Who’s not taking emissions seriously? Globe-trotting climate delegations not fit to lecture a vastly-improving energy sector

Ever been a visitor to a seniors’ home, or even a hospital, visiting a sick loved one or perhaps someone you have injured, and heard in the background one of those humans that relentlessly whines and complains about everything? And you observe that the care workers are seemingly oblivious to the irrationality and ceaselessness of the griping, even when us mortals are casting our gaze about for a pillow that is, at a minimum, face-sized, and you realize that in some settings that is one’s lot in life – to support and keep alive people who are not just ungrateful but in full attack mode because in their belligerent addled minds they know how to do it all better?

And we’ll return to that thought in a bit, but first let’s consider the world from a different angle, and talk about chickens. Well, indirectly anyway, and not talking about chickens qua chickens (as the philosophers say), but from the perspective of vested chicken interests. No, don’t go there either, I’m not talking about “vested chicken” interests, but “vested chicken interests”, people that make their living from the poultry industry.

The poultry industry has banded together to talk about the value of chicken, to help educate average citizens as to the realities of their industry and how well it is run. They’ve set up a web page to discuss explicitly the “Environmental Performance of Canadian Chicken”. The site has valuable eco-information such as that the environmental footprint of Canadian Chicken has been reduced by 37 percent from 1976 to 2016.  

Whether you are dazzled by that statistic or not is up to you, but consider the very existence of that web page, and the content it confers. Canadian chicken farmers are standing up to point out the contributions they are making to reducing their environmental footprint, and it is undoubtedly substantial. Ten or twenty years ago, that would not have happened.

In fact, many organizations are stepping up to improve environmental stewardship, and while few have historically mentioned these achievements, they are now starting to do so because no one notices otherwise. Chicken-ranch emission levels don’t often come up at dinner parties, unless the banality of small-talk is driving me around the bend and I make it an issue to amuse myself. But people – and the media – sure as hell will notice if any business puts an environmental foot wrong. But improving things doesn’t make news. Just ask the poor “Let’s talk chicken” group how hard it is for that topic to go viral.

Similarly, the energy industry is making some truly staggering progress on the environmental front. Starting with the biggest fish, Canada’s oil sands producers agreed, a few years ago, to a voluntary cap on oil sand emissions of 100 megatonnes (Mt). That achievement did not get the green credit it deserved, because it should have convinced the world for once and for all that the oil sands would not single-handedly flood the world with dangerous emissions. Recently Shell announced that the Quest carbon capture storage project has stuffed 4 Mt of CO2 into the ground, the equivalent of the emissions of a million cars in a year. In the US, a Canadian company – Carbon Engineering of Squamish, BC – is in the engineering phase of building a carbon sequestration project that is expected to include multiple sequestration plants capable of removing 1 Mt per year, each.

Speaking of Carbon Engineering, the company is co-owned by none other than Murray Edwards, who also founded what has become one of the largest petroleum companies on the planet. Canadian Natural Resources is a powerhouse in Canadian oil and gas, and also is a relentless proponent of reducing its GHG and environmental footprint. CNRL has decreased GHG emissions intensity by 18% since 2013; if the rest of the world had followed suit the world would be well on its way to meeting whatever global target the UN set up (though one suspects that would be a moving target, as with the endlessly updated “end of humanity” temperature bogey).

There are countless other examples that can be found easily enough if people are interested in actually finding out. Any knuckle-dragger can find similarly successful projects on Google, if they choose to look. This progress, from the chicken guys to Carbon Engineering to CNRL, is amazing stuff, and the world needs to take notice. But before that will happen, Canada needs to change its narrative, starting with the top.

The federal government and their Gregorian-chanting doom acolytes keep saying that “Canada needs to do something” or, “it’s not good enough, we need to do more.” Well, some parts of Canada ARE doing something. And some parts aren’t, even if they’re just as loud and belligerent as the angry geriatrics who tirelessly shout how they could run the whole place a damn sight better.

How about jet-setting climate activists? And not just them, but anyone else that climbs on a plane. Flying is the lowest of the low hanging fruit – no one needs to fly, ever, except in medical emergencies. But even amongst that crowd, the mindless hypocrisy of the climate activist crowd is nauseating. Flying 20,000 people to exotic locations to attend climate change conferences (and lord, do the activists like exotic locations for conferences) only reinforces the point that cutting emissions materially is unbelievably unpopular. It’s not just the climate travellers; air traffic has grown from 1.5 billion passengers in 1998 to 4 billion in 2017 – and is expected to grow to over 8 billion annually by 2037. That is an incredible amount of fuel that’s going to be burned. (A glaring question arises as to why video conferencing won’t work for those people; businesses are adopting it hand over fist.)

It is high time to end this BS narrative that Canada “isn’t doing anything” to fight global emissions, like Minister McKenna likes to say (louder and louder, because, well, you know…people will “totally believe you” when you shout at them right?). It is patently untrue. It is also an unacceptable narrative to demand that Canada become a low per capita emitter, when it supplies the world with an outsized portion of its resource requirements. Metals, minerals, food, lumber, and hydroelectric power don’t leap out of the ground upon command; it is embarrassing that our politicians can’t seem to realize or articulate that. If they can’t or won’t, the rest of us must. Don’t let loud-mouthed fools get away with it, at the next dinner party – you don’t have to obliterate them with logic, though that can be fun, but don’t shy away from standing up for a continuously-improving Canadian petroleum industry that is crucial to the world’s standard of living.

What is glaringly true though is that the people that are shouting these things the loudest are carrying on with consumptive lifestyles just like everyone else (I’m dying to see an activist-circulated pledge to quit flying forever). Once Canadian business figures out the social media freak show, maybe we can start explaining to the world that they’ve been sadly and severely misinformed.

About the Author

Terry Etam is an independent senior consultant for small and midsize oil and gas companies. His website Public Energy Number One is dedicated to energy education and he is the author of The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity.