David Staples: On our coldest days, where would we be without the miracle of fossil fuels?

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The gut-level argument for fossil fuel use that hits hardest?

During this cold snap with daytime highs around -30 C, because of cheap, reliable and abundant fossil fuels our cars still move, our lights, TVs, computers and stoves turn on and our phones get charged.

On Tuesday, with a daytime high of -30 C, the Reliable Energy twitter account, which tracks Alberta’s sources of electrical power generation, reported: “At this moment 95.44% of Alberta’s electricity is being produced by fossil fuels. Wind is at 2.98% of capacity and producing 0.51% of total generation, while solar is at 0.00% of capacity and producing 0.000% of total generation. At the same time we are importing 852 MW or 7.5%.”

Just as the daily report came out, I was interviewing Calgary oil executive and author David Yager, author of the new book From Miracle to Menace: Alberta, A Carbon Story, his look at the history and ongoing demonization of the Alberta oil patch.

When he gives a speech to industry people, Yager always brings up one point. “I always ask the audience, ‘Where do we in the fossil fuel business win 24-7-365?’ And of course most people think we’re doomed and don’t really see through it. The answer to the question is we win at the gas pump, the airport and the burner tip, because even oilsands haters fill up the tank on the way to protest. The people who are going to save the world by going to the next conference are going to fly over there. In this weather here, this country is uninhabitable without fossil fuels.”

If this all seems like Yager is stating the obvious, it’s nonetheless important to do so. We need to keep stating the plain and hard facts because so many Canadians are caught up in the destructive delusion that we can somehow save the world by killing off Canada’s oil and gas sector.

The reality is that our oil and gas economy has helped create a level of prosperity for tens of millions of Canadians and billions of people around the world unmatched in human history. Yager wants to find a way to extend and increase that prosperity, yet still meet the heavy challenge posed by man-made climate change.

He sees nothing in the policy suggestions of the anti-oil and gas faction that will come close to either lowering carbon emissions on a massive scale or preserving worldwide prosperity.

The current debate on climate change has reached the point of absurdity, he says. “There is a whole bunch of people that believe that all we need to get out of the fossil fuel business and into renewables is political will.”

But despite hundreds of billions in investment in solar and wind around the world, there’s not a city on earth that can run on solar and wind alone. These renewable energies don’t produce electricity when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow, and we don’t have the battery technology to store huge amounts of energy. That’s why jurisdictions like Ontario that invested heavily in solar and wind haven’t reduced overall emissions, though they have succeeded in jacking up electricity prices.

The extreme of climate alarmism has peaked in Canada, Yager believes. Both British Columbia and Quebec are now keen for major LNG projects. “I think the realization is that we can’t continue to be this activist on the climate file without materially damaging the economy.”

The federal Liberals, facing an economic downturn and also massive deficit spending, will back away from their most aggressive anti-industry policies, Yager predicts.

When it comes to dealing with climate change, Yager’s own thinking has been greatly influenced by American billionaire Bill Gates, who argues breakthrough technologies will make the difference. Yager sees energy companies in Alberta playing a key role, by finding lower emission techniques in oil, steel and cement production.

“The leading edge of this is not going to be the government’s Department of Saving Mankind. The leading edge is going to be the youth of tomorrow, the engineers, the technologists, the dreams, the schemers.”

The greatest recent reduction in emissions came not from renewables, but when fracking in our oil and gas fields made for abundant natural gas, collapsing the price and making lower carbon gas more economical than coal, Yager says. “The solution was entirely private sector-driven — and the greens hate that.”

They may hate it, but it’s the kind of information that is slowly sinking in. Green activists deserve credit for raising awareness of climate change, but their so-called solutions are too costly, too ineffective, too bureaucratic and often don’t work.



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January 16, 2020 |

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