Political campaigns are remarkably like war. Lots of resources and blitzkrieg attacks disorient the other side. To re-phrase von Clausewitz – “politics is war by other means”. And it’s starting to get rough out there. Political opponents are demonized (scary, not ready to lead, etc. ) so that any tactics are permissible.
But let’s look at energy policies. What are the leaders of each party thinking about?
Stephen Harper is a master tactician of the political game. Some say he’s got control issues or perhaps he just uses “enhanced management tools.” He spots weakness and dive-bombs the opposition with attack ads, campaign or no campaign. Take no prisoners is a description that comes to mind. Hey, who knew that Karl Rove lived at 24 Sussex Drive? But you can’t argue with success. He’s had the opposition on the run for some time.
Energy costs are the sword of Damocles hanging by a horsehair, and will have serious consequences for each of us. However, this is not apparent when viewing the Conservative website. Of the eight key priorities on the Conservative website, energy doesn’t make the list.
Our PM has been using short-term tactics and guerilla warfare to build support and destroy enemies. His long-term vision is less clear. One of his greatest successes has been the fee on gas-guzzlers and the ecoAuto rebate. The rebate was cancelled after the 2008 model year. The relatively low program cost of $150 million couldn’t have been the cause of its demise. Was it GM unfriendly and had to go? Luckily, he retained the fee on gas-guzzlers.
His need to retain or increase his power will always trump good policy. The diesel tax cut is a good example. Stephen is an economist and knows that lowering the price of a product encourages the use of it. Two cents will lower the cost of fuel by 1.5%. Since fuel is only one third of transportation cost, the actual reduction in product cost will be ½ of 1% if it’s passed on to consumers. Since most food comes from the US, this only affects transport within Canada. So, there’s virtually no effect on your head of lettuce from California.
If you own a diesel car, it will save you $24 a year. This policy will cost the treasury $600 million a year, have questionable results, but it will buy votes.
The National Energy Board recognizes that conventional oil is declining in Canada and that imported LNG will have to take the place of domestic natural gas production in coming years. Export applications do not have to consider whether Canada has adequate natural gas reserves, as was the case before 1985. Only tar sand development, which has a low net energy output, is on the rise. Should we be proud of the ecological fallout in Alberta? Will other countries eventually ban the import of these products or penalize us for carbon output?
Does Stephen still believe that Canada is an energy superpower? What was his purpose to promoting this view of Canada’s energy resources? Should Canada have a national security policy on energy with actual physical reserves? Should there be an east-west pipeline through Canada? What about an east west DC electric transmission line?
An important question remains unanswered: How will we heat our homes in the future at reasonable prices? Those with oil heat in the Atlantic Provinces are in for a rude awakening. Quebec has cheap electricity and Ontario has natural gas, for the moment. The votes of Atlantic Canada make little impact on the national scene.
Although the price of oil is now lower than its peak in June, it will rise again in the near future as world production starts a decline in roughly 2010. The investments required to meet the energy challenges of the 21st century will take a significant number of years to achieve. We should have started decades ago.
How will we get around as fuel becomes very expensive and is rationed? How will our economy and jobs survive the shock of energy shortages and prices? How does Stephen feel about conservation of energy? Ignoring the problem of peak oil doesn’t make it go away.
My rating given to Stephen Harper for a lackluster energy policy – F. His lack of attention and understanding of important energy issues is counterbalanced by his desire to spend money on boondoggles like patrol vessels for the arctic. And $490 billion over the next twenty years for the military to participate in overseas adventures with the US.