July 20th, 2018

What do environmentalists have against the world’s poor

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on May 16, 2018.

Joseph Quesnel

Research Associate

Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The last few years have not been good for pipeline projects in Canada. The Keystone XL pipeline continues to be plagued by delays, TransCanada made big news by axing the Energy East pipeline and Kinder Morgan has cut spending on the critical Trans Mountain expansion project to protect its shareholders.

After each pipeline setback, oil and gas opponents react with glee and deliver yet another self-righteous speech about the end of the fossil fuel economy.

The problem is these activists are delivering a eulogy to the oil economy that’s as premature as the obituary delivered for Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the originator of the famous Nobel prizes (a French newspaper erroneously published an obituary for Alfred when his brother Ludvig died).

The need for oil and especially natural gas will continue for many decades. Energy consumption and projected needs will continue well into the future.

The origin of this energy demand, however, is not where many expect.

A recent report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) called Canada’s Role in the World’s Future Energy Mix points out that global energy demand is expected to increase by 30 per cent from today to 2040. Unless a miraculous new energy source or technology completely replaces fossil fuels, oil and gas will continue to play a dominant role in that mix.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says this growth in energy demand is equivalent to adding another China or India to current consumption.

In fact, the CAPP study points out the IEA estimates that oil will continue to hold the largest share of any fuel source. “This continued high demand for oil will be driven largely by the transportation sector, including aviation and shipping, plus industrial and petrochemical uses.”

The IEA also says this energy demand will increase despite the growth in the use of electric vehicles.

Where is all this new energy demand coming from?

Not from the industrialized West, which is becoming more energy efficient through various technologies.

The report mentions that the world’s population is expected to grow by nearly two billion, reaching about 9.2 billion people by 2040. The global middle class will double in the same period. This means gross domestic product will also grow exponentially.

This growth will continue over the next few decades in developing and emerging economies. Their populations are urbanizing and industrializing, and many of their citizens are joining the middle class. Growing incomes and improved access to electricity are also creating higher demands for energy.

Of course, these improving incomes and economies should be major causes for celebration. Why should we be against more people in the developing world having access to the household appliances and computers that make our lives easier? This also means more people from these countries can access air travel. They will have their lives opened up to the wider world, just like we have.

The report also says energy use in African countries will increase, signalling growing economies in that most impoverished part of the world.

So why do environmentalists and critics of pipelines cheer when more Canadian petroleum products are landlocked in this country?

Why wouldn’t we want Canada to play a major role in helping these emerging economies industrialize and enjoy our standard of living?

What do environmentalists and pipeline critics have against the world’s most poor that they want to keep them poor?

These activists may think they’re scoring a real moral victory when they stop pipelines from being built. But they’re only preventing oil and gas products from getting to economies that need them the most. In the absence of Canadian oil and gas – which is produced with some of the best environmental and human rights records in the world – other less-than-stellar producing countries will fill the void.

Eulogizing oil and gas is premature and delusional. The oil and gas industry has a big role to play in improving the lives of many people living in the most desperate economies.

It’s time to tell pipeline opponents who they’re really hurting: the world’s poorest economies.

Joseph Quesnel is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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5 Responses to “What do environmentalists have against the world’s poor”

  1. Fescue says:

    I would imagine Joseph, that thinktanks like the Fraser Institute and the Frontier Centre have done more to perpetuate poverty than has any group of environmentalists.

    Though your lament for the poor is touching, it contradicts the values of your neoliberalism: valorizing competition (unless one needs a serious bail-out, or ‘quantitative easing’), the ‘free’ market consolidates wealth in the hands of the virtuous and meritorious, while its staunch defenders oppose market distortions like government interference (particularly those that involve the poor, who, the thinktanks might add, are lazy, shiftless characters and deserve their plight).

    You would also know, given your commendable (and publicly supported) education, that energy only goes to those who are able to pay for it. Like studies of famine over the past few centuries (Amartya Sen comes to mind) have suggested, the cause has not been the lack of food, but the lack of ability to pay for it.

    In other words, the chances of Alberta oil raising people out of poverty is as likely as Ayn Rand donating to charity.

    As for your other question: “So why do environmentalists and critics of pipelines cheer when more Canadian petroleum products are landlocked in this country?” There are only two words to say: global warming. How does 50 to 350 million climate refugees within 30 years fit into your story? (https://acuns.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Climate-Refugees-1.pdf)

  2. biff says:

    great response, fes. as for the j.q offering – what a bunch of rubbish. a glaring example of the twisted mindset of those far too entitled.

  3. chinook says:

    I align with Fescue’s comments …well stated!
    Yes, it seems as though Mr. Quesnel is unable to connect the dots and see that the greatest environmental threat facing us is man-made climate change – all driven by fossil fuel. In less than 200 years we have almost destroyed our planet and he wants us to carry on as though all is well. Dinosaur thinking like his will have us all extinct before we know it.
    Just as we have corrections in the market place which really hurt from time to time, we badly need one in the energy sector. Fossil fuel is a finite and precious commodity; as much as possible should remain in the ground for future generations and not squandered. Renewable energy can easily heat and cool our buildings and power our cars.

    • zulu1 says:

      I believe you have it exactly backwards and your statements are contradictory ie. Fossil fuels are destroying the world but are also finite and precious, to be saved for future generations. Really !!

      At the present time we cannot use the major renewable sources of wind and solar as stand alone supplies , since they must be fully backed up by reliable fossil fuels.

      Mankind has made more progress in terms of standards of living, poverty reduction , scientific discovery and food production, in the past 200 years largely as a result of the use of fossil fuels. No need to conserve fossil fuels since they will inevitably be replaced by more efficient energy sources..

  4. biff says:

    it is essential we accept the need for a transition period, where we use renewable energy sources as much as possible, and revert to fossil fuels only as necessary. during this time, we should best be perfecting how to harness renewable energy sources, and not making a mockery of this necessity through politics and economic corruption.
    for example, it appears the ugly windmills are a massive fail, but they are making a few folk who produce them richer. they are likely kicking back to political parties in return for gov’ts wasting public money paying for them. they create energy, but they are their own environmental hazard. they kill creatures that fly, in droves, and they make people sick. if we are to use wind, we need to find a better way.
    solar has been improved upon, but needs more tweaking. we also need to keep in mind that we are simply creating another issue when we construct with toxic substances. if we cannot clean them before sending them off to wasteland, we are just going to make ourselves sick.
    we must fully buy into finding viable alternatives to fossil fuels – and they exist, waiting to be uncovered, like everything else that seemed not to exist until uncovered. our intelligence and determination is not holding us back – it is the shackles of our economic system that limits us greatly. those that own the fossil fuels also broker the power. so long as private interests make massive money off fossil fuels, then fossil fuels is what will be, despite the sheeple herding about the ballot boxes and signing away their influence with their illiterate “x” every few years.

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