand to face

Ray Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

 Background links:

Crude Oil Demand –    Fossil Fuel Subsidies –     Renewables

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7 comments to Canada buys a pipe line – Rivers buys his first EV – thinks the feds paid too much for the pipe line while he is saving a bundle on gas.

  • Stephen White

    Well Ray: kudos for your purchase of a new EV. You are absolutely right: the ride and handling of an electric automobile is amazing. (BTW….you should post a picture of you in your new ride. I bet it is Liberal red!).

    Hans makes a number of good points, albeit hard ones to accept. Oil is ubiquitous, and is used in various aspects of our daily life and not just transportation. However, the conversion to electric vehicles isn’t being helped by the Big Three automakers, most of whom were in receipt of huge government bailouts just ten years ago, and are now killing off car production in favour of building large, gas-guzzling SUV’s to meet the demand of consumers who think they need a gigantic 2.5 ton vehicle for safety and to haul around all their stuff. The sad truth is we probably need the pipeline or a sustained oil supply for several years until electric technology can produce better driving ranges, and the public’s attitude towards electric shifts.

    Norway has taken the lead in its adoption of electric vehicles. They recognize not only its environmental benefits, but also, the reduced costs to consumers associated with maintaining an electric vehicle. It’s great that consumers in many parts of Canada get a rebate for purchasing an electric product, but it is also high time we used the tax system to positively impact consumer buying habits. That gas guzzling SUV would look a lot less appealing if also came with a 15% provincial sales tax instead of 8%.

  • Mike

    Let’s focus on the main point here, the pipeline debacle. Both Morneau and Trudeau deserve the label painted by Kenny as they know nothing about negotiating a good deal. They could have pressured BC into line by not signing the $4 billion infrastructure financial support agreement (signed after BC launched their opposition to the pipeline). They can also withhold transfer payments. Instead, they foolishly believed they could make BC/AB politicians come together by stating the pipeline would be built (!) …Kinder Morgan exec’s I am sure went out and optioned new yachts for themselves on that statement. Then they foolishly decided they would get into negotiations with KM with no leverage on their side and seemed surprised at the outcome… that they “had” to buy it out to proceed. I am sure KM got all the profit they wanted and more (so they likely bought new sports cars too). JT and BM could learn something from Trump for a change ….for the art of the deal i.e. negotiating, you need the other party across the table to believe you have some leverage on your side. Creating uncertainty is part of this (which we have seen Trump do again and again ..regardless of what you think of his tactics, this is his DNA as a NY lawyer). Instead, they just admitted they had nothing other than money to offer, expecting KM to be cooperative for a reasonable price. Just plain dumb. And on the other side, all the protesters just had a big sigh ‘YES!’ as they now have the Government of Canada to protest against as the owner instead of a private corporation. They are doing back-flps from the excitement of the favours they’ll get from Ottawa or the political trouble they can cause. JT and BM should go back to managing their trust funds and leave running the country to someone with the capability.

    P.S. I applaud Ray for the purchase of the EV. It will be the future for consumer transport. Likely commercial and industrial transport will stay petrol based for decades.

    P.P.S. We as a province and country should be focusing on being leaders in how to generate and distribute a the reliable electrical power service of the future. “Green” (wind and solar) generation is certainly a component of this but it will also need other sources which are not being focused on, for example Thorium nuclear and a redesigned distribution system. This would take vision and leadership. Both which are sadly missing. If Pierre was in Ottawa we would have both (note….I was not a fan of his politics but respected him.).

  • Gary

    Such obvious self-congratulation in a column is a rare thing, Mr. Rivers. And the absence of any discussion about native rights over those opposed to the pipeline seem uncharacteristic.

  • Ray Rivers

    Hans thanks for your comment – and to the point. But we should recall that there was an oil industry well before people started using it in their cars – we probably just won’t need the oil sands and all that upgrader and pipeline infrastructure. Totally agree on outdoor gas fireplaces by the way – and I hear from the fish in the oceans that it good to get rid of a lot of that plastic.

    Thanks again

  • I agree with Hans. Petroleum is ubiquitous in our lifestyles. At the same time, I find it a sad affair when discussions of energy alternatives hinge on money rather than environmental science.

  • Luke

    I sure hope they get a chance to read this in China and India.

  • Hans

    It may be useful to consider the petroleum industry from a more systemic perspective, i.e., it’s about much more than gasoline.
    Without an adequate market for gasoline, refining will become uneconomical and refineries will shut down. There will then be: no propane for the BBQs and those “outdoor fireplaces” (which contribute to global warming for no legitimate reason); no lubricating oil (it’s needed for other purposes than car engines); no asphalt to pave roads and driveways; no jet fuel for air travel; no diesel fuel for heavy trucks and trains; no furnace oil, for those who live too far from electrical service or a gas line; and no ethylene, propylene, styrene, etc. to make the plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, etc.) that make up a large amount of those electric cars, as well as most things that we use daily.

    If electric cars kill the oil industry, it would be difficult to cope with the loss of so many of the oil by-products on which we have come to depend.