As Alberta celebrates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of oil in this province, there are many people across Canada and around the world who have made it clear that they wish that day had never happened.
So I thought it would be fun to play fairy godmother to those people and grant them their wish. Wave magic wand and poof! Wish granted. That black mark on Canada’s reputation has never existed. Oil was never discovered in Alberta on May 14, 1914, and therefore the rest of the country doesn’t have an oil industry either, since it was very much Alberta’s vision that spurred most of the other regions to get into the game — albeit much later than Alberta.
Immediately, 1.38 million barrels a day of conventional crude and 1.94 million barrels per day of oilsands bitumen is suddenly no longer being made! Hooray! It’s so much fun to be a fairy godmother.
Of course, natural gas hasn’t been found either — meaning that 13.7 billion cubic feet per day of this cleaner fuel is also non existent, so many more Canadians must use mostly coal to heat their homes. Oh dear. That’s not very positive, since coal is not as clean as natural gas. Fairy godmother just hates being the bearer of bad news.
Shutting down Alberta’s oil and gas industry will result in an immediate reduction of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 163 megatonnes (MT) per year.
Yipee! Fairy godmothers just love delivering cheery news! But wait a minute. While that sounds like a lot of GHGs, it’s really just a drop in the bucket. Canada produces just 1.8 per cent of the world’s man-made GHGs and the oilsands produce just eight per cent of that, but almost one-quarter of the wealth on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Wave magic wand and poof — all of that wealth has disappeared too. That means you can’t retire until you’re 85. But take it from fairy godmother, working forever is fun!
You may think by taking all of that oil and gas out of production, prices would spike in Canada and the U.S. But not to worry, oil and gas will still flow, only now it will come from somewhere else, mostly Saudi Arabia — which uses a good portion of its oil wealth to fund al-Qaeda and other groups like that. Bloody oil, is, after all, so much nicer than Alberta’s so-called dirty oil. Other oil will also flow from Venezuela, Iran, Russia and fabulous places like that, where protesters don’t dare tread.
More than 116,000 jobs in Alberta would be lost that are directly tied to oil and gas — or rather, they never existed to begin with. Which is too bad, because they are among the most high paying jobs in the country, providing billions in taxes to the federal and provincial treasuries from individuals alone. Poof, gone! But waiting even longer for a heart or hip operation is a small price to pay for doing away with the blight that is our oil and gas industry.
Tens of thousands of other jobs across the country, including manufacturing jobs in Quebec and Ontario, will disappear like a mirage too. By closing down all of Canada’s oil and gas industry, all of those Hollywood stars like Neil Young and Daryl Hannah won’t be focusing on Alberta and Canada and perhaps will start focusing on U.S. coal instead — which belches out 27 times more GHGs than the oilsands industry in Alberta.
The top 50 polluting coal fired plants in the United States produce two per cent of the world’s GHG emissions, which is more than all of Canada’s GHGs for everything — transportation, home heating, manufacturing, the oilsands, agriculture — everything!
According to Alberta Finance, in 2011 alone, Albertans paid $39.6 billion to federal coffers and got back $20.6 billion in federal services, which means the rest of the country got to share $19 billion of Albertans’ money. That’s the equivalent of $5,012 per Albertan that gets distributed to help pay for the health care of our brothers and sisters in Newfoundland and Vancouver Island. That makes Alberta the largest net contributor to Confederation — by far. Fairy godmothers just love sharing. But oops, I forgot, wave wand and poof! Most of that money is gone now. Indeed, Alberta isn’t much of a province at all today. There’s some really great agricultural activity going on, but not much else. Alberta is now a have-not province, just like every other province in Canada. Our GHG emissions are way down because no one can afford to drive anywhere, let alone fly.
But not to worry, Neil Young is still flying here in a private jet — not to protest the oilsands, but to do some fly fishing.
Sometimes being a fairy godmother isn’t as fun as it sounds.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor.