Manifesto Multilinko
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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Our National Energy Policy: Consumption

before you cheer for Canada, consider the glaring hole: There is no energy policy to speak of, other than to pump the oil and gas out of the ground as fast as the technology allows, and export them. What happens when the cheap stuff runs out? If it weren't running out, oil companies wouldn't be sinking tens of billions of dollars into the Alberta oil sands.

While it's easy to decry Europe for nationalistic energy frenzy, at least some European countries are thinking beyond the next quarter. The Swedish government just announced its intention to be free of fossil fuels by 2020. It's probably an impossible goal, but at least it's a goal and even a marginal reduction in oil consumption would be an accomplishment.

Japan imports no more oil today than it did in the 1970s. Britain's oil consumption is no higher today than it was in 1973, when the Arab oil embargo sent prices soaring. Its goal is to keep it that way. A congestion charge in central London, introduced in 2003 and raised last year to £8 ($16) for private vehicles, has substantially reduced traffic and raised air quality without killing the convenience factor. Most of the collected fees are put into public transportation.

In Japan, Britain and in other parts of Europe, the policy of high energy taxes has crimped demand, encouraged the development of alternative energy and created cars whose fuel consumption is a marvel by North American standards. If oil prices keep rising, the effect on the European economies will be easier to bear, relatively speaking.

In Canada, as in the United States, energy policy is focused on the supply side -- the more the better, end of argument -- and is almost purely reactive. The oil sands need to burn natural gas to create the steam to heat the tarry oil so it can be pumped to the surface. So without thinking about the consequences of burning clean fuel to make a dirty fuel, plans are made to build the 1,200-kilometre Mackenzie pipeline.

If Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver introduced a London-style congestion charge, drivers would ram their SUVs into the mayor's office. No politician would dare suggest such an idea. The supply policy works beautifully; the conservation policy doesn't work because it doesn't exist. Canada, as a result, will not be a leader in the development of energy-efficient and renewable-energy technologies -- probably the fastest-growing industry in the world.

from the Globe and Mail - What Europe can learn from Canada - Eric Reguly

The oil sands make no sense.
Let me see, we take giant oil-powered machines and use them to scoop up and grind up slightly oily dirt.
Then we lovingly steam-clean the dirt using fossil natural gas and clean water, in order to produce: some fairly crummy oil.

If this doesn't tell you that economics and politics don't work, I don't know what will.