Citizen Action Monitor

Trudeau may charm fossil fuel fools in Texas, but informed critics back home are not so easily duped

The implicit wager the fossil fuels industry is making is that humanity is going to collectively commit suicide.

No 1907 Posted by fw, March 10, 2017

Trudeau …. likes to convey to the Canadian public that he is concerned about the climate crisis. He gets it; he understands and doesn’t question the overwhelming scientific consensus. But under the surface — or not so under the surface — he’s doing essentially what Donald Trump is doing. He’s doing everything he can to promote the tar sands industry in Canada. And there was a study done last year, by David Hughes, one of Canada’s leading energy experts, in which he said that people like Justin Trudeau are advancing a, “have your cake and eat it too” argument, because there’s no way that Canada can meet its climate change commitments with the construction of these pipelines.Dimitri Lascaris, The Real News Network

At this week’s Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) conference in Houston, CBC News reports “Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to packed room of around 1,200 energy executives and other leaders on Thursday night and completely charmed them.”

“He talked up the connection between resource development and taking care of the environment…. Let me be very clear: We could not have moved on pipelines had we not acted on climate,” Trudeau said. (Source: Huff Post Canada, March 10, 2017)

Dimitri Lascaris is not the only critic who has raised doubts about Trudeau’s personal integrity: “So, we have a prime minister here who is essentially talking out of both sides of his mouth.

In a fact-rich report, researcher Barry Saxifrage challenged the PM’s assurance that Canada can transition successfully to a “climate friendly” economy, citing three major Canadian studies that have called for an immediate and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions. Saxifrage wraps up his analysis with this warning: “Staying silent while leading Canadians into potential climate failure and/or economic failure is unacceptable.”

Below is a repost of the Dimitri Lascaris interview, including an embedded 13:12-minute video of the event, added subheadings and highlighted text to facilitate selection of ideas of interest, and a slightly abridged transcript. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to watch the interview on the Real News website and to read the complete transcript.


Building Pipelines Leads to Growth – Not in Jobs, But Carbon Emissions by The Real News Network, Dimitri Lascaris interviewed, March 8, 2017

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist and activist. After working in the New York and Paris offices of a major Wall Street law firm, Dimitri became a class action lawyer in Canada. His practice focused on shareholder rights, environmental wrongs and human rights. Dimitri ran for the Green Party in Canada’s 2015 federal election and has served as the Justice Critic in the Green Party of Canada shadow cabinet.


Kim Brown — Welcome to The Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown.

Trudeau’s in lockstep with Trump over Keystone XL pipeline’s economic benefits

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is in lockstep with Donald Trump, over his support of Keystone XL, the controversial $8 billion pipeline that the Obama administration had previously rejected. The pipeline would carry up to 830,000 gallons a day of Alberta oil tar sands to Nebraska, and from there, on to the Gulf of Mexico for refinement, and shipping to ports predominantly in Asia.

Donald Trump has said building the Keystone, as well as the Dakota Access pipeline, is in the interest of the public. Let’s take a look at a clip of his recent address to Congress.

Donald Trump Video Clip — We have cleared the way for the construction for the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs, and I’ve issued a new directive, that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

Brown — And here’s what Prime Minister Trudeau had to say on the topic.

Justin Trudeau Video Clip — I’ve been on the record for many years supporting it, because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans.

Brown — With us to discuss the validity of either of those arguments, in support of the Keystone XL Pipelines, we are joined by Dimitri Lascaris, who is an attorney. He’s also an activist, and a board member here at The Real News. Prime Minister Trudeau says that building the pipeline will result in economic growth in Canada, and good jobs for Albertans. Is there any truth to those statements?

KXL job creation estimates keep changing – Post-completion, Lascaris expects “a negligible number of permanent jobs”

Lascaris — Well, both of them are making quite interesting claims about jobs. It’s interesting that the American Petroleum Institute lobby group claimed in 2009, that Keystone would create up to 3,000 new U.S. jobs over a four-year period, based on demand for new goods and services, and add up to $34 billion in the U.S. economy, in 2015.

However, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, found those estimates were based on an internal study that had not been subjected to meaningful review. And the State Department, in its own analysis, found Keystone would create about 42,000 direct, and indirect, temporary construction jobs, and about 50 permanent jobs once construction is finished.

And now, we’re hearing from Donald Trump the number is even lower. He said tens of thousands in that clip you played. He specified elsewhere recently that the number is about 28,000, which he calls, “great construction jobs”. Well, these “great construction jobs” will evaporate once the pipeline is complete, and what you’re going to have left is a negligible number of permanent jobs.

Environmental consequences will be “long term and permanent”

The environmental consequences, on the contrary… by contrast, are going to be a long term, and arguably permanent. And on the Canadian side of the border, there are claims that this is going to create a few thousand jobs, principally in the construction industry, but again we’re talking about jobs that are only going to last as long as the project is in development. Once that pipeline is up and running, the number of jobs that that’s going to create, and continue to provide to the economy, will be completely negligible.

Trudeau and Trump are ignoring “longer term economic implications”

So, these economic claims, I think, are being greatly exaggerated, and what both Trump and Trudeau are not doing, is looking at the longer-term economic implications. Not just the longer term economic implications, but more importantly the longer-term environmental implications of this project.

Brown — Expand on that further, Dimitri, because we heard a lot about what the potential economic negative… rather, environmental impacts could be, of Keystone XL Pipeline, when the issue was really hot, during the Obama administration. But after President Obama put the kibosh on it, the swell around it died down. But now that it’s being resurrected, those same arguments still apply.

The people that live in Nebraska, and Montana, and areas where this pipeline is slated to run through, have vigorously expressed their opposition to this. For the purposes of the environmental impact, and what would happen if the pipeline were to rupture, specifically carrying this Alberta oil tar sands.

Climate-Denier-in-Chief Trump is clear – he will do everything possible to advance the interests of oil, gas, and coal

Lascaris — It’s interesting, to contrast Trump and Trudeau. With Trump, at least you know what you’re getting. You’re getting somebody who doesn’t really buy the whole science of climate change. At one point, he called the global warming hypothesis a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. He’s been very clear that he’s going to do everything conceivable to advance the interests of the fossil fuels industry. He’s even put the former CEO of Exxon in the all-powerful position of Secretary of State.

The duplicitous Trudeau feigns concern about climate crisis while vigorously promoting tar sands production 

Trudeau, on the other hand, likes to convey to the Canadian public that he is concerned about the climate crisis. He gets it; he understands and doesn’t question the overwhelming scientific consensus. But under the surface — or not so under the surface — he’s doing essentially what Donald Trump is doing. He’s doing everything he can to promote the tar sands industry in Canada.

Trudeau’s advancing a bogus “have your cake and eat it too” argument, says Canada’s leading energy expert

And there was a study done last year, by David Hughes, one of Canada’s leading energy experts, in which he said that people like Justin Trudeau are advancing a, “have your cake and eat it too” argument, because there’s no way that Canada can meet its climate change commitments with the construction of these pipelines. And I didn’t mention, with the approval of a liquefied natural gas terminal out in B.C., which has been rightly described as a carbon bomb.

Best way to reduce carbon emissions is to “shrink the oil and gas industry”

David Hughes has said the cheapest, and most sensible approach to reducing greenhouse gases from current 732 megatons, to 2020 target of 620 megatons, involves shrinking the oil and gas industry, by limiting bitumen extraction from the tar sands and not building more pipelines. Even building just one liquefied natural gas terminal, as Justin Trudeau has approved, and with modest growth in the tar sands, we will increase in this country, oil and gas emissions from 26% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, to 45% by 2030.

And under such a scenario, as forecasted by the National Energy Board, the rest of the economy in Canada would be forced to contract its emissions by 47%, in order to meet its promised greenhouse gas reductions. That would cause a significant amount of economic pain, and would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Trudeau seems to be doing everything he can to sabotage Paris Accord commitments

So, we have a prime minister here who is essentially talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he claims to care about the climate crisis, on the other he seems to be doing everything possible to prevent Canada from meeting its commitments, under the Paris Climate Accord.

Brown — Dimitri, one argument that people often make for oil pipelines, is that they are safer than transporting it by rail, as we saw in the disaster that happened in Quebec, that resulted in the loss of human life. What do you make of that argument? Is it safer to transport this highly caustic gasoline, or gas derivative — oil derivative — by pipeline? Isn’t that better than pushing it through people’s neighborhoods on the back of a rail car?

Pipelines not safer than rail to transport toxic tar sands bitumen, as people of Michigan found out

Lascaris — Well, as the people of Michigan found out all too painfully, that’s not the case. There was a pipeline spill there in the Kalamazoo River that had disastrous consequences, and that is continuing to have quite negative environmental consequences for the people of Michigan. And this type of fluid, the bitumen, which the … (audio loss) … in order to make it transportable by way of pipeline, is almost impossible to clean up, particularly if it spills into the marine environment.

TransCanada whistleblower blew the whistle on company’s substandard safety practices

There are spills going on all the time. Pipeline spills are an almost weekly occurrence in North America. Many of them are not so large and devastating as to attract the attention of the media, but they happen frequently. There was a whistleblower who came forward, in, I believe, out of the TransCanada Pipeline company, not so long ago, who gave evidence, who revealed evidence, that the company’s safety practices were substandard and quite alarming.

The only sure way to protect the environment is to transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible

So, yes, it is true that transporting bitumen by rail creates risks, and we’ve seen that, for sure. But pipelines do as well, and the only way to really manage these risks, is to wean ourselves off of the tar sands as quickly as possible. If we really are concerned about public safety, that’s the right way to go, and to make massive investments in renewable energy, and to transition to a renewable energy economy as quickly as possible. And that regrettably, is not being done here.

Brown — Speaking of being concerned about public safety, or lack thereof, Dimitri, can you tell us who really stands to benefit from building the Keystone KX Pipeline?

In terms of economic benefits, the low market price for oil makes this a risky gamble for the industry

Lascaris — Well, you know, that’s an interesting question, because from an economic perspective, it’s not clear that even the industry is going to benefit from this in the long run. Tar sands are among the most expensive sources of oil in the world. Costing an average of $75 to $80 a barrel to produce, according to Norwegian energy consulting firm … (audio loss) …, and Chris Lafakis, of Moody’s Analytics, estimated that in order for new drilling … (audio loss) … economical, the price of oil would need to be around $85 to $90.

Right now, Western Canada Select, basically tar sands oil, is trading at around $52 a barrel. So, the economics of this project, even just looking at it purely from a profit standpoint for the industry, are highly dubious. And I think the industry is making a… it’s really a very risky gamble, that the price of oil is going to rise, and persist at a level that is sufficiently elevated to make the project profitable on a long-term basis.

The stakes are higher than profit margins – the industry is gambling the future of the planet, and Trudeau is giving them this right without public consent

And implicit in this wager that it’s making — I mean, really, this is an implicit wager that the entire fossil fuels industry is making globally — is that humanity is going to collectively commit suicide. It will continue to extract fossil fuels, burn fossil fuels, even to the point of rendering the planet unlivable. That really is the only way that any of this makes any sense, from a pure profit perspective, in the long run.

When will Trudeau come to his senses and realize the folly of depending on fossil fuels?

And I would hope — I would hope — that that is a wager that is going to turn out to be a losing bet, and that humanity will come to its senses and politicians will come to their senses, and realize that we cannot afford to continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels.

If that happens, this project is going to turn out to be an economic disaster for the tar sands industry, and for the constructor of that pipeline.

Brown — Indeed. On the surface, it may not look as if Trudeau and Trump have a lot in common, but you look a little deeper, maybe they do. Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump, obviously on the same accord, when it comes to constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline; which will originate in Alberta, Canada, travel through the midsection of the United States, on to the Gulf, where people are certainly showing a lot of concerns about the environmental impacts, and whether or not the economic rewards, or dividends, will be what they have been promised.

We’ve been speaking with Dimitri Lascaris. He is an attorney, also an activist, and a member here of our board at The Real News. Dimitri, we appreciate you speaking to us. Thank you.

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