A tale of two cities. The past three weeks have opened an intriguing window into the world of nation building, against a backdrop of duelling political visions between US and Canada. The news emanating from the continental hegemon have been dominated by the acts and words of its newly elected President. The message that percolates through the dense miasma of characterizations voiced by the nation’s punditry can be distilled down to a profoundly inspiring mantra: make America make again. Leaving aside the style of delivery and factious pronouncements in the media, one is left mesmerized with the bold stance of a future President who vows to fight every trade deal, every received diplomatic dogma, and every pretense of correctness in order to uphold the nation’s claim to priority benefits in its dealings with the world. For sure, the message has caused dismay or disarray in many halls of foreign power. Yet, its essence is a breath of fresh air in our politically constipated political word. 2017 will see the rise of the America-first agenda plastered far and wide from the very get-go. For Canada, this will translate into a complete reversal of fortunes with the Keystone pipeline project.
The contrast between Washington and Ottawa could not be more damning. North of the border, great commotions swirled about in the aftermath of the two pipeline project approvals for the L3 line replacement and the Trans-Mountain Pipeline Expansion. Safety concerns over the means of delivery (pipe vs rail) were cited as primary driver of both decisions (rather than the blatantly obvious economic benefits to the Nation). Meanwhile, the equally meritorious Northern Gateway project was denied, on grounds that it was not in the best interests of the local affected communities (which begs the question: how are these interests different from those affected by the two approved projects?). Decision makers also suggested that the Douglas Channel was not the right place for large tanker traffic. Imagine for a moment that the decision was instead in the hands of the next American administration. It might reach the same sensible conclusion regarding the suitability of the channel. The segue to that conclusion would be unlikely to close the door on the project. Given what we know of the President-elect’s motivations, it is much more likely that some kind of directive would be issued to find a more suitable location right along the coast, rather than kill off this source of national wealth.
The message is massaged. More concerning still is a comment made by Canada’s Prime Minister, on the occasion of the decision presentation, regarding his desire to see Canada recognized for its resourcefulness, rather than its resources. It’s a wonderfully savvy statement coruscating with syrupy volition, but more sinister than meets the eye. The underlying, tacit message here is that Canada’s capital intensive extraction industries are everything but resourceful. It paints these industries with the kind of broad brushstrokes that perpetuate the fallacy that they are primitive in every sense of the word. Which is the exact opposite adumbrated by the reality on the ground. The economics of these industries demand nothing less than outstanding mastery of technological and management acumen in order to turn a profit. Granted, they are indeed users of gargantuan machinery, city-sized plants and armies of people. But their level of sophistication and resourcefulness are orders of magnitude higher than the cast of obstructionist organizations who will say no to any development, in the name of dogmatic beliefs rooted in delusions. To wit, here is the professional “assessment” of www.collective-evolution.com to the pipeline approvals two weeks ago:
“These pipelines are completely unnecessary. It’s already known that we have many other viable options for generating energy. One of them we know of, beyond solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies that are less effective than we’ve been led to believe, is the Magnetic Transducer Generator by Noca Clean Energy… The bottom line is, we have solutions, and the fact that oil companies and other major corporations control nearly every aspect of our lives is no longer a conspiracy theory. The argument for why we don’t need to generate energy using oil isn’t even an argument anymore; it’s so self-evident that no further points need to be made. The real problem we must now tackle is dethroning the people behind these pipelines and the financial banking elite that funds them, and replacing them with people who hold Earth, its people, and all life on the planet first in their hearts.”
We hold these truths to be self-evident. The absolutism of this position is frightening and based on an imagined reality that is not even wrong. There are NO sources of alternate energy that can scale up sufficiently to replace hydrocarbons, let alone in a manner that would be economically feasible. Let me emphasize this fact again: it is impossible to generate enough electricity via renewable sources to replace oil, gas and coal. This fact has nothing to do with lack of faith, or entrenched fear of change, or an embrace of the status quo. It is a fact based on factual physics. Denouncers can rant all they want about the ignominy of physics’ obduracy; physics doesn’t care. Churchill said it best: “you must look at facts, because they look at you.”
Sadly, it is their message that continues to resonate in the media. Hence, while the state of Illinois finds the political courage to say yes to continued nuclear energy for the right reasons (see James Conca’s article Illinois Sees The Light — Retains Nuclear Power), Canada chooses the tresanta way and grants to the voices of those who contribute nothing to economic growth a veto power over billion-dollar projects that create multitudinous jobs, employ world-class knowhow and generate generational wealth for the nation. Canada may aspire to resourcefulness recognition far and wide; in truth, it is becoming the standard bearer of the “can’t do” league.
And the worst of it? The very industries that contribute so much to this nation appear ready to accept defeat rather than stand up for what they know to be true. They should heed the words of Churchill, once again, who remarked on Chamberlain’s claim of bringing peace with Germany:
“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.’”