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