This Listen Up! guest post is by Hugh Holland. Hugh Mackenzie will return to Listen Up! in April.
Real freedom comes only from democracy. Democracy is a system of government by the whole population through elected representatives. Given a choice, everyone in the world would choose democracy, but sadly less than 50 per cent of the world’s population actually have it. Only 21 countries (including Canada rated as number 12) were rated as full democracies in 2021. Democratic countries tend to take their democracy for granted. They should not.
After two horrific world wars, the UN and the rules-based international order was created to improve the prospects for peace in the world. Colonial mentality was replaced by a shared commitment to respect national borders as they exist. Putin’s colonial-era mentality and actions clash with today’s global priorities and are condemned by all but four of 193 members of the UN. Putin will set the long-suffering people of Russia back for another 50 years.
On February 28, 2022, during Putin’s attack on Ukraine, the UN released the direst warning yet from the world’s top climate scientists. What is happening in Ukraine is truly horrific, but it must not distract the world from the even bigger battle against climate change that is already affecting all human and wildlife habitat.
Putin thought Germany’s dependence on Russian oil and gas would give him the winning advantage in his conquest of Ukraine, but as outlined by the International Energy Agency, a rearrangement of supply lines and energy types can mitigate that leverage in the short term and eliminate it in the longer term. That rearrangement is causing a temporary spike in the cost of transportation, food, and heating, but that is a very small price to pay compared to helping Ukraine while avoiding the total devastation of another world war. No doubt China is watching and questioning whether they want to tie their future to a fickle partner like Putin.
The world economy still runs on 80 per cent fossil fuels. But more than 85 per cent of the world’s proven reserves of oil and gas reside in only 15 countries and will be depleted in about 50 years. That leaves the other 178 countries energy dependent. That has been a source of conflict for 100 years.
A “rational” transition to new clean energy technologies offers the possibility for every country to become self-sufficient in energy, mitigating poverty, conflict, and mass migration.
Canada has been an energy powerhouse since the 1970s. But we have become somewhat divided by energy politics. We have choices to make. Which path do we want to take?
Do we want to be a fading powerhouse of old energy, or do we want to be a leading powerhouse of new energy? Putin’s folly and Germany’s dependence on Russian oil and gas should help us to visualize the most rational path forward.
Some of our politicians were quick to suggest Canada should rush to build more pipelines, but here are the realities. Natural gas is by far the cleanest fossil fuel, so the Coastal GasLink project in northern BC should go forward as an interim step to help several other countries including Germany reduce their dependence on energy from coal. However, oil pipelines are a different matter. The recent expansions and rearrangements of Canada’s oil pipelines are almost complete and the crisis in Germany should be over long before any additional new pipelines can be built. We have the pipelines we need to produce and ship five million barrels of oil per day for as long as the world needs it. Rather than invest precious human and financial resources in additional oil pipelines that will be redundant by 2040, the Canadian petroleum industry should start now to become a leader in the rapidly emerging new energy industries.
We have all the expertise and resources we need and have already started in several areas. Ontario can be a major producer of battery-electric vehicles and clean, safe SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) that can co-generate clean electricity and clean industrial heat for making steel, fertilizers, cement, etc. Alberta can use the new SMRs to clean up oil extraction and processing operations, replace coal-fired electricity, power electric vehicles, while using our new total pipeline capacity to safely supply a record five million barrels of cleaner oil per day for as long as the world needs it. Alberta has all the expertise and resources it needs to become a major supplier of green hydrogen to replace diesel fuel for heavy-duty trucks, trains, and mobile equipment. BC can be a major producer of Ballard Power’s hydrogen fuel cell engines, as well as an exporter of clean natural gas. Saskatchewan can be one of the world’s biggest suppliers of uranium fuel for the world’s emerging fleet of SMRs. Manitoba is well-positioned to continue as a major test site for new nuclear, medical, and agricultural technology. Quebec can continue as one of the world’s biggest producers of clean hydro power and become a major exporter of green hydrogen for Europe. Atlantic provinces can benefit from all the above opportunities.
All it takes is for our political and industry leaders to come together in a consensus on a rational vision for Canada’s future. Is that too much to ask?
I couldn’t agree more with our MP Scott Aitchison who says, “Canada is at a crossroads, and I believe there are two paths that our country can travel down. The first is a road of anger, hatred, fighting, and rhetoric. It’s a road of only listening to our own tribe and being unwilling to listen to other people’s ideas. Or we can travel down a second road and choose our better values. We can choose a road of hope, optimism, and creativity.”
On September 10, the Conservative Party will choose a new leader. Sometime after that Canadians will choose our next prime minister. Politics is never about perfection. It is always about choosing the best of imperfect options. Who will be the leader that can best build a consensus (general agreement) on a national vision to fulfil Canada’s outstanding potential?
I.H. Holland P.Eng. (retired)
References: IEA Report for March 7, 2022
Hugh Holland is a retired engineering and manufacturing executive now living in Huntsville, Ontario.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!