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NEWS: Differing views on a national energy strategy

The lead lines in National Post columnist Andrew Coyne’s latest opinion piece are as follows – “Then we’re agreed. Canada needs a national energy strategy, says the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Canada needs a national energy strategy, the Council of Canadians concurs.”

He goes on to note that the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (an industry group), the Alberta Federation of Labour, some of the country’s energy ministers, former TransCanada Corp. CEO Hal Kvisle, and the Alberta government have also agreed on the need for a national energy strategy.

“Asked his views (about a national energy strategy) on a Calgary radio show, Stephen Harper confessed, ‘the honest truth is I don’t know precisely what it means. I’m looking forward to having some discussions with some provinces to find out what they have in mind.'”

Coyne does eventually acknowledge that, “When industry and business groups talk about a national energy strategy, they mean a concerted push to expand sales of Canadian oil abroad, together with the regulatory approvals needed to make it happen at home: a big broom to sweep away local objections to energy infrastructure projects, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, the subject of hearings starting Tuesday in British Columbia. But when labour and environmental groups talk about a national energy strategy, they mean policies to reduce Canada’s use of fossil fuels, whether through conservation or alternative energy sources.”

What is Coyne’s idea of a national energy strategy? “Prices. If the returns to producing oil are greater than to other activities, we should produce oil; if China will pay us more for our oil than we could get elsewhere, we should sell it to them; if prices do not include all costs including environmental costs, we should adjust them with a carbon tax. Other than that I can’t see the point.”

In June 2011, the Victoria Times Colonist reported, “The Council of Canadians seeks a national energy strategy to serve two purposes: to ensure the stability of supply to Canadians, and also to set out a plan to wean the country off its dependence on non-renewable fuel sources. ‘One of the points the council has been very clear on and continues to be clear on is that not only does Canada not have an energy plan, we’ve actually relinquished a lot of our control in the energy sector through free trade agreements like NAFTA, to the markets and to the interests of big oil and we find that problematic,’ said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and climate justice campaigner for the council. ‘We would say that any plan needs to be balanced with environmental protections concerning the production, transportation and consumption of energy,’ she said, adding: ‘We are very wary and would oppose a strategy that allows business as usual — namely, the pursuit of an energy superpower status through increased exports to the U.S. based on unfettered ongoing fossil-fuel exploitation. The social and environmental costs of this we’re really seeing now, particularly in the tarsands.’”

To read more about the Council of Canadians energy campaign, go to http://canadians.org/energy/.