David Staples: Jason Kenney’s push for Alberta oil gets much love in Washington, DC

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The success of Alberta’s push to export oil, gas and hydrogen should not be measured by how much Premier Jason Kenney’s fires up his base against Justin Trudeau.

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The best measure is how much powerful people in other countries and middle-of-the-road Canadians outside Alberta adopt Kenney’s many arguments for energy security and energy sanity.

By such a measure, Kenney’s testimony to a powerful US Senate panel on Tuesday represented a high-water mark in the premier’s obsessive promotion of Alberta hydrocarbons. His talking points were taken up with great enthusiasm by US senators and even echoed to some extent by Trudeau’s Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

For example, the hearing started off with Sen. Joe Manchin—who is seen as the US Senate’s most important swing vote Because he will go against his Democrat colleagues in an evenly split Senate — praising Alberta for its clean oil practices. “On average Canada produces oil with 37 per cent lower methane emissions than the United States”

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Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming spoke out in favor of oil and gas over other less reliable energy options. “Electricity must be reliable and affordable… The United States and Canada can not rely on the sun, wind and wishful thinking alone.”

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was one of many senators at the hearing who brought up US President Joe Biden’s axing of the Keystone XL pipeline. “On his very first day in office, President Biden began his war on North American energy. He began it by killing the Keystone XL pipeline. His response from him to record-high gasoline prices, that are really causing American consumers to suffer, has been to beg Venezuela and beg Saudi Arabia to ramp up their production.

Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas praised Alberta’s oilsands emissions cuts as admirable and liked Kenney’s notion that technological change was the driver of such cuts. “I’ve always said that innovation will solve the problem, not the federal government and not taxation as well.”

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was impressed with Alberta’s approach and pushed for closer study, including the entire committee traveling to Alberta to learn more.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana spoke out against opposition to oil and gas, and agreed with Kenney that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might change things. “I hope it wakes up the woke,” Daines said. “Because it’s a dangerous ideology. And people are suffering because of that, what this (Biden) administration is doing to keep it in the ground, shut off fossil fuels.”

As for Wilkinson, he brought up the “double threat” to North America of energy security and climate change, noting that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was driving new thinking. “The need to focus on energy security has never been greater.”

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Wilkinson also strongly defended the Line 5 pipeline between the US and Canada, which is now threatened by Democrat opposition in Michigan.

Of course, just because major US politicians, most of them business-loving Republicans, hold similar views as Kenney, it doesn’t mean that new pipeline projects will abound.

There is still massive opposition to pipelines, some of it indeed from woke activists, who as leading US public intellectuals Peter Boghossian and Michael Shellenberger have said in their Taxonomy of Woke Beliefsare prone to holding “supernatural beliefs,” such as climate change being bound to make humans extinct, and the notion that prosperity is in no way dependent on abundant energy.

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Even more important in the pipeline wars, there are powerful competitors in wind, solar and biofuels deeply embedded in the ruling classes of Ottawa, Quebec City, Washington and Brussels, who are working overtime to enrich themselves by pushing their own industries and thwarting oil, gas and nuclear.

But the pendulum is finally swinging due to current events, from the record cost of filing up gas tanks in the US to newfound disgust for oil and gas exports from warlike Russia, from untrustworthy and aggressive China’s domination of solar and battery manufacturing to Germany’s energy crisis last summer due to unreliable wind.

Just now old-school green energy policy looks as iffy and nonsensical as a multibillion-dollar wind farm on a month of windless days.

Kenney offered a strong competing vision. “If we were serious about this,” he told the senators, “we could achieve within five years a complete elimination of North American OPEC imports. That would be demonstrably good for the world’s environment and for global peace and security.”

It’s not clear if Kenney will survive his leadership review this week. But if he does fail, he’s going down swinging big on his top priority.

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