Out of frustration, I find myself visualizing the current carbon kerfuffle in the personification of my favourite Peanuts character, Pig Pen. Pig Pen, of course, was always sketched by Charles Schulz with his head peeking out of a constant swirling, darkened fog of dusty confusion. This, I feel, is an accurate reflection that captures what most of us feel trying to understand this carbon storm – and most of the blame I place squarely on our political leadership’s carbon policy.
May I suggest that, to tax carbon or to not tax carbon, is not the question – but it’s a matter of how you “sell” it so it doesn’t sound like a tax grab, which is exactly what it is. With mass confusion rampant, the opportunists are ‘opportunisizing’ while the governments are subsidizing.
With any form of pipeline from Alberta to B.C. now demoted to the designation pipeus-non-gratis, and with no bottom to the environmental abyss, the energy sector finds itself wallowing in the Dreamweaver opportunists, with their off-the-shelf solutions to all problems energy related.
So far, five years in the dreaming and the Kitimat Clean refinery proposal has once again been offered as the answer to quell all antagonism between B.C. and Alberta, (if not the entire country). The plan to build the 400,000 bpd Kitimat refinery was offered up by newspaper magnate, David Black, at an “estimated” cost of $22 billion, which I assume (and pray), is in Canadian dollars.
The feedstock will be railed in oil sands raw bitumen. It is claimed that bringing the feedstock in by rail is safer than by pipeline (even though it isn’t), and the fact that rail leaves a bigger carbon footprint isn’t important.
So anyway… the refined product will then be fed onto tankers off the B.C. coast, which is ok because if there is a tanker disaster, the gasoline and diesel just evaporates into the greenhouse gas dome over B.C.
Now, if the evil bitumen were to spill, it wouldn’t evaporate it would float atop the surface; but if it reached shore it would – and I agree – be difficult to clean up. But tell me how many tankers have run aground off the B.C. coast, and how many rail car derailments have occurred in the last five years?
And where will this current estimated $22 billion come from? It is hoped that $10 billion will come from the leader of the free air world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but just how will that look on his fossil fuel free resume? The balance of the cost of this puppy will come, it is reported, from Canadian and Chinese banks and maybe, just maybe, wait for it… sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East spelt, S-a-u-d-i- A-r-a-b-i-a.
This is a stretch given that Canadian banks are still reeling from the ongoing financial downturn in the Oil Patch, and the Chinese economy is still licking its wounds after their initial foray into the economic blizzard of the Great White North.
The question I keep asking myself is: If this refinery is such a great idea why haven’t Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, or Suncor built it already?
The answer is, because of the hostility of politics and the irrationality of environmentalists.
That leaves government subsidy as the only option, and anything that has to be subsidized is not worth subsidizing – it needs to be submerged.
Roger McKnight is the Chief Petroleum Analyst with En-Pro International Inc.
Roger has over 25 years experience in the oil industry, and has held senior marketing management positions responsible for national and international accounts. He is the originator of the card lock concept of marketing on-road diesel that is now the predominant purchase method of diesel in Canada. Roger's knowledge of the oil industry in North America, and pricing structures has resulted in his expertise being sought as a commentator by local, national, and international media. Roger is a regular guest on radio and television programs, and he is quoted regularly in newspapers and magazines across Canada. All posts by Roger McKnight