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AS Award #8

GB Geo-Blog

AS Award #8

I am pleased to announce co-winners of my eighth AS Award, co-winners because they are both from the oil patch in Alberta.

First, there is Gwyn Morgan, the retired CEO of EnCana, In an article in today’s Report on Business in the Globe and Mail, he trotted out the “Red Ed” label hung around Ed Clark’s neck by the oil industry in western Canada. Morgan attributed “the grand design and implementation of the NEP” (National Energy Program) to Ed Clark.

I have had the privilege of knowing Ed for over 40 years. He is one of the brightest people I have known, and I have found him to care more and to have done more good for Canada than any of the oligarchs and their minions in the oil patch. Ed probably has mixed feelings about being fired by Brian Mulroney, largely at the urging of his Alberta caucus and the oil industry which wanted revenge for the NEP. Being fired set him on a different career path which has lead to his becoming one of the best bank CEOs in Canada’s history. Had he not been fired, he most likely would have become Governor of the Bank of Canada.

But Ed and Marshall Cohen, who were the top two bureaucrats in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources when Trudeau returned to power in 1980, were the “general contractors” give the responsibility of building the NEP which was designed by three (Lalonde, Axworthy and Sulzenko) and a half (yours truly) architects. Ed just took the hit for the Liberals.

Morgan also labeled the NEP as “a complex, Marxist-style program”. To be specific Gwyn, it was simply designed to capture and transfer the rents implicit in oil prices at that time. The second oil price shock engineered by OPEC dramatically increased oil prices. The federal government had every right to protect its citizens from this shock by transferring the resulting rents (the difference between the pre-oil price shock and the existing price) to taxpayers, especially in an industry that had been the recipient of very generous taxpayer support for decades.

Sharing this award with Gwyn is the Integrated CO2 Network, a group representing Canada’s major oil companies and coal-based utilities. Again, quoting from today’s Report on Business: “Canada’s oil sands companies say they must adopt expensive carbon-capture technology to meet environmental challenges, but will require major government subsidies to do so for at least the next decade.”

Well, on the bright side, since I prefer to be an optimist, it appears that this industry has finally lifted its head from the sands and has seen that the train of environmental policy has left the station. Whether we agree with the dire predictions of climate change, and the ideas put forth by supporters, many of whom I do not trust, the reality is that more and more governments are introducing more measures to reduce carbon emissions. Even Saudi Arabia saw this coming more quickly than the Canadian oil industry, which prides itself on “long-term” planning. (I guess long-term for the oil patch is about six weeks.)

The oil sands industry, after having poured hundreds of billions into the development of this industry, has seen the light. However, they want me and every other Canadian taxpayer to subsidize them. They truly jest!

On a priority list of how to spend my taxes, subsidizing this industry ranks just above buying carbon credits from bastions of democracy such as Russia. Subsidies for solar and wind projects do not rank much higher. There are many better ways to spend or waste my money.

Who says the oil industry cannot both suck at the government trough and blow criticisms at the government at the same time? Hats off to the oil patch and their apologists!


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