Thursday, April 19, 2018

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion - Necessary for the Environment & the Economy

As a person concerned with the environment, a lifelong resident of British Columbia and a lover of the outdoors – I want to care for my province. As a person empathetic to first nation issues, I want to work toward a resolution of the challenges facing them – many of which funding is the cure. As a person that understands the value of enterprise generally, I want to create an operational environment that is predictable and recognises the realities of the world around us. As a Canadian, I am angered, by the fact, that people can malign one of our industries with impunity.


What matters, are the concerns British Columbian’s regarding the Kinder Morgan Pipeline as opposed to non-Canadian actors with an axe to grind. There are two primary concerns British Columbian’s have – firstly, the safety and care of our coast and secondly, many believe that by stopping the pipeline they will stop the Oilsands from expanding and by extension mitigate global warming. Our own government officials, professionals in their own right, have stated that it believes the risk to the coastline is acceptable. As for mitigating climate change, the truth is, whether the Oilsands operates or not, the consumption of fossil fuels will continue unabated; I can demonstrate this clearly, and any rational mind can see it in a second if they take the time to look.

Click Here to Read

Jeffrey Sachs makes this statement in a recent Globe and Mail piece -

“… the truth is that Alberta oil sands have absolutely no place in a climate-safe world. Investing in them is almost surely to be investing in a future bankruptcy.” JEFFREY D. SACHS CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

If I were a company or a company organization or a government involved in the Canadian Oilsands, I think I would be pursuing this comment through the courts. Firstly, Mr. Sachs should know that whether the Oilsands were to continue or not, there will be no affect on world fossil fuel consumption – NONE – so by extension, their continued operation would have no effect on “climate safety”.  Mr. Sachs stopped being an academic with this statement and took up the mantle of the purveyor of BS – damaging BS. The companies that have invested in the Oilsands, were at the outset, innovative pioneers that entered into the endeavour at considerable risk to themselves. Yes, at the start the Oilsands were a speculative space, now, thanks to the men AND WOMEN, employed there, who’ve developed cutting edge technologies – both the environmental and economic picture is getting close to par with conventional sources.

Mr. Sachs touts renewables as the solution, they are to a degree, however, we are nowhere near at the point of at par fungibility between fossil fuels and “renewables”. He also fails to acknowledge methods related to the carbon-neutral use of fossil fuels.  


There are many dangers with distorting the public’s perception of the challenges related to climate change, most importantly, however, is that we get a policy that fails to even address the issue of climate change and leaves other considerations like economy damaged.   The widespread use of Carbon Taxes in Canada is an example of a policy choice that will never change usage patterns of fossil fuels, is regressive and hurts marginal energy-dependent industries like agriculture. There are better options for climate policy that protect our present economy and provide capital for the new energy economy.

Canada is a responsible producer of fossil fuels with an industry that produces a good deal of social surplus. It is offensive in the extreme that entities exterior to Canada can gain such influence over our policy choices. The only reason Mr. Sachs comments are so damaging, for example, is that we allow environment input into our industry and someone may actually believe is propaganda. In Saudi Arabia a country that provides 13% of the oil imported to Canada or in Russian Federation a country that provides 12% of the oil imported to Canada – there is little or no place for input from the environmental movement or for sniping “intellectuals” peddling their own agendas. Most importantly, if Canada’s industry is subdued, like Mr. Sachs and many like him are seeking to do, then producers with no progressive social imperatives will prosper. Worse, however, is that Canada’s ability to help move the world to a responsible place in respect to carbon emissions will be weakened.

Click Here to Read

The first nations people deserve a better life, a life at par with the rest of Canadians. The environment movement perpetually highjacks the empathy any caring person has for their needs and misdirects it, leaving first nation people wanting and no closer to the solution. The first nation’s people would be better to divorce themselves of the environmentalist agenda; environmental protection is critical, it is just that activists have been ruthless in pursuit of their agenda at the expense of furthering the socio-economic interests of the first nations people.

Stopping the Kinder Morgan Pipeline achieves nothing except harm for all the reasons stated above. As important, is the fact that rail transport will be forced to fill the gap to get our oil to market, a much less secure option than pipeline transport. So the oil will get to the coast and the limited risk that tanker travel represents will be the same, negating any effect whatsoever on coastal safety. The fact is, all the opposition to the pipeline, even if successful only serves to exacerbate the things British Columbians are concerned about. The entire foray on the part of the BC Government and environment activists is and was pure folly.

Some more thinking on the subject:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Better to Jaw than War - If war comes, we need the tools to confront aggression

I often listen to the radio; it seems you get a little more in-depth coverage on a given issue. The topic that prompted this blog post was the ethics associated with Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it is applied to warfare, and by extension, the automation of warfare.  The prospect of war is a grim, I dedicate most of my thought on how to prevent it; but if the fight comes, as it has so many times, we should be prepared.  Most importantly, however, we need to effect positive relations with world actors through aggressive engagement, the construction of a world narrative and trade.
Precarious Cross Roads & the Unstable World Order
Presently, the USA, primarily and NATO hold world hegemony. NATO, of late, has inducted states that are less sturdy actors than the post WW2 “core group”. So within NATO, there are some fissures forming. NATO’s present organizational structure is sluggish to discipline bad actors. While NATO is clearly intact, and clearly the most successful alliance in history – external political pressures have had it appear to be a paper tiger at times. The fact is, in recent history, most “aggressive” military engagement has taken place under the banner of “a coalition” rather than NATO. While one appreciates the level headiness and prudence of NATO’s leadership, if ever there has been a time for a posture of strength, it is now. Greater effort on the part of NATO members to effect adequate resourcing and cohesion is critical.

While the USA and NATO still hold sway militarily, there are potential configurations that could emerge that would challenge NATO.  As was the case pre WW1, where there were four, more or less at par actors with uneasy alliances in play, the world today has a somewhat similar circumstance emerging – or rather, a similar circumstance could emerge if we are tardy in spotting the trend and responding to it. 
The Crumbling of the Westphalian Establishment
State sovereignty has been the cornerstone of world order. This order was effective in large measure historically because various modalities of discourse, interpersonal and public, were contained intra-nationally – states populations were to a degree isolated from one another. Even with the emergence of the television mass media era, there was a filter on the data that moved from one population to another. Now, as is widely evident, data moves between individuals nearly seamlessly regardless of jurisdiction.

The tendency is to view the “state” in geophysical terms, a group of people “own” the territory within a set of boundaries and that area is theirs’ to manage.  The truth is more abstract than that, the “state” is really determined by the strength of its narrative and the degree to which that narrative effects cohesiveness in the population or a collective identity.

The combination of these two realities is contributing the Balkanisation of the world order, as well as, introducing disruption and volatility to public opinion.

Mitigation of threat – engagement engagement engagement and more engagement
Engagement is lacking in many ways, the full engagement between state leadership is lacking, deeper administrative engagement into the second and third tiers of respective administrations and finally, and most importantly, engagement of the world population generally. Engagement of the world population offers the largest opportunity to effect peace via a “shared” narrative and is grossly under-addressed worldwide.
A role Canada can play effectively in conjunction with other countries of “like mind” is to begin a concerted, well-financed and sustained effort to inform the world citizens of the value of our system and way of living. The value of personal sovereignty, property rights, the social surplus of markets, secular imperatives and the notion of a progressive thrust in governance. Canada, via the CBC, in a joint venture with the BBC, ABC and others could initiate a worldwide program to aggressively engage populations.  This is the quintessential oz. of prevention; $10 billion here would very likely stave off many of hostilities that loom on the horizon and keep my grandsons from the horrors of war. “Better to jaw jaw jaw than war war war” as Mr. Churchill taught us.  “We”  the “West” have spent trillions upon trillions in preparation for war, I submit, if we had spent 10 cents on every dollar directed to military spending toward evangelising the miracle that is the Canadian way of living, we would have created a functional world narrative and be further away from war now, rather than inching closer.

Militarily Oriented Geo-Political Up and Comers
At the fall of the wall, Russia was open to us and we frittered away the goodwill there. Now, again, rather than engage Mr. Putin, a man of conscience and a strong leader, we’ve alienated him further. We have grown in influence in Eastern Europe, but, at the cost of Russia’s goodwill. There is a growing anti-western sentiment amongst Russia’s young people that is a product of the lamenting of the transformation from the Soviet order to present day Russia and perceived slights from the west.

China has been extremely successful in converting from a fully command and control economy to a partially free market economy. Much of their success has been due to access to western markets. China has an operating model that parallels the operating model that brought the British Empire to prominence, authoritarian government and corporatist socio-economic structure.  There may have been an opportunity through the course of China’s evolution for the west to impart its core values in a stronger way, in some instances we’ve failed.    

There are a number of other geopolitical areas of concern that threaten world stability, their exploration is outside the scope of this document, it suffice to say for the purpose of this document, that their threat as a causal agent in igniting a large confrontation is recognized – by way of example – the dynamics that emerged between the US and Russia in recent events in the Middle East.

The reason I call attention to Russia and China is that they’ve taken a “competitive stance” with the west. Competition can make us better; the challenge is that the ultimate competition, the unbridled confrontation between two or more global actors is a terrifying prospect.

Resolve – if a fish rots from the head, civilisations rot from the core, or rather, the disintegration and diffusion of core ideals.
The progression of Western civilisation has had, as an ostensible core value FREEDOM and this core value has been shored up in large measure by governance that has, under the adversarial realities of democratic government, hybridized social policy with a fairly well supported “free” market. This uneasy association has generated a standard of living unparalleled in human history. One thing that is most concerning today, however, is the willingness for this core element of western society to be compromised, prostituted or directly attacked within our society and its abuse ignored in jurisdictions outside our ambit.

The freedom from coercion and the freedom to act (complete liberty) as a core value, has advanced all people in the west. It was the dream of the “founders” of the enlightenment to create a state of being whereby people have a choice in belief, to build their lives founded on the discoveries of the critical mind, love and the metaphysical contemplation of their preference.  The protection, enhancement and propagation of this core value will make the unparalleled prosperity we’ve enjoyed in the West available to the rest of the world.

Churchill once said “courage is the most important virtue of all, as it guarantees the rest”, the core value of freedom, is the core value that ensures all the advancements the people pursue, and as such, it is the most important core value. It is our obligation to take this inheritance that has come at so much cost, by so many, and care for it. If this is true, and if all means of peaceful resolve are gone then perhaps war will become the only means to protect it.      

The Ultimate Competition – What are you prepared to do? - The Hammer  
War is an event that occurs when all else has failed, it is the ultimate failure in human relations. When it occurs, our participation should have been motivated by the desire to defend that which we hold dear. Defining what we hold dear is a key element of understanding the various thresholds for taking a war footing, defining what we hold dear is outside the scope of this document as well – people usually know good from evil because they taste it.

The Canadian Military is charged with defending Canada. In the context of world order, we derive most of our security from our association with NATO and our proximity to the US. Defending an area the size of Canada with a population the size of ours is a challenging at best; particularly so if Canada had to “go it alone”.

AI and automation are critical components of any future military development. I would argue that wars of the future will be won on a given participant’s ability to hold a reserve of raw resources and convert those raw resources into actionable assets the fastest.  To my mind, the question is how to use AI and automation, rather than whether to use them. The ability to leverage resources and minimize the use and risk exposure of personnel should be pursued with vigour – we need to be the best and the fastest, period.

Perhaps what we are prepared to do in our defence should be determined by what others have done in the past. We know that in history there have been actors willing to breach all international protocols in the unbridled pursuit of power. We know that in the face of that aggression “we”, “the West”, used Nuclear weapons in warfare. The answer is, in the ultimate competition, we have to be prepared to do anything necessary to win. Are there morally dictated gradations of engagement? Yes, however, ultimately, our actions are determined by the zeal of the aggressor.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Pipeline Obstruction - Equals - Oil Sands Moratorium

Moratorium on oilsands development NOW, why? Regardless of what scientists say, regardless of the risk to humanity, regardless of whether Canada produces oil or not; fossil fuels will be used for a long time to come. If Canada stopped oilsands production tomorrow, other producers will fill the gap in supply, producers of ill repute – Nigeria, Venezuela – and then there are the geopolitical realities with transferring production to producers who challenge us in the world, Iran, for example.  It is na├»ve in the extreme and grossly irresponsible to suggest Canada should forgo the economic benefit of the Oilsands in the first place and to forfeit the means by which to finance transition in the second.

We all realize that there is a need to begin the transition away from fossil fuels, we need to draw on our natural strength in fossil fuels, to in effect, turn the situation inside out. We can set the transition time frame, we can build industry realities to suite. That is to say, if the industry is given a clear set of parameters to work with it can invest accordingly. When government, industry and interested parties understand time frames and costs, then there can be set in place the funding of transition by the wealth generated by the industry itself – industry informed can shape the transition.  Reducing Canadian production, reducing Oilsands, the largest potential contributor to Canadian oil production only serves to both damage economic prospects and weaken the transition process. 

The realities of the world economy dictate the realities of global warming, the challenge is the absence of fungibility of energy source, as opposed to very marginal variances in carbon load per barrel of oil produced; the brain trust concerned about fossil fuel use would do better to direct attention to substitutes and or long-term functional use of fossil fuels, than playing politics in a space that has no response to politics. The demand for energy, in large measure, is a fixed number of BTUs, Canadian Oilsand oil can provide them, China Coal can provide them, German Coal can provide them, producers of ill repute can provide them – they will be provided by fossil fuels until a viable substitute comes. The reality is, and this fact is substantiated by market realities – there is no viable substitute at present.

Any discussion around fossil fuels, climate change and Canada, needs to have as a backdrop consideration of some important points, Canada is a responsible producer, Canada is a socially conscious producer, Canada due to its forest landscape is a massive carbon sink, Canada’s export of Natural Gas has resulted in a net carbon benefit vis a vis the reduction in world consumption of coal. Canada is a “petro” economy, enormous wealth accrues to Canadians from the fossil fuel industry –  rather than trying to stop the industry, perhaps we ought to consider a more aggressive use of mitigation on the path to transition.

Document Calling for an Oilsands Moratorium - CLICK LINK BELOW

Response to 10 Reasons  

Reason 1. Continued expansion of oil sands and similar unconventional fuels in Canada and beyond is incompatible with limiting climate warming to a level that society can handle without widespread harm. The latest analyses agree that the warming predicted to occur this century will substantially raise the risk of severe ecological and economic damage, widespread social upheaval, and human suffering (IPCC 2013) and that oil sands expansion is inconsistent with avoiding this outcome (Chan et al. 2010, McCollum et al. 2014, McGlade and Ekins 2014). To address the risks of climate change, Canada has committed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2030. Continued investment in oil sands production and infrastructure is not consistent with these targets and undermines broader efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and control climate warming (Office of the Auditor General of Canada 2012, Environment Canada 2014). ‡ We need a different energy path.

We need a different energy path, granted – we need to have a path, no one to date has offered a viable path. Punishing Canada, a responsible producer offers no solution and retards access to funding for transition, because in Canada we offer access to influence over the industry – other jurisdictions fail to. What seems to be missing in the dialogue on the issue, is that “the risks of climate change” are absent relevance in managing the problem, the societal inertia related to fossil fuel use is. The fossil fuel consumption system is at such a scale and complexity that it is beyond managing absent energy fungibility at fossil fuel price parity. The entire transportation complex is an infrastructure of such mass it is nearly impossible to transition away from.

Reason 2. Oil sands should be one of the first fuel sources we avoid using as society moves to non-polluting forms of energy, not the next carbon-intensive source we exploit. We need reliable energy sources while we develop a new economy around cleaner fuels. Extracting, refining, transporting, and burning oil-sands energy produces among the most greenhouse gases of any transport fuel per unit energy delivered (Brandt 2011, Gordon et al. 2015). Expansion of oil sands production will exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution and slow the transition to cleaner energy (Unruh 2000).

It is the case that oilsands oil is more carbon intensive than other sources but, only by a small margin and now with insitu technologies, the carbon load for Oilsands fuel is falling. What is certainly the case is that the overall environmental damage from oil production is greater by the producers of ill repute. Nigeria still flares natural gas off oil wells, like Canada did in the 1950s, Venezuela puts crude oil directly on roadways. Any oil production, coal production and to a lesser degree, gas production “exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution”, the focus needs to be on managing the use of fossil fuels until the solution to their safe use is found or until a substitute is found. 

Natural Gas Carbon Emissions Nearly Half Coal

The actual mining operations are only taking less than 1% of the area of Alberta, this is a tiny footprint relative to the economic benefit the oilsands generates. When one contemplates the footprint of the overall transportation complex, for example, the oilsands is dwarfed.

To call for a moratorium on the oilsands is unfair to Canada when the preferential environmental performance of the Canadian oil industry relative all other producers is clear and the incremental increase in carbon for oilsands oil is small and shrinking.

Reason 3. Current oil sands environmental protections and baseline data are largely lacking, and protections that exist are too seldom enforced. In Canada, there are few controls and no uniform standards regarding pollution and other impacts from oil sands mining. Water quality monitoring by the Canadian government and industry was poor until recently, so there is little baseline knowledge to evaluate impacts on terrestrial and aquatic life (Environment Canada 2010, Royal Society of Canada 2010, Dillon et al. 2011, RAMP 2011, Jordaan 2012, Kirk et al. 2014). § In some cases, the enforcement of existing regulations (such as 2009 Bill 74 that would eliminate liquid tailings) is formally postponed (Energy Resources Conservation Board 2013). Actual rates of development on the ground exceed stated conservation targets (Komers and Stanojevic 2013, Government of Alberta 2012). ** Too often, the development of the oil sands is presented as inevitable, while protections for human health and the environment are treated as optional.

The primary jurisdiction in Canada for oilsands production is Alberta, so uniformity of regulation is less than relevant. You state Canadian water quality monitoring is poor, compared to where. The people living proximally to the oilsands development are in the main very healthy people. There are health challenges with the first nations peoples in the area, some attribute their health challenges to water; it is unclear to me whether health challenges are a product of the ambient environmental reality or industrial activity; the solution is clear enough – improve living standards and bring drinking water and food sources up to standard. The oilsands economic contribution effects a degree of prosperity in the area that exceeds the national average; there are many in the first nations that are benefitting.  To say that “protections for human health and the environment are treated as optional” in Canada simply is unsupported by the facts, in Canada generally and in the area immediate to the oilsands.

Reason 4. Contaminants from oil sands development permeate the land, water and air of the Canadian boreal landscape, and many of these impacts are difficult to mitigate. Independent studies have demonstrated that mining and processing Albertan oil sands releases carcinogenic and toxic pollutants (e.g., heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic compounds) to the atmosphere from smoke stacks and evaporation, and to groundwater from leaching of tailings ponds. This pollution harms terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the species within them (Pollet and Bendell-Young 2000, Gurney et al. 2005, Nero et al. 2006, Gentes et al. 2007, Kelly et al. 2009, Kelly et al. 2010, Landis et al. 2012, Rooney et al. 2012, Kurek et al. 2013, Andrishak and Hicks 2011, Hebert et al. 2013, Galarneau et al. 2014, Parajulee and Wania 2014, Schindler 2014, Schwalb et al. 2015).

The Canadian boreal landscape is a sweeping description, assuming some carriage from the oilsands, perhaps 2% of the Alberta “landscape” would be exposed to air “contaminants”. The industry does come with downsides, we all realize, it is a question of degree in all cases. The area of operation is remote, industrial practices manage risk to workers effectively. The wildlife in the immediate area are sure to be affected, in managing biodiversity the question is “do we have a healthy representative population on which to secure the ongoing health of any given population” – clearly, the answer here is yes. The area is generally capable of managing the impacts that emanate from oilsands production. Is there some room for improvement, there is, and there has been an improvement.

Reason 5. Less than 0.2% of the area affected by Canadian oil sands mining has been reclaimed, and none restored to its original state (Government of Alberta 2014). The oil sands industry’s claim—widely seen in industry advertisements—that its mine sites can be restored to their former natural state is not true. Indeed, the claim is at odds with the industry’s own reclamation plans filed with the Alberta government (Rooney et al. 2012). Recently published studies find that intensive disturbances associated with oil sands mining change fundamental biological processes, making it impossible to fully restore the affected wetlands, peatlands, and boreal forest, now or in the future (Foote 2012, Johnson and Miyanishi 2008). Conversion of the boreal forest alongside other disturbances from oil sands development has led to the decline of federally threatened species such as bison and woodland caribou and important subsistence food species such as moose in addition to the ecosystem-wide effects addressed in Reason 4 (Gates et al. 1992, Dyer et al. 2001, McLoughlin et al. 2003, Sorensen et al. 2008, Morgan and Powell 2009, Boutin et al. 2012, Stewart and Komers 2012). The few attempts to reclaim mined lands have produced landscapes that bear little resemblance to what was there previously and contain only a fraction of the historical biological diversity (Rooney and Bayley 2011, Rooney et al. 2012, Kovalenko et al. 2013).

It is certainly true that the mine site can be reclaimed, it is also true that the site can be improved post-mining, improved from the point of view of another human use, or improved from a wildlife habitat perspective. It is often the case that people in the environmental movement are in possession of an absolutism with respect to the functionality of nature, it is rare that anything in nature is optimum for anything, it is almost always the case humans can accentuate biological functionality. By way of example, spawning reds (the area where fish spawn) are never optimum, we know the exact water flow, size of aggregate ect. to make an ideal red, we can make that happen every time – nature rarely if ever does. There are requirements for reclamation built into regulation, it is a matter of optimizing timing in the context of operations, it may be that timing is missing at present or it may be that government needs to push companies along.

Reason 6. Development and transport of oil sands is inconsistent with the title and rights of many Aboriginal Peoples of North America. Rapid expansion of the oil sands in Canada violates or puts at risk nation-to-nation agreements with Aboriginal peoples. In Alberta, oil sands mining is contributing to the degradation and erosion of treaty and constitutionally protected rights by disrupting ecological landscapes critical to the survival of Aboriginal culture, activities, livelihoods, and lifeways (Passelac-Ross and Potes 2007, Foote 2012, ACFN). In the US, proposed infrastructure projects threaten to undermine Treaty agreements between the federal government and Native American tribes (Mufson 2012, Hart 2014). In both countries, contamination of sacred lands and waters, disruption of cultural sites, lack of consultation, and long-term effects of climate change undermine sustainable social, ecological, and economic initiatives involving Aboriginal peoples across the continent and constitute violations of Native sovereignty (Passelac-Ross and Potes 2007, Foote 2012, Mufson 2012, Hart 2014, Irvine et al. 2014, McLachlan 2014, Wohlberg 2014, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Tsleil-Wautath Nation).

To state that “development and transport of oil sands is inconsistent with the title and rights of many aboriginal peoples “ is certainly a convenient argument, convenient as it is inaccurate (at least in Canadian Jurisdiction). It must be said, the manner in which legitimate first nations interests have been hijacked by the environment movement is appalling, appalling because the first nation people’s are paying for their allegiance to the environmental movement with ongoing reduced living standards.  The aboriginal peoples in the Fort McMurry area have openly stated their support for the project, they are benefiting from it. What is in conflict with first nation interests is the pain of low resources, the oil industry can and does help. In the area proximal to the oilsands there is no encroachment on First Nation treaty rights – to assert there is, is wrong. What is violating the rights of First Nations peoples is the absence of prosperity? From the perspective of prosperity, your document’s assertions are violating First Nations right to prosperous and healthy lives.

Reason 7. What happens in North America will set a precedent for efforts to reduce carbon pollution and address climate warming elsewhere.
The choices we make about the oil sands will reverberate globally, as other countries decide whether or how to develop their own large unconventional oil deposits (Balouga 2012). Strong North American leadership is needed now, because the impacts of current decisions will be felt for decades and centuries.

The reduction of Canadian oil into the overall world oil supply will only serve to hasten the development of other heavy oil reserves elsewhere, and once again, transferring production to jurisdictions absent the regulatory constraints placed on Canadian oil producers. It is far better to keep oil production in a country where there can be input into operations by environmental interests and where the government can be “managed” in a manner that directs a portion of oil royalties toward transition. This document generally and this point specifically, fails to recognize the presence of willing buyers and willing sellers – the demand is there, it will be supplied – other heavy oil reserve ownership could care a less whether we set a good example or not, they care whether the long-term price of oil will support extraction. While the expertise and technology are in some cases transferable, the Canadian industry has an edge due to the dynamics of capital allocation and length of time under operation.  Canada is a stable jurisdiction, industry forged a favorable arrangement with government here that supported a very long-term investment in plant and technology – the early stage support of the industry effectively “stranded capital” – those plants will produce at or near a loss position now because there is no means to transfer the value of the assets to another production modalities. Other jurisdictions in the present supply/demand picture are unlikely to attempt to enter the market with heavy oil reserves. If the authors of this document have their way, all of the North American production will be curtailed, a reality that will reduce supply and drive up the price – perhaps to a point where heavy oil reserves elsewhere become viable for development.   

It is naive to believe that anything we do in North America will affect the use of oil in other jurisdictions, China is burning coal in a manner that is far below North America Standards, for example, nothing we have said or done has had China change its use of coal. What will reduce China's use of Coal is inexpensive LNG, a substitute fossil fuel the represents considerable benefit; LNG can be viewed as a viable “step” in the transition process.

Everyone in the environmental movement realizes that any solution that disadvantages one jurisdiction will fail, disadvantaging North American is the premise of this document – Kyoto failed for this very reason. 

Reason 8. Controlling carbon pollution will not derail the economy.
Most leading economists now agree that limits on carbon pollution – using mechanisms such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, or regulations – can facilitate a transition over several decades to low-emission energy without a dramatic reduction in global economic growth (Global Energy Assessment 2012, IPCC 2014, Nordhaus 2014).

The transition holds the requirement of a substitution, it is certain that over the course of several decades we can move away from fossil fuels even with our current solutions; the key, of course, is to access more dramatic solutions. You state “controlling carbon pollution will not derail the economy” which economy, real people, in real places will be derailed if not redirected. Canada’s economy is very reliant on fossil fuel if Canada is not a petrostate, it is a raw resource state with a massive petro component – Canada would incur hardship if the transition was too aggressive. Curtailing pipeline expansion, curtailing oil production will hurt Canada’s economy, and to do it now is premature for reasons stated above. One only needs to look at history and map dramatic upswings in oil prices and the resulting recessions to know that constrained supply of oil slows the economy.

Carbon taxes have no real effect on fossil fuel consumption, they offer a means by which to extract funds from carbon consumption to facilitate the transition. Cap & Trade Systems introduce offsetting industrial activity – X number of tons of carbon emitted X number of trees planted – Cap & Trade is the most viable means to manage future emissions.

 Reason 9. Debates about individual pipeline proposals underestimate the full social costs of the oil sands, and existing policies ignore cumulative impacts.
These are not simply business decisions. Responsible policies should address the interwoven, system-wide impacts of oil sands development, from mines and refineries, to pipelines, rail and tanker traffic, to impacts on economies and the global climate system. Current laws, regulations, and policies are not designed to assess cumulative impacts (Johnson and Miyanishi 2008, Office of the Auditor General of Canada 2011).†† When oil sands development is viewed as an integrated whole, the costs and benefits of individual decisions can be evaluated responsibly (Chan et al. 2014).

The challenge with assessing climate change and any given human action in relation to it, is that causation is difficult to assess, it is a challenge that is outside the perception of most of us living our lives. This reality is exacerbated by the rhetoric that is present on both sides of the debate. It is clear that we need to understand the effects of a given industry in a holistic way, and that externalities be measured and monitored. We see a global increase in temperature, we see that this will effect environmental changes – the complex of causal agents is obscured by the number and the causal agents’ global nature. The earth has been warmer than it is now in the past – they farmed in Greenland in around 1000, temperatures were at about that same point in 2006. This fact in no way negates the fact that fossil fuels represent the biggest anthropological influence on the environment and that measures need to be taken to transition away, what is unclear, however, is the degree to which human activity is changing the climate. There is room for discussion, for interpretation of events, when you approach the “climate change community” on the subject, you’re labelled a “denier”. It is this degree of “religiosity” that confounds rational assessment at any level in the process of managing the challenge. The facts are rarely assessed rationally but rather used to support one side or the other. The fervour by which oilsands are attacked is unfounded – in the context of the overall world industry – singling out the Canadian oilsands is unfair at the least, and irresponsible at worst. Please do a dependent origination analysis on Canadian oilsands oil, but do it also on all other sources of oil AND factor in social costs of oil production in other jurisdictions. When I’ve done that process to the best of my capacity, I’ve drawn the conclusion, that when the entire complex of outcomes is considered - net environmental effect, net social benefit, geopolitical consequences – the Canadian oilsands are a good and responsible producer.

Reason 10. A majority of North Americans want their leaders to address climate change, and they are willing to pay more for energy to help make that happen.
Surveys of public opinion over the last two decades have found increasing public support for effective actions to prevent climate change. An overwhelming majority of North Americans now support government action to address climate change, even when these actions result in modest increases to energy costs (Bloomberg 2014; New York Times/Stanford University 2015).       

People will support things that have limited impact on their living standards. Most people are dependent on fossil fuels for their daily lives and they notice any fluctuation in fuel costs. This document, if it were adhered to, would have no effect on consumption patterns; so the majority of North Americans are unaffected, it is the people who have planned around the oilsands industry who are being attacked. Many of the people now living prosperous lives as a result of oilsands development came from depressed economic zones, and we have waning manufacturing in other parts of Canada with resulting unemployed who need occupation. If you can attack the oilsands and reduce production; the global picture on carbon emissions will remain unchanged.  
If the contents of this document were to be actuated and a moratorium on oilsands production and related infrastructure were to take place, it would guarantee Canada loses absent any assurance that anyone else is in the game. A good many people have built their lives around the future of the oilsands, and resulting infrastructure; curtailing it will derail their economic future – it is irresponsible to advocate the contrary. The fossil fuel “debate” or efforts to alter the way fuels are consumed has been heavily influenced by the countries who are net importers of fossil fuels, they derive economic benefit from alternate energy sources being brought into play, in Canada we incur economic hardship. A moratorium of the nature suggested hurts Canada and shifts production to producers of ill repute. If oilsands are curtailed and there is reduced production; the global picture on carbon emissions will remain unchanged. A moratorium is the wrong approach in the wrong place.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

Another year has passed, and to quote one of Scotland’s sons, the late Keith McCoy, I’m still casting a shadow – albeit, perhaps, slightly wider. As a person matures or grows older, maturity is something I’ve never really wanted to lay claim to, one begins to wonder if they’ve contributed. I listen to CBC radio often, a man was being interviewed and he said when people have grandchildren it changes your DNA – as a grandparent, the focus seems to change from replicating DNA to making sure the DNA you’ve left behind has a safe world to live in. The task in 2018 is to attempt to ensure there is something other than blog ramblings and empty Scotch bottles in my wake; one must endeavour to add to these accomplishments a safe and rational world. The world, again this year, offers many ominous elements; it will take all our best efforts to gain an agreed course with the rest of humanity. Until a pan-world consensus is created, however, one must blog to move the needle, and medicate with Scotch to deal the incrementalism of progress.

In 1939, another of Scotland’s sons, Harry Thomson, lined up to join the Royal Canadian Navy – then he noticed the line for the Royal Canadian Airforce was shorter – so he became a pilot. I am grateful that he helped to quell the progress of fascism, I must say, however, I possess a degree of survivors gilt – my life efforts seem to pale in comparison to his. The threats to liberty now are as acute as they were when my father went to war against tyranny, the battleground, however, has changed – the war now is commercial, technological and takes place in cyberspace. There has been no Pearl Harbour or Poland; there has been an insidious progression of anti-freedom initiatives ushered in on the shirttails of one crisis after another. The price for freedom Tomas Jefferson once said, is constant vigilance; it follows then, the threat to liberty is apathy. When one peruses the political landscape, very little attention is given to the preservation and enhancement of choice, in fact, it is my observation there is a lot of effort being made to curtail choice. There is a propensity among some to excite the populous with the creation of an epic problem and then to offer the solution. One would never assert that all problems are created, nor would one ever assert that all solutions are there to manipulate the populous – but some are – the challenge is discerning which is and which is not.  The best way to discern which is and which is not, is in retrospect, once the dust settles who is better off and who is worse off.

Well, that’s politics out of the way, the next taboo – religion. My mother and her family were members of United Church, my father and his family were members of the Anglican Church. I’m a bit of a church nomad, or perhaps a hedonistic spiritualist or maybe one of those dreaded smorgasbord Christians. I have limited credentials as a theologian, perhaps more limited as a historian – be that as it may, one thing I am certain of is; the only thing worse than a world with religion is one without religion.  Neither of my parents were “religious” people or perhaps more accurately, neither were in anyway orthodox – a feature of my upbringing I am grateful for. Orthodoxy is the enemy of reason, to succumb to the directions of a monk who jotted some notes on a page thousands of years ago is like using a sextant to navigate a jumbo jet – it is just silly. It is silly because we have GPS now to get us where we are going. The desired outcome Christ had was to create a loving, joyful and beautiful place for humanity to exist; many of his followers have forsaken him.

Sixteen hundred years ago a bunch of “guys” sat around a table and picked stories about Christ that suited their purposes and called the outcome the “Bible”. Equally valid texts were omitted, texts, which in many cases were more representative of Christ’s intention. I think we should gather somewhere and write a bible 2.0, a revised edition that has greater contemporary significance. A document that can do what the Old Testament and the New Testament attempted to do with the best knowledge of the day, a book that attempts to offer direction, only the new book would be influenced by all the wonder of modernity and subject to constant revision. We are now on Windows 10; we got there via DOS, one iteration at a time. To stagnate around a book that was assembled with as much political motivation as it was spiritual motivation 1600 years past, is causing many very painful societal errors to play on repeat.

At Christmas time, I do reflect on Christ, I’ll say the name and admit an admiration for his teachings – the primary tenant of which is love and tolerance – a message so powerful not even politicking institutions can kill it. I love the Exodus story, the story of David and the story of Joshua, Jewish stories. I like Muhammad and the concept of Jihad, a noun meaning "to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere.", a process I’m all too engaged in. Three religions, all children of the same god, all too often at war. Tribalism, hate, and intolerance are the enemy – there must be a way to find common cause. Until we do find common cause, until it is clear there is a peaceful path forward – we must strive to keep the upper hand so that we build a future from a position of strength.

On a personal note, if you want to get up-to-speed on my family you can go to Facebook; if you go to my page and scroll down really quickly you can watch my grandchildren grow – I’m a little prone to overshare.

Barks and Max are very healthy, Barks is 11 and Max 8 – since our association never has a day gone by that they’ve missed contributing joy to my day; there is no collection of words that can capture the beauty in a dog. We call Barks the matriarch of the canines and the mother earth channel, there is truly something magical about the dog, if you put your forehead hers all manner if ill is instantly removed from your being. Max we call, magnanimous Max, friendly to a fault, comical as a creature could be and the most observant dog I’ve ever seem – if he sees a spider on the wall he lets me know – incredible eyesight and he uses it.

Please hear this friends, THANK YOU, for your friendship and kindness – the world can be a harsh place, the only thing that helps to mitigate the trial and tribulations is kindness. May health and happiness be your companions in 2018 and however you choose to make peace for with the universe, I hope peace finds you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Transportation & Housing Affordability – Odd bedfellows

There are a number of factors affecting housing affordability in the lower mainland. Certainly, speculation is playing a part, and foreign speculation is a large part of as well. There are other factors at play. The geophysical realities of the lower mainland, especially Vancouver proper constrain the supply of land. The unwillingness for government to bring more Crownland into play constrains the supply of land. The ALR has constrained the supply of land. Affordability for housing is affected by either a decrease in demand or an increase in supply. Seeking solutions related to increasing supply can be pursued absent any dramatic intrusion on market functionality, which it must be said, has served us quite well.

The solution lies in managing the development of the region in a manner that disperses the population in a healthy way and gives access to a larger land base.  So as I like to do, let us begin with the end in mind. I read a book when I was 17 years old called Small is Beautiful, my take away from that book is, that when it comes to community, small is beautiful. Small communities give people a place to live where everyone knows your name. As Schumacher said, in a community of 300 people, if you take someone’s shirt they’ll see you wearing it. Conversely, it is also true, that if you have something happening in your life, someone will know. The modern urban-scape tends to generate a multitude of ills that slices, dices and isolates members of the population in a number of ways. The built environment matters and everything I’ve learned about the built environment indicates it is healthiest to design human contact into the built environment.


The first solution is to take a larger area and make it closer in time and in a manner that makes economic and environmental sense. This would be accomplished by building a rapid transit line from Vancouver to Hope, a rapid transit facility in the nature of Japan’s bullet trains – speeds up to 220 mph – Hope in under an hour. Primary terminals placed along the route will feed and be fed existing infrastructure. Cost for the project would come in at about 6 or 7 Billion. The government would open up the use of low-cost Crownland for the development of a number of communities that fit the overall regional plan or that permit modern and adjunctive development to the existing communities.  Cost recovery would come from fairs, a regional tax levied on new development and the sale of Crownland.

This is more than a housing affordability proposal, this is region-wide development proposal that fixes a number of things, one of which is housing affordability. It would also put us on a track that, over time, would build healthier communities and have people living in a way that permits connectedness and security without having a “bobby on every corner”.  It would bring people out of a geophysically constrained area, to a place where land is abundant and provisions a quasi-rural living experience. I would be very happy to leave my car in Hope and ride the bullet train into downtown Vancouver as a visitor from the interior, as would many people who commute every day from outlying areas near Vancouver.


We have played long enough at attempting to make a patchwork of transportation solutions work, we have played long enough at finding a solution for the full gambit of housing options in the province’s busiest and most populated region.  While we have “cheap” money these sorts of infrastructure programs make sense, it is an investment in British Columbia’s future that will pay dividends in quality of life, air quality and an overall prosperous region.   


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fiscal Policy - Three Critical Elements

Fiscal Policy


Whereas we are managing the province for today and tomorrow Balanced Budgets are necessary for the long-term health of the government.

Whereas we have resource wealth that represents a massive collective asset, and we are liquating said asset with every tree cut, every mineral extracted it behoves us to convert this asset to assets and avoid spending the proceeds from their sale on operations.


To satisfy this requirement we must trend toward clear delineation of resource revenue and ensure it is earmarked for capital acquisitions and new asset development – AND - effect a trend toward clear delineation of “operational revenue” and it being earmarked for “operational spending”.


Whereas, prosperity builds prosperity, in BC we should seek to move the provincial growth to the top performing region in the G20 by aggressive use of region-specific stimulative policies that seed entrepreneurialism, provide a regional advantage and build the economy from the ground up.

Whereas in British Columbia, like many western economies, we are ageing and with an ageing population comes economic stagnation and to counter this trend we must initiate a stimulative policy that is executed at minimum cost to the government.

Whereas, the move of many into retirement has people seeking a safe place for their retirement funds and this is causing a massive amount of latent capital to sit in RRSPs generating very little good for capital’s holders and failing to find its way to the people that really need capital, entrepreneurs. Given this reality, it is necessary to engage in a form of quantitative easing that benefits in a significant way the retirees, builds out business opportunity and represents a limited cost to the government.

Region Specific Stimulative Policy

I propose the development of three bonds, BC Forestry Bonds, BC Municipal Bonds and BC Venture Capital Bonds.

The BC Forestry Bonds will be based on returns to the government gained through more aggressive forest management. There is a basket of silviculture practices that effect a 5% to 7% annual return by hastening the forest cycle to viable fibre. The proposal is to augment this return to sufficient degree that the bond offering competes effectively from the perspective of return and security. Cost recoveries come from the volume gained AND spin-off from forest improvement activity.

BC Municipal Bonds will provide a platform whereby, municipalities can at their own initiative, issue bonds to attain capital for infrastructure improvement. The Provincial government’s role here will be to supply the platform and to secure and augment returns to sufficient degree to permit the bonds to be completive in the investment space. Cost recovery is garnered to a degree through an immediate spinoff from increased economic activity and medium and long-term improvements to vital infrastructure.

BC Venture Capital Bonds will be a means by which people can issue bonds to raise capital for business start-ups. The Provincial government’s role here will be to supply the platform and to secure and augment returns to sufficient degree to permit the bonds to be completive in the investment space. Cost recovery in the short term comes from increased economic activity and regional advantage (an in-migration of capital) and in the medium and long term an innovation-based economy with a larger tax base.


Please notify me if you have suggestions or direction - thank you.
I have had some challenges with computer security, please notify me if you see anything untoward - thank you.