Trudeau 2.0’s new style NEP is a No En­ergy Plan W

The Province - - EDITORIAL - Lorne Gunter

hen he was prime min­is­ter in the 1980s, Pierre Trudeau beg­gared the West with his NEP — the in­fa­mous Na­tional En­ergy Pro­gram.

Now, his son Justin ap­pears in­tent on beg­gar­ing the West again with a new NEP — a No En­ergy Pro­gram.

The orig­i­nal NEP was a very de­lib­er­ate plan de­signed to de­cap­i­tate the grow­ing po­lit­i­cal clout of the en­ergy-rich West and con­fis­cate its new-found wealth for cen­tral Cana­dian ob­jec­tives.

As for­mer Lib­eral strate­gist John Duffy wrote in his book, The Fights of Our Lives, the un­of­fi­cial slo­gan of the Lib­eral war room in the 1980 elec­tion was: “Screw the West, we’ll take the rest!”

By con­trast, our cur­rent PM Trudeau prob­a­bly has no real com­pre­hen­sive plan. It’s pos­si­ble his mo­ti­va­tion for killing the En­ergy East pipeline (and North­ern Gate­way and very likely Kinder Mor­gan, too) in­volves no deeper think­ing than “be­cause it’s 2017.”

But make no mis­take, the fed­eral Lib­er­als killed En­ergy East as surely as if they had passed a res­o­lu­tion in the House of Com­mons com­mand­ing it to stop. They just did it sur­rep­ti­tiously in­stead, by mov­ing the reg­u­la­tory goal­posts again and again, un­til Tran­sCanada, the pipeline com­pany, sur­ren­dered and with­drew its ap­pli­ca­tion.

I sus­pect the Lib­er­als will kill Kinder Mor­gan back­hand­edly, too, by fail­ing to put up much of a fight for it in the courts, where the project is cur­rently un­der fire from well-funded en­vi­ron­men­tal lobby groups.

That way, the Lib­er­als can say, cyn­i­cally, that they ap­proved Kinder Mor­gan but, alas, the courts forced them to aban­don it.

In both cases they will have achieved what they want — no new car­bon-en­ergy de­vel­op­ment — with­out hav­ing to dis­play the po­lit­i­cal courage of mak­ing that de­ci­sion head-on.

But all of this is the re­sult of what I like to call “magic-wand think­ing” — the uni­corn-and-rain­bows be­lief that a mod­ern pros­per­ous so­ci­ety can be pow­ered by wind, so­lar and bug burps alone.

Un­for­tu­nately, the “green” engi­neer­ing just isn’t there yet. And there is no way to pre­dict when or even if it will ever be pos­si­ble to power our homes, our of­fices and plants, our tran­sit, planes and ve­hi­cles and ev­ery gad­get we recharge ev­ery sin­gle day with­out us­ing fos­sil fu­els.

For in­stance, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada, there are nearly 25 mil­lion ve­hi­cles in Canada, with 500,000 new ones added ev­ery three months (two mil­lion a year). In the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017, there were fewer than 2,400 fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles sold in the en­tire coun­try.

But from a prac­ti­cal (and en­vi­ron­men­tal) stand­point, that’s ac­tu­ally good news.

If e-ve­hi­cles were to make up even a quar­ter — even just a 10th — of new car sales, we would need to build as many as two dozen new hy­dro­elec­tric dams over the next 20 years and erect as many as 10,000 new wind tur­bines a year just to charge them all.

Our mod­ern, ur­ban­ized so­ci­ety has lost touch with where things come from. We take for granted that food is al­ways easy to pick up at the gro­cery store, that met­als and plas­tics and elec­tron­ics are just “there” in stores. Elec­tric­ity just flows from the sock­ets in the wall.

We don’t have to think about the farm­ers, the meat pack­ers, the mines or fac­to­ries or power sta­tions.

We can tweet out our in­stant sup­port for end­ing coal or killing pipe­lines, be­cause we be­lieve eco-dreamweavers — like Justin Trudeau, Kath­leen Wynne and Rachel Not­ley — when they prom­ise car­bon-based power (and jobs) will quickly, ef­fort­lessly and cheaply be re­placed with power from “green” sources.

The fed­eral, Al­berta and On­tario gov­ern­ments also seem to think that if they shut down the en­ergy in­dus­try, the rev­enues it pro­vides for their ram­pant spend­ing will be re­placed some­how.

Maybe Justin’s NEP should stand for the Naive En­ergy Pro­gram.

Lorne Gunter is an Ed­mon­ton Sun colum­nist.

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