Rabble: Alberta’s energy ‘war room’ is spreading disinformation

December 27, 2019 David J. Climenhaga

Oil pump jacks in Alberta. Image: Jeff Wallace/Flickr

Should we be worried about operatives employed by the Alberta government’s public-private “energy war room” masquerading as journalists?

Of course we should. But it’s also OK to be amused by the astonishing ineptitude with which they’re going about the task.

As King Solomon is said to have observed, pride goeth before destruction, so it’s unlikely the prideful United Conservative Party government of Premier Jason Kenney will do the smart thing and quietly move its so-called Canadian Energy Centre to the back burner of the stove.

But, good lord, you have to ask how long the three stooges who supposedly call the shots at government-owned but putatively “private” Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. — Sonya Savage, minister of energy; Doug Schweitzer, minister of justice; and Jason Nixon, minister of environment — are going to put up with management that seems to seriously mess up a couple of times every week.

The centre’s “punchy communications experts,” as Savage once called them, clearly aren’t cookin’ with gas, as the expression goes!

I speak, of course, of the Christmas Day revelation that the subject of one of the centre’s lame puff pieces, a Vancouver chef who really does cook with gas, is furious that a writer for the taxpayer-bankrolled digital fossil-fuel-industry propaganda house didn’t bother to explain exactly what the centre does when she called about a story on why professional chefs prefer to cook with gas, which is not exactly news. (Hint: You can set the heat just right.)

If the purpose of this exercise is to persuade Canadians in other provinces that the Alberta government is an honest broker, just setting the record straight on misleading statements about the province’s fossil fuel industry, making new enemies in British Columbia is surely not the right way to go about it.

In the normal course of events, in the normal sort of media, this kind of story would pass unnoticed on any day of the year, not just Christmas.

But when Donald Gyurkovits, who is also president of the Canadian Culinary Federation, publicly roasted the centre because he felt he’d been burned by the writer’s failure to tell him what the organization actually is, it quickly became a national story.

Read more at Rabble.ca …

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

TheRecord: Big oil continues to jeopardize humanity’s future

Governments continue to subsidize companies that contribute to climate change

Dec 26,2019 Opinion by Susan Koswan

Susan Koswan is a University of Waterloo grad with a sustainable business management certificate from Conestoga College.

Suncor file photo for web
Suncor’s base plant with upgraders in the oilsands in Fort McMurray Alta, is shown in this photo from 2017. – The Canadian Press file photo

As this year and decade come to an end, I wish I felt more optimistic about what lies ahead. The distance between ‘the people’ and the political and corporate world has never seemed wider. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, yet we continue to subsidize Big Oil with our tax dollars. The few people who profit are jeopardizing humanity’s future. It’s always about money and power — getting it and holding on to it.

Climate scientist Michael Mann has noted a new strategy by climate change deniers and Big Oil. From outright denial, they shifted to manufacturing doubt — a tried-and-true tactic learned from the tobacco industry. Now industries are positioning themselves as ‘the good guys’ by supporting individual climate actions like bike riding and eating less meat. Personal lifestyle changes are important and necessary, but this strategy deflects attention away from government and corporate responsibility, and the need for policy changes that will have an impact on harmful business practices. This is greenwashing of the worst kind.

Climate change action catalyst Greta Thunberg is consistent in her message that climate change is about the science, not politics. But now, more than ever, we need to get political to create an enforceable, national climate action plan. Lobbyists never sleep; we need to break the connection between Big Money and our government.

Federal lobbyists are listed on the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying in Canada website. One of them is Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil company, and the parent company lobbying on behalf of 130 subsidiaries. These include everything from domestic and international energy investments (fossil fuel-based as well as wind power). In 2018, the company received $1 million in funding from Alberta and $5 million from Natural Resources Canada (NRC). The year before it received a total of $20,298,531 from NRC, the Ontario ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs, and the Quebec ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

The Office of the Commissioner’s lobbying summary is staggering in the number of government institutions lobbied by Suncor, regarding policies and regulations. Six senior Suncor officers and employees spend more than 20 per cent of their job lobbying, with another seven spending less than 20 per cent.

Suncor describes itself as an “integrated energy company” that is developing the Athabasca tarsands in Alberta. It is a publicly traded company and says that “delivering competitive and sustainable returns to shareholders is a top priority.”

Suncor’s 2018 annual report shows net earnings of $3.293 billion. Steve Williams, Suncor’s recently retired CEO, received $14.5 million in compensation in 2018.

Why are we subsidizing an industry that significantly contributes to climate change, and boasts such earnings?

I have no issue with profitable companies. I do with companies that are not sustainable. We cannot be complicit in perpetuating the myth that we can continue to invest in and burn fossil fuels and expect to have a livable planet. Suncor is investing $1.4 billion to replace coke-fired boilers with two cogeneration units and staying in the fossil fuel business. Imagine if they invested that kind of money instead of the comparatively paltry $300 million in the Forty Mile Wind Power Project in southern Alberta?

Just over 70 per cent of Suncor is owned by institutional investors and mutual funds. If you have a bank account or investments, you need to look closely at what your hard-earned money is supporting. You could start with the CNN Business website that lists the multiple owners of Suncor; most of Canada’s major banking institutions are listed there.

If you’re not happy with your investments or financial institution bankrolling Big Oil, then you need to talk to them about it. The Insurance Journal reports that insurance and investment companies are being pressured by a coalition of 32 environmental and Indigenous groups to stop insuring and investing in fossil fuels — a creative strategy to make Big Oil a stranded asset, unprofitable and a liability.

Despite the dire warnings of runaway climate change, hearings are still going on for the proposed Teck Frontier tarsands mine that would be twice the size of Vancouver and threaten Wood Buffalo National Park’s UNESCO status. Exercise your democratic right and help put a stop to it. LeadNow provides an online form to do so.

See this opinion piece at TheRecord.com …

TheSpec: Rebranded Ford government continues crusade against the environment

Where the government goes from here is an open question, but there is an old saying that if you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing you do is to stop digging, writes Mark Winfield.

Dec 26, 2019 Opinion by Mark Winfield (Professor of Environmental Studies at York University)

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Greg Rickford PC MPP, the Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs during question period in the Ontario Legislature. He is fond of quoting climate change denial media sources to support his government’s viewpoints. – Steve Russell,Toronto Star file photo

A defining feature of Ontario politics in the aftermath of the October federal election has been the emergence of a rebranded version of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.

The bombastic, aggressive tone of the government’s first year in office has, for now, been replaced by one of moderation.

But there’s been one notable exception to the Ford government’s supposed willingness to change direction. On environmental and energy issues, the government remains on the same path of disruption and destruction that defined its first piece of legislation that dismantled the previous government’s climate change strategy.

That point was highlighted again in the provincial auditor’s recent report. The report from the auditor, whose office has taken on the former environmental commissioner’s responsibilities, makes clear that there are major gaps in the government’s so-called made-in-Ontario environmental strategy tabled last year.

In addition to highlighting the gaping holes in the government’s climate change plans, the report highlighted a host of other environmental challenges facing Ontario, including ongoing urban sprawl, air pollution, water quality and biodiversity protection.

Rather than changing direction in response to the auditor’s report, the government’s assault on the environment seems to be continuing. Its most recent iteration is Bill 132, a massive omnibus bill ostensibly aimed at reducing “red tape” adopted last week. Buried in its details is an attempt to undo the previous Liberal government’s moratorium on neonicotinoid pesticides, widely identified as posing serious risks to pollinators.

Other provisions of the act weaken the rules around forestry operations, mining, water taking, gravel pits and quarries and pollution.

The government is moving forward with a parallel proposal that would dismantle the province’s regulatory framework for controlling industrial water pollution, first established in the early 1990s as the Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) program.

Read more at The Spectator …

Guardian: Australia is becoming a nation of dread – and the world looks on with pity and scorn

David Marr

The pattern of bushfires is part of our lives. But these fires are not going out

Wed 1 Jan 2020 04.02 GMT Last modified on Wed 1 Jan 2020 10.04 GMT

Sydney Racing<br>SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 28: Smoke from bushfires near Sydney causes the sun to appear red during Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on December 28
‘We’re taught not to look at the sun. Every child on earth is given the same warning. But in Australia these days you can stare all you like.’ Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

We know the sight by heart: corrugated iron on a low pile of ash with a chimney left standing. Another house gone. And the pattern of bushfires is part of our lives too. They burn until a cold wind blows up the coast when it buckets down dousing the flames.

But that’s not the pattern now. The downpour has been postponed officially until late January. Things are looking up: it was April. Either way the experts are saying the weeks ahead are looking dry, tinder dry.

As that news sank in this summer an unfamiliar emotion took hold in Australia: not fear so much as dread. These fires are not going out.

We know the language of fires. All our lives we’ve waited to hear a blaze is “under control”. Sweet words. But these days they come with a caveat: only for a few days until the wind shifts and the fire jumps the lines.

And the rain never comes.

Read more at The Guardian …

DN! Jane Fonda Arrested: We Are in a Climate Emergency. I Have No Choice But to Put My Body on the Line

December 24, 2019

Jane Fonda arrested protesting a day before her 82nd birthday.

A new round of protests, Fire Drill Fridays, led by actress Jane Fonda are calling for action to address the climate crisis, as bushfires fueled by a historic heat wave threaten Australia, high tides threaten to flood Venice, and the Philippines prepares for a Christmas typhoon.

Last Friday, a day before Jane Fonda’s 82nd birthday, the longtime political activist, feminist and two-time Academy Award winner was arrested for the fifth time, as she has been nearly every Friday in Washington since she started Fire Drill Fridays, inspired in part by the Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg. She was arrested along with more than 140 others inside the Hart Senate Office Building, and demonstrators sang “Happy Birthday” to her as she was taken outside.

This month Jane Fonda wrote an op-ed in The New York Times headlined “We Have to Live Like We’re in a Climate Emergency. Because We Are.” In it, she writes, “It should come as no surprise that I believe in the power of protest. That’s why I moved to Washington to start what I call Fire Drill Fridays, joining the millions of young people around the world who turned out in the fall for protests to demand that our leaders act to save their futures.”

We speak with Jane Fonda about her climate activism and why she started Fire Drill Fridays.

Watch interview with Jane Fonda at DemocracyNow.org …