Alberta energy politics are pathetic

Smith and Notley should stop the political theatre, embrace a federal-provincial energy partnership

Someone needs to say it: Alberta desperately needs to get on board with federal energy and climate policy. If you need evidence for that argument, look no further than today’s response to the Canadian government’s Sustainable Jobs legislation.

The reaction was pathetic. Premier Danielle Smith bristled at the imagined threat to the oil and gas sector. NDP leader Rachel Notley bristled because, well, Smith. And absolutely nothing constructive was said. This performative political theatre is beyond tiresome. 

Meanwhile, in the real world, the global economy is busy getting ready to wean itself off Alberta’s golden goose.

The International Energy Agency said yesterday that its latest analysis shows that global demand for transport fuels (Alberta’s biggest American market) is set to peak by 2026, all oil consumption will slow significantly by 2028, and overall demand will peak in 2030. A good bet is that demand is declining by 2035 if not sooner.

Structural shifts in global hydrocarbon markets, not Justin Trudeau, is the existential crisis actually confronting Alberta.

What’s keeping Smith up at night? The federal government is creating a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council that will, in the Premier’s own words, “provide the federal government with recommendations on how to support the Canadian workforce during transition to a ‘net zero economy.’”

There will also be an action plan.  And a “Sustainable Jobs Secretariat to enable policy and program coherence across federal entities on the government’s sustainable jobs approach, and to support the Partnership Council,” according to the national government’s release

She waggled her finger in the general direction of Ottawa and informed the Prime Minister that her “Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan that strives to achieve a carbon neutral energy economy by 2050, primarily through investment in emissions reduction technologies and the increased export of Alberta LNG to replace higher-emitting fuels internationally.

“Strives” is doing plenty of heavy lifting here because the plan is purely aspirational. Seriously, it says so right at the beginning. No goals. No firm targets. 

And may we please stop pretending that Alberta natural gas will be used in BC to make “clean LNG,” which will somehow magically generate carbon credits to offset coal power plant emissions in Asia? As I’ve recently reported, this is a fantasy. 

Notley’s reaction to Smith’s reaction was predictable and tedious. She wants the provincial government to work with “other levels of government in the interests of Albertans” but can’t bear to mention the name of the leader of Canada’s most senior government. 

Give her credit, I suppose, she did mention three actual things Alberta can do: “building the NAIT Advanced Skills Training Centre, locate the Canada Growth Fund Head Office in Calgary to position Alberta as the country’s leader in cleantech and energy, and finalize contracts for difference to get CCUS (carbon capture utlization and storage) projects off the ground.”

But it’s pretty thin gruel when the industry that makes the Alberta economy tick is staring into the darkened train tunnel wondering about that odd light as the energy transition comes barrelling down the track. 

Smith and Notley are Tweedledee and Tweedledum on the energy file. Frankly, Alberta deserves much better. Ironically, a prime minister named Trudeau is offering the province a much better shot at successfully navigating the energy transition than its two political leaders. 

Get on board or get out of the way, Smith and Notley, you’re doing more harm than good. 


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