Analysis

The Real Reason Canada is in Crisis Over the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Justin Trudeau

Amongst all the hooting and hollering over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, it’s easy to lose track of how on earth we ended up in this place of dysfunction.

But Canadians didn’t become deeply divided about oil pipelines overnight. Indeed, much of the current tension can be traced back to the federal review of Trans Mountain, which the National Energy Board (NEB) began in early 2014.

The reality is that there are huge gaping flaws in the Canadian environmental review process that have been known about for decades and have never been fixed,” David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and associate professor at UBC, told DeSmog Canada.

The Myth of The Asian Market for Alberta’s Oil

The Myth of The Asian Market for Alberta’s Oil

For years, we’ve been told again and again (and again) that Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is desperately needed for producers to export oil to Asian countries and get much higher returns.

The way it’s been framed makes it seem like it’s the only thing standing between Alberta and fields of gold.

Small problem: Canadian producers already have the ability to ship their heavy oil to Asia via the existing 300,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain pipeline — but they’re not using it.

Why is it So Hard for Canada to Have a Real Conversation about Pipelines?

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Canada John Horgan, Rachel Notley, Justin Trudeau

Reflecting on his long struggle against South African apartheid, Nelson Mandela said, “One effect of sustained conflict is to narrow our vision of what is possible. Time and again, conflicts are resolved through shifts that were unimaginable at the start.”

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is not apartheid — let’s get that off the table right away. It’s a pipeline. But in its sustained, divisive nature, in the way in brings up hard constitutional questions and emotional responses while deepening political entrenchment, the very debate over the pipeline is worth considering in its own light.

“Debate” might not even be the right word at this point. When one side is being arrested for opposition while the other is worried about their ability to operate within the basic Canadian principles of peace, order and good government, this has become something deeper and less flexible than a debate.

How Kinder Morgan Could Sue Canada In a Secretive NAFTA Tribunal

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline

All hell is breaking loose over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Sunday, Kinder Morgan announced it was putting all “non-essential spending” on hold until it could be guaranteed “clarity on the path forward.” That sent both the Alberta and federal governments into a near-frenzy — Premier Rachel Notley pledged to buy the entire pipeline if needed, while the federal cabinet held an “emergency meeting” (ministers literally ran from the media afterward).

It’s also come to light that Kinder Morgan could actually sue the government of Canada if it can’t build the pipeline. In a call with investors, Kinder Morgan chair and CEO Steven Kean said that it’s far too premature to consider.

But it certainly wouldn’t be unusual: between 1995 and 2015, Canada has been sued 35 times by investors and paid out at least $170 million.

It is extraordinarily easy for a deep-pocketed company like Kinder Morgan to sue Canada using NAFTA,” said Gus Van Harten, an associate professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School and expert in international investment law and arbitration, in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

Why Don’t Governments Limit Oil Production to Meet Climate Targets?

supply side environmentalism

The climate change component of Canada’s oil pipeline debate largely revolves around two big questions: should our country restrict the production of fossil fuels? And, if it does, does that mean other jurisdictions will just produce more and fill the gap?

This argument to restrict production is often called “supply side environmentalism” and it’s been pretty unpopular with economists and pundits who warn against restrictive supply-side policies as inefficient and overly moralistic.

But climate policy experts Fergus Green (of the London School of Economics) and Richard Denniss (of the Australia Institute) are questioning that.

That Time a Foreign-Owned Newspaper Called Out Environmentalists for Taking Foreign Money to Fight a Foreign-Funded Pipeline

Foreign Influence, foreign funding

On a certain level, Vivian Krause and her cadre are right when they accuse Canadian non-profits of taking foreign money. American philanthropists do give money to Canadian non-profits.

There’s just one thing: it’s neither surprising nor clandestine.

The success of their argument comes down to one simple trick: strip away all relevant context and then replace it with conspiracy.

So let’s start with some context.

The Myth of the Echo Chamber

Myth of the Echo Chamber

Elizabeth Dubois, University of Ottawa and Grant Blank, University of Oxford

Information warfare” may be a top concern in the next Canadian election cycle, as a report on a workshop by CSIS suggests, but some fears about how people get their political information and the impact of social media are overstated.

In a recently published study, we show that fears about an “echo chamber” in which people encounter only information that confirms their existing political views are blown out of proportion. In fact, most people already have media habits that help them avoid echo chambers.

Site C: The Elephant in B.C.’s Budget

Site C white elephant

Conspicuously absent from the B.C. government’s 19-page budget speech on Tuesday was any mention of the largest publicly funded project in the province’s history.

Nor did the government devote a single word to the $10.7 billion Site C dam during last week’s Speech from the Throne, which presented the NDP’s “affordability” agenda for the coming year.

Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau said the avoidance of Site C appears to be deliberate.

To not talk about it, as it’s moving forward, seems to be more than just an oversight,” Furstenau told DeSmog Canada.

New Legislation Shows Cracks in Trudeau's First Nations Promises

Justin Trudeau environment and First Nations

When it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks a really good talk. A close look at new laws that will dictate how major resource projects are reviewed, however, suggest he wants to leave himself a lot of wiggle room when it comes to walking the walk.

The week before Trudeau was lauded for a speech in the House of Commons that promised of a new legal framework for Indigenous people, his government released two long-awaited pieces of environmental legislation.

Initial reactions were cautiously optimistic. But now that the dust has settled,  it’s clear that matching words to action is often an exercise in optimistic romanticism.

Canada Is Replacing Coal With Natural Gas — And That’s A Huge Problem

Enmax Shepard Energy Centre

On Friday, the federal government released its long-awaited draft regulations for the phase-out of coal-fired power in Canada. It was a huge move — the first step to fulfilling a central piece of the government’s pledge to “transition to a low-carbon economy” via the Pan-Canadian Framework.

But another draft regulation was also released on Friday, albeit with a lot less fanfare: performance standards for natural gas electricity generation. Basically, it proposes establishing maximum carbon intensities for different kinds of gas plants. Importantly, it won’t apply to facilities that already exist, converted from burning coal or those operating as “peaker” plants.

Doesn’t sound awful, right? Except one big catch: the regulation effectively gives the go-ahead for provinces transitioning away from coal — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia — to replace a lot of their lost generation capacity with natural gas. And that seriously undermines the country’s ability to decarbonize its electricity system anytime soon.

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