Canada’s energy crisis – the view from inside and outside the bubble
Sometimes life’s little micro-challenges, if understood and analyzed effectively, can help us see the bigger world better. A great example is traffic. As an urban worker, there are several types of mobile annoyance: one is borne of commuter traffic on busy roads; another is borne of crowded walkways at, say, lunch hour on cold days, when people all head out into Calgary’s indoor building interconnects all at the same time to avoid frostbite.
We treat such “traffic jams” in entirely different ways based on the direct exposure to other humanity, and/or the degree to which we’re isolated from it. In our cars, we get annoyed at too-aggressive or too-passive drivers; statistically, nearly 80 percent of us express some sort of anger, aggression or road rage. However, when heading out at lunch into a crowded walkway on foot, we seldom express or see pedestrian rage at being held up or cut off, even though the problem is the same, and at least as potentially injurious, if we’re hustling along with hot coffee and get jostled. It is a rare day indeed when one pedestrian who is impeded by another declares the slowpoke to be a “f___g a___hole” but in our cars, the phrase is as common as hello.
The difference is that in our cars, we’re ensconced in little cocoons, and other drivers are in theirs, and this distance makes it impersonal. We say things and act like we never would on foot, shouting and honking and getting worked up like someone reached over and mussed up our hair and squirted ketchup in our face.
This phenomenon spirals out to much, much bigger cocoons, like energy. From inside Canada’s energy world, we’re like drivers whose car keeps getting cut off by the same driver, mile after mile, and this driver never bothers anyone else. Anyone outside this bubble may not even notice, and will quite possibly look at this driver, if not knowing what is happening, as some sort of increasingly unhinged lunatic.
In the world of energy, from outside the bubble, all is relatively calm. Global energy consumption continues to rise, as does the demand for petroleum, and the world is reacting by searching for, producing, and transporting more oil and natural gas. It’s true, the pressure building against fossil fuels is getting more intense, but it doesn’t take much examination to see how daunting the challenge to get off fossil fuels really is. Globally, in 2018 over 33,000 miles of petroleum pipeline were under construction in dozens of countries.
For Canada however, things are different. The country seems to be possibly the only one in the world that has agreed to sacrifice its own petroleum industry in the name of climate change, a result of the decade-old global call to arms to halt development of Canada’s oil sands (the infamous “carbon bomb” that James Hansen of NASA fame declared).
The world, and indeed central Canada where much of the population is, looks at western Canada in bewilderment, wondering what all the fuss is about. The world wants to get off fossil fuels, and Canada is oh-so-amiably doing its part by blocking any new petroleum infrastructure.
But the rest of the world isn’t playing that game; global consumption and production keep growing, and to make matters worse Canada is getting no credit for the self-sacrifice.
In other words, the guy in car is going to blow his top because he keeps getting cut off, and admonishments to chill out are going to fall on deaf ears, because he really is getting cut off. There is an impersonal wall between Canada’s petroleum industry and the greater world, and the discrepancy in world views is growing. Dark days are ahead…