Week Seven: On oil

If you only read three stories this week to consider the importance and role of oil in this election — and to consider the case for thinking outside of pipelines and extraction as leading economic drivers — here are my strong recommendations:

  1. If you haven’t already, go find this weekend’s copy of the Globe and Mail. Largely structured around the question of what comes after oil, its Business and Focus section are dedicated to unpacking “Canada’s new economic reality,” and still more promisingly, offering potential solutions for significantly diversifying the national economy. Mushroom harvesting? “More female geeks”? More wind power? So much to talk about!

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  2. Also from the Globe, Margaret Atwood’s piece, “Can Canadian oil green-clean itself?” Breaking open the problems Canadian oil faces, Atwood critiques the prime minister’s performance in this area to date, questioning as well whether Stephen Harper has been the ally the oil industry has needed:

    “If you were a leader promoting Canadian oil, maybe you should avoid annoying every other leader whose co-operation or territory is needed for your favoured projects – such as pipelines – to go ahead. Instead, Mr. Harper has threatened the U.S. President, treated First Nations with contempt, gone out of his way to antagonize the Premier of Ontario, and sullied Canada’s reputation abroad through foot-dragging over carbon-reduction treaties.

    “The oil patch must be wondering whether they backed the right champion. A leader able to admit to the CO2 problem, support practical tech, and avoid demonizing other points of view would be a wiser choice.”

  3. In the National Post, Max Fawcett outlines what a “mature conversation” about the oil sands might entail right now. In service of the argument, there may be one too many rhetorical uses of “apparently” here, and too easy a slide between the idea of leaving some oil in the ground and turning entirely from oil development. But the argument itself deserves thorough examination in the weeks ahead:

“The real solution lies in reducing the demand for oil and refined products, and the single best way to achieve that is through the implementation of a carbon tax. After all, the bulk of emissions take place at the tailpipe, not the wellhead. Given that, punishing a particular source of supply when dozens of other ones are available is more about political posturing than actually reducing emissions.

“That’s why I have a hard time taking calls for a “mature conversation” about the oil sands seriously. Mature conversations, after all, don’t trade in intellectual binaries and moral absolutes, and they aren’t conducted using internet memes and snappy tweets.”


The headline for this New Republic story — “Stephen Harper Turned Canada into a Climate Villain. An Election Won’t Change That” — doesn’t hold anything back. But if the headline reads as tough criticism of the prime minister, the analysis shows all of the political parties are either setting their targets on carbon emission cuts too low, or aren’t being specific enough about how they will make change.

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