October 26th, 2020

Challenging energy ignorance


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on January 16, 2020.

There’s a need for Alberta’s ‘war room’

Brad Hayes

CONTRIBUTOR, TROY MEDIA

The Canadian Energy Centre – also called the “war room” – is online, publishing featured stories, reports, briefs, analysis, perspective and even an Energy IQ quiz. It’s all aimed at distributing information about energy (primarily oil and gas) in Canada.

The topics are diverse, ranging from pipelines and oil products to climate, renewables, people stories, Indigenous relations and even discussions about the energy discussions.

It seems pretty positive and useful. Stories are generated by professionals with expertise, and former journalists on staff ensure the articles are tight and well-written. Most pieces put forth facts and informed opinion on very specific topics without ranging into debates or making negative comments about opponents.

Only a few, like the Dec. 10 piece “A Matter of Fact” directly address anti-industry advocacy. The article adds relevant information and perspective, in this case, to an article published by the Corporate Mapping Project lobby site that recommends divestment from oil and gas producers. “A Matter of Fact” has no attacks or negative statements, although the Corporate Mapping Project report abounds in faulty assumptions and poor analysis ripe for rebuttal.

So why are we seeing negative commentary in mainstream media about the Canadian Energy Centre?

The Globe and Mail headlined an article “Experts wonder, what is the point of a war room?” In it, a journalism professor opines that “writers for the centre are passing themselves off as journalists without any obligation to follow the same standards or subject themselves to the oversight of editors of media councils. He stated, “The mission of this organization is to provide a particular point of view, and it does leave out a lot of legitimate perspective on the energy industry.”

Then, the Calgary Herald and National Post published “Alberta’s energy ‘war room’ singles out climate activist,” written by Canadian Press reporter Bob Weber. It focused on a story about a parent’s concern over climate change activist Steven Lee being being allowed to speak to children in Alberta’s public schools.

Weber’s report was generally supportive of Lee’s 3% Project presentations to high school students – going so far as to defend some themes – and frames the Canadian Energy Centre’s attention as “intimidating.” The reporter then followed up on Christmas Eve with another story: “Journalists to staff in Jason Kenney’s ‘war room’: stop calling yourselves ‘reporters.'”

The irony in these positions is incredible.

In early summer 2019, the Globe and Mail published two articles: “LNG’s Big Lie” (by Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) and “Liquefied natural-gas boom is undermining climate change action” (by Mia Rabson of the Canadian Press). Both stated that natural gas (and LNG) has a very high greenhouse gas emissions profile – comparable to coal.

In neither case did the Globe provide any informed analysis of these positions. It was left to me and several other professionals conversant with the science and engineering to point out that the articles were authored by anti-oil and gas advocacy groups, who generated erroneous conclusions based on faulty assumptions and contrived analysis.

The Globe didn’t publish rebuttal articles offered to them, although the Calgary Herald did publish a Cody Battershill rebuttal of the second piece.

The 3% Project claims that it “seeks to build consensus for climate change action,” and also looks at “artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, genetic engineering.” However, its website and project handbook reveal an organization promoting hard-core green/social justice values. There is complete focus on climate change – no balance, no discussion, no consensus (not to mention no AI). Instead, it’s simply a very specific and limited point of view. Consider these quotes from the handbook:

– “Public education for youth influences their parents and is the best weapon against disinformation by the fossil fuel industry.”

– “We urgently need a campaign that shakes the entire nation as waves upon waves in a short time span. 3% Project is designed to do exactly that.”

– And the ridiculous little advocacy nugget that Weber’s article chose to defend: “Canada’s current subsidies to fossil fuels amount to $46.04 billion per year.”

As master debunker Blair King observed, it takes far more words and effort to effectively debunk false advocacy positions than it does to state them.

Besides, why should we have to? Most of the 3% Project’s questionable positions have been discussed (and refuted), but Project promoters refuse to acknowledge alternative positions or the scope of the debates. You’re either in complete agreement with them or you’re “indifferent” or in “climate denial.”

Their fossil-fuel subsidy position is built on politically motivated assumptions discredited by economists and governments around the world. King summarized the arguments nicely.

The Canadian Energy Centre’s story on the 3% Project poses questions about a few of that organization’s positions and gently suggests additional facts to be considered. The article is so innocuous that 3%’s Lee dismisses the messaging as “common tactics” – no intimidation.

Far more pointed criticism is merited. If my children were still in high school and the 3% Project came calling, I would ask, “Why are they not building their critical-thinking skills by being challenged to consider the many legitimate alternative viewpoints around complex issues of the day?”

So why do we need the Canadian Energy Centre?

Because many journalists in mainstream media are not meeting journalistic standards. They’ve adopted the pop science approach of pseudo-environmentalists, and have bought into the cartoon images of grasping, immoral resource industry leaders. They fail to seek expert opinion, and have not expended the effort to construct balanced, analytical stories around energy and climate.

In that light, when the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists is quoted in Weber’s article as calling the Canadian Energy Centre a “PR firm” dispensing “Orwellian” writing, one sees a desperate attempt to cover the inadequacies of a group with many members that have forgotten the principles they claim to champion.

There are excellent journalists out there who do understand that energy and climate issues are complex and intertwined – and that nobody has the right answers yet.

But there are also reporters who have bought into poorly-conceived advocacy positions, and fail to provide readers with balanced information from a spectrum of professional experts.

That suggests to me that the modest beginnings of the Canadian Energy Centre are a good start – and that much greater efforts to restore balance and scientific integrity to complex climate and energy debates are badly needed.

Brad J. Hayes is president of Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd. Distributed by Troy Media.

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Southern Albertan

And, in contrast:
“Alberta’s ‘war room’ can’t stop growing disdain for fossil fuels. Despite all the tough talk Jason Kenney’s ‘war room’ is a bit of a flop.”
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/12/17/albertas-war-room-cant-stop-growing-disdain-for-fossil-fuels.html

Duane Pendergast

Thanks, Lethbridge Herald, for daring to publish an article which questions the climate change hysteria promulgated by the main stream media.

Clive Schaupmeyer

Southern Albertan,
Sensible people would not be too disdainful of fossil fuels these past few days.
comment image
But then again, there are few sensible people these days who are capable of rational thinking. Most are incapable of connecting their daily lives to energy.

Wind and solar provided Albertan’s with 0.3% of our electricity yesterday and none of our heating. At this moment 94% of Alberta’s electricity is being produced by fossil fuels and NONE of our transportation needs and heating demands … just to stay alive.

There are NO alternatives to keep Canadians alive in their homes and to run our schools, businesses and factories and provide us with transportation. No alternatives. We could have nuclear for electricity except enviros oppose clean nuclear. Heating and transportation is another matter.

The incessant and stale whining about fossil fuels is getting old.

Seth Anthony

Slow clap Clive, and kudos to your objectivity.

Tris Pargeter

We didn’t ALWAYS use fossil fuels though, did we? Decades of research and a fortune has been plowed into fossil fuels, so why can’t you imagine diverting THOSE resources into alternatives? Divestment is taking place because a critical mass of people has taken stock and decided we’re in real trouble here.
Scientists don’t have an agenda like businessmen do, nor do people like Greta Thunberg. Rational people choose authenticity.

Seth Anthony

Tris, in regards to taxpayer funded alternative energy research:

– Alternative energy sources are a gold mine waiting to happen for investors. As such, there are billions being pumped into that research by the private sector.

– Tax payer funded research would be miniscule and doled out by clueless politicians. What would happen (like it already is), is they’ll get scammed by alternative energy companies and the so called research would amount to nothing.

By far, our best energy source is nuclear. Too bad ignorance keeps holding us back on that.

zulu1

I see that reality is difficult for you ! As far as Greta is concerned , do you know another 16 year old worth $ 49 million dollars ?

Tris Pargeter

Reality is obviously less of a problem for me than you because I, unlike you, am capable of imagining that everything can change, and often does, and drastically, and yet I remain open….
Your take, on the other hand, is the predictable conservative affliction of rampant paranoia where everything and everyone is out to get you, or lying like they breathe, or on the take in some way because that’s how YOU all operate. And money, always money, is behind everything, because you’re obsessed with it yourself.

Fescue

Oh, zulu1, you’ve told some whoppers in your time, but this is one of the biggest.

phlushie

But Scientist ned ti eat and have a domicile. Enter the Business man, “You say what we ask you and you will get paid well!”

Duane Pendergast

The Canadian Energy Centre does seem to move getting off to a slow start, with some apparent pandering to the climate industrial complex and a huge inflow of negative comment about their goals through their Twitter account. There is much complaining about the funding of $30/million per year. However, when that is compared with the billions upon billions of dollars in subsidies to alternative energy sources over the past 3 decades, it seems it could be money very well spent.

Just one small example! Has anyone been out to visit the site one time known as Kyoto Fuels here in Lethbridge? That was subsidized to the tune of about $30 million by previous governments. A year ago it was still sitting, essentially abandoned, out by the airport.

Tris Pargeter

Much money has also been wasted on the way to the current expertise of the oil sands, I’m sure. Be fair, that’s how human progress has always worked.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, and can’t be changed overnight, because it’s a sea change. But scientists know more than you, or any that “think” like you. Have some respect and give credit where credit’s due. As I said, they’re not the ones with vested interests, or an agenda, except finding the truth.
Your fear of change strikes me as pathological in light of it being a constant in life, but there have been people like you all the way through history.

Duane Pendergast

I guess that is addressed to me Tris. I have been through a bit of change re energy. In my early years I survived primarily thanks to renewable energy (wood) from the bush in central Alberta for heat. I saw the fledgling oil industry come through the area scouring the land through hundreds of mile of seismic lines to find useful oil and gas deposits. They were successful, with their knowledge of geological science. I even worked for them a couple of times. Later, I lived in Ontario for many years, where my house was heated with electricity derived primarily from nuclear energy thanks to human knowledge of nuclear science. I worked for that industry too.

I am very confident that, even when fossil fuels become scarce, humanity will be able to survive very nicely with the nuclear energy we have learned to harness thanks to the science and knowledge base we have developed over the centuries. I’m not sure why so many have developed such pathological fear of that impressive accomplishment. I can’t understand why so many would want to abandon that deep science based source of energy and go to great effort to regress back to dependence on intermittent and unreliable renewable energy. No doubt you can tell us?

Tris Pargeter

I fall back on the pure integrity of science, its methodology, its neutrality and the abundance of natural curiosity possessed by most of its practitioners, such that no stone is left unturned. The stupid dismissal of all this in the context of what’s happening in our environment, even though most people sense it already, reminds me of the Mark Twain quote that “no amount of evidence will convince an idiot.” Guys like that have been coming out of the woodwork of late (or from under rocks, to follow the metaphor) it seems. Since most of them have been finding a comfortable home in the conservative party, it’s going to be interesting to watch them floundering around while trying to find a new leader who can suck and blow at the same time even more than usual. I think Peter McKay will end up winning because he harkens back to the more civilized times of progressive conservatives, where you could see them able to accept women’s rights and even basic homosexuality! Radical stuff. And he even has the nerve to call religion what it is– a “stinking albatross” around all their necks. But that’s a big chunk of the current conservative base is the thing, so…..
It seems most likely that we will end up with an energy mix, just a different one. On nuclear, the recent Pickering scare answers your question in part I’d say.

diplomacy works

There is absolutely NO reason for Alberta taxpayers to be paying for public relations for the oil and gas industry.

Never mind the problems with the War Room’s lack of knowledge on the topic they are lecturing others about.

Oil and gas is a VERY profitable industry, they operate all over the world, their pockets are decidedly deep, they own several “think tanks” like the Fraser Institute, they clearly own the Kenney UCP government in Alberta – let them pay for their own public relations.

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