The COP-26 meeting in Glasgow puts Climate Change top of mind for many Canadians. Our
performance on this world stage will be interesting, particularly because our new Federal Minister of the
Environment, Steven Guilbeault, was once an environmental activist.
Unfortunately, he represents a government currently building a pipeline for bringing prairie bitumen to
the BC coast while also claiming to show leadership in reducing carbon emissions. In fact, tar sands operations
are one of Canada’s largest carbon emitters and our fastest growing source of carbon emissions. A recent
interview clearly made him rather uncomfortable.
It is unfair to blame Guilbeault for a problem he did not make; he was elected to parliament in October
2019, around the time Trans Mountain pipeline construction began. Now. he has been given an impossible task;
defending his government’s actions on carbon emissions while trying to present Canada as a carbon emissions
I have always been interested in lowering my energy consumption. Over ½-century ago, my efforts were
aimed at improving the fuel economy of my cars, and I was seriously good at this! When my wife and I bought
a house in southern England, it was uninsulated. We must have been one of the first households in the area to
add insulation to our 30 year-old house, spreading fiberglass batts in the attic. We then had professionals drill
holes in our walls and blow insulation into the space between the two leaves of brick. We had double glazing
installed, then virtually unknown in England’s relatively balmy south! There was an immediate improvement in
comfort and in gas consumption.
On our return to Canada in late 1988, my wife and I resisted the temptation to buy the large vehicles
which were becoming popular. Added to energy efficiency improvements to our Barrie house, we have been
saving thousands of dollars every year for over three decades!
Now, my thinking has come full circle. Initially, I minimized energy use to save money, particularly
during 4 years working in Kenya for a “princely” wage of $800 per year! More recently, I basked in the glow of
our modest carbon footprint. Realising that carbon footprints don’t interest everybody, I now emphasize again
the monetary benefit of using less energy.
On September 11 th , 2001 (9/11), I became aware that Middle East petroleum indirectly funds terrorism.
The Saudi government didn’t pay Osama bin Laden directly, but some of the kingdom’s vast oil wealth clearly
“leaked”. More recently, Saudi Arabia has played an important role in Yemen’s misery. Iran directly funds
Hezbollah and has been undermining Lebanon for decades. Various rebels and terror groups across North
Africa were sustained by Libyan and Algerian oil money. Further afield, Russian oil fuels Vladimir Putin’s
sabre rattling in Ukraine and elsewhere, while his own people grow ever poorer.
The money we spend buying imported petroleum funds, directly or indirectly, from actors abroad who
threaten us. From an environmental point of view, terrorism and warfare make a huge, but largely uncounted
contribution to carbon emissions as bombs and bullets are manufactured and then fired as armies confront
militias – not to mention the post-conflict rebuilding which must eventually occur. This, of course, is separate
from human suffering on a scale and intensity hard to imagine from our safe Canadian viewpoint!
That thinking led me to consider that our “dirty” tar sands petroleum may be “cleaner” than much of the
petroleum we import. Moreover, our tar sands operations are politically and socially “ethical”, particularly
when compared to product from Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia or the Middle East!
Personally, I am committed to minimising energy consumption, particularly of petroleum products, and
will continue to do so for the rest of my life. However, I much prefer that what I do use is Canadian sourced,
despite the up-front carbon emissions associated with mining and refining our tar sands!
-By Pete Bursztyn