Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Win/Win Story



The polar bear population of Labrador is thriving and the credit goes to the collapse of the region's harp seal hunt.

Despite vanishing sea ice and shorter, milder winters, Labrador’s polar bear population is actually growing – which means a bigger harvesting quota for Inuit hunters. 
There are more than 2,500 polar bears in the vast coastal area that includes Labrador and northern Quebec, according to Environment Canada – far more than was expected earlier in the millennium – and further signs the bears continue to rebound despite the impacts of climate change. 
Indeed, although scientists and Inuit sometimes clash over the estimates, the polar bear population of coastal Labrador is among the healthiest in the world.
The reason, biologists suspect, is the boom in the harp seal population. As Newfoundland’s seal fishery has collapsed under international pressure, the harp seals of the north-west Atlantic have proliferated. They now number about 7.4 million animals – more then seven times the population in the 1970s. 
That has created a veritable feast for Labrador’s polar bears, who have shifted their diet from ring seals to their more southerly, promiscuous cousins. 
“They jumped on the harp seal boom,” Goudie said. “They appear to have adapted for this moment in time … We’re seeing them further south than in the past.”
This sounds like an isolated situation but it's not. Humans are going to have to give up or restrict some of our practices that may impede the survival of wildlife.

There are many on the west coast who question BC's annual herring roe harvest. Now, with new species coming into our waters from the warming south, it might be time to consider what these whales, dolphins and fish will have to eat. They will probably need more herring, a lot more, and perhaps we should curb our harvesting of this essential marine feed stock.

All of us, in every country, must also begin relinquishing habitat needed for the survival of other forms of life, the building blocks of diversity. We have reached the point that we have to accept that, if they don't make it, we don't make it.

Get 'Em While They're Still Sorta Hot


It's not too late to order your very own Trump-Kim commemorative peace summit coin. It's a handsome reminder of the astonishing breakthrough that brought nuclear disarmament and peace to the Korean peninsula and earned Donald J. Trump the Nobel Peace Prize.


You can still order yours from the White House Gift Shop. But wait, there's more! It's the "Deal of the Day" now reduced from $24.95 to the low, low price of just $19.95. Get yours now.


Trans Mountain Thursday - The Rule of Law and Cooperative Federalism - For Some, Just Not For All.



The Tyee again tackles TTM (Trudeau's Trans Mountain pipeline) with two reports. Stepford Liberals, and your ranks are legion, are not going to like this.

Will Horter explores how the "rule of law" is used by the pipeline proponents but only when that serves them. When it gets in their way, it's a different matter, they've never heard of it. And, yes, that goes for the Dauphin - in spades.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it appears that our New Age prime minister has embraced the post-truth era quicker than anyone could have imagined. Quite simply, he is imitating U.S. President Donald Trump in his handling of Kinder Morgan: tell a big lie and repeat it frequently. Attack any opponents as anti-prosperity, and their words as “fake news.” Unfortunately for Canadian democracy, the cynical “big lie” propaganda technique is now becoming the go-to-procedure in Ottawa for all things Kinder Morgan.

Building on a few other whoppers — Kinder Morgan will lower gas prices, Canada needs new tar sands pipelines in order to address global warming, Justin Trudeau’s promise to ensure a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations — we now discover the biggest lie of all: Trudeau cites the “rule of law” in support of his claim that his government’s Kinder Morgan approval was a science-based decision made after carefully weighing all the evidence. Credible reports based on newly available documents and government staff whistle-blower accounts indicate that Trudeau’s approval of Kinder Morgan was purely political, and worse, “rigged.”
The hypocrisy of the “rule of law” crowd has a long history in British Columbia’s oil tanker and pipeline struggles. Not so many years ago when Stephen Harper was ruling the roost in Ottawa, we began to the hear the “rule of law” touted in support of Enbridge’s proposal to bisect British Columbia with a pipeline to Kitimat, where bitumen would be pumped into oil tankers for export to China. Pro-Enbridge cheerleaders touted the National Energy Board’s recommendation and the Harper cabinet’s approval. “The issue is already decided, they said, “opponents are ‘radicals’ threatening the economy and Canadian democracy.” 
As then, so today. Until the new allegations of NEB rigging surfaced, Kinder Morgan’s promoters often referred to the “rule of law” as their rationale for moving ahead quickly with the Texas company’s controversial oil tanker-pipeline proposal.
But what exactly do they mean? 
The dictionary defines the rule of law as: “the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced.” 
Canada is not a dictatorship. Just because some handpicked board rubber-stamps something, or princely Trudeau (or the bully Harper before him) wants something, it doesn’t mean we all have to march in step to make it so.
...The shortcuts and flaws in the NEB review of Kinder Morgan are well known. The Trans Mountain NEB review is haunted by the exclusion of many affected people and groups, the limited terms of reference, the lack of cross-examination to test the evidence Kinder Morgan submitted, the exclusion of relevant evidence (such as scientific studies concluding bitumen sinks if spilled), the expedited hearing schedule and conflicts of interest. 
Even Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada (before they came to power) admitted the NEB’s review of Kinder Morgan was fundamentally flawed. Much has been made about then-candidate Trudeau’s statements that Kinder Morgan would not be approved, and the review would be redone if he became prime minister. However, a more damaging statement has been overlooked: the follow-up letter by Anne Gainey, then president of the Liberal Party of Canada, wrote just before the election responding to questions put to Trudeau about his statements. Gainey wrote: “regarding the Liberal Party of Canada’s position on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. As you are aware, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have serious concerns with the process surrounding the approval of this pipeline. We cannot support the pipeline in its current form because the Conservatives have not ensured environmental, community or stakeholder consent. We agree with what you, and Canadians across the country, have been saying for a long time: Canada’s environmental assessment process is broken.”
A Rigged Process. Did Trudeau Break the Law?

If Trudeau’s false promises weren’t enough to threaten the legitimacy of the federal Trans Mountain approval process, we are now hearing credible reports — with documents and several government staff whistle-blowers — describing how Trudeau’s government instructed staff to put their thumb on the scale of justice. Reportedly, Erin O’Gorman — the then-associate deputy minister of the major projects management office — was instructed to “find a way to approve Kinder Morgan.” O’Gorman then reportedly told various departments to do just that. In other words, it appears Trudeau betrayed not only his “Sunny Ways” promises, but violated a host of laws by predetermining the Kinder Morgan approval before all the evidence was in, or consultations with affected First Nations were completed.
...Ironically, when all the evidence is in, it is Kinder Morgan’s cheerleaders, not opponents, that actually are undermining the rule of law. Their get-an-approval-by-any-means-necessary approach — by rigging review processes, ignoring conflicts of interest, trying to pre-empt review by courts, generally putting their thumb on the scales of justice, and using “big lie” propaganda techniques — is the real threat to the rule of law.

Christopher Guly discusses how Trudeau invokes "cooperative federalism" when that suits him but only when it suits him. Sort of like the "rule of law" farce.

The one major certainty regarding the fight between the British Columbia government and its Albertan and federal counterparts regarding Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is that the cross-jurisdictional dispute is unprecedented in Canadian history.

...B.C. is challenging Alberta’s Bill 12 in the courts, and has submitted a reference to its own appellate court to determine whether or not it can regulate increases in the flow of diluted bitumen that crosses its borders. Ottawa, as an intervenor in that case, will argue federal authority regarding interprovincial pipelines that serve the national interest — a position Saskatchewan, which also wants to join the BC Court of Appeal reference, supports too.
 B.C. won’t get its answer before the May 31 deadline Kinder Morgan set to receive a federal government assurance that its Trans Mountain project could proceed unimpeded. 
The Federal Court of Appeal has also yet to release a ruling on a case launched by seven Indigenous groups challenging Ottawa’s assertion that it properly consulted First Nations. But a decision could be further delayed after the Tsleil-Waututh Nation filed a motion earlier this month asking the court to order the federal government to release uncensored copies of documents cited in a recent National Observer investigation that revealed bureaucrats were ordered to approve the project.
Last month, Trudeau also promised, but has yet to pursue, “legislative options” to “assert” federal jurisdiction over Trans Mountain. But even if he did and introduced legislation — which at this point could not pass Parliament by month’s end — it would not “foreclose First Nations, British Columbia or anyone else from seeking a judicial review of it,” argues Jason MacLean, a former Wall Street corporate and commercial litigator who teaches environmental law and natural resources law at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
But he points out that the political logjam concerning Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is not the only constitutional conundrum facing the federal government. 
The Saskatchewan government intends to file a reference with the province’s top court challenging the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax, and in so doing, is taking an opposite position to the one it will use in the BC appellate court supporting Ottawa’s jurisdiction over the pipeline.
“What is so ironic is that the federal government will defend its carbon tax relying on the doctrine of cooperative federalism, which is how it was designed — to give provinces the ability to tailor the price to their own economies, such as through a tax or a cap-and-trade system,” says MacLean. ...Yet the federal government is trying to jam a pipeline down B.C.’s throat through unilateral federal action. The contradiction couldn’t be more delicious for a law professor. But those disputes will ultimately have to get settled either in the courts or at the ballot box — or both.”
...MacLean says that if a court can rule that Ottawa also has jurisdiction over a mine located within a province’s borders, “it strains the mind to understand how a major oil pipeline project that has ecological, First Nations and climate-change implications is going to be solely within the federal government’s purview.”
Trudeau has done a wonderful job of proving that there's one law for the rest of Canada and another, very different law for British Columbia. He's also done a wonderful job, quite unintentionally, of revealing the real Trudeau behind that charming facade.

Will Horter has written something that I couldn't bring myself to write although the thought has crossed my mind - how Trudeau, like Trump (and Harper before them), has routinely resorted to the "Big Lie" and smear tactics against those who see through him. He's gotten himself in too deep this time. Gee I'll bet he's missing Christy Clark.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Enron's Patsy. How Kinder Morgan Played Trudeau and Canada for Suckers.



Steve Kean knows how to play hardball from his days as senior vice president of government affairs with the long defunct Enron corporation. Now, on behalf of the son of Enron, Kinder Morgan, Kean is using those skills to roll Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau and the people of Canada. The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk casts the bones and reads the entrails. It's not a pretty sight.
The Trudeau federal government has made itself a pathetic hostage to a Texas-based pipeline company known for its cheapness and debt. 
The economic sleaziness of the drama, which should upset most Canadians, has been largely ignored by the financial mainstream press. 
But here’s the rub: Kinder Morgan doesn’t have the money it needs to twin a high-risk $7.4 billion pipeline, and has been looking for a way out for some time
Meanwhile, it has blamed entirely predictable and expected project delays on the B.C. government as well as First Nations and municipal resistance to the pipeline.
But then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a smiling hostage, walked into the room and declared the construction of the megaproject a matter of “national interest” — without so much as an independent cost-benefit analysis.

On April 8, Kinder Morgan grabbed Trudeau by his bituminous lapels and delivered a Texas-sized ransom note: bail us out or we’ll walk away from your stinking national interest on May 31.
...money and not political uncertainty — a reliable companion of the project from the first day of public hearings — is the central issue here.
Faced with the iron law of megaprojects (“over schedule and over budget and over and over again”), Kinder Morgan simply wants to walk away from an unviable project whose costs have ballooned from $5.4 billion to more than $7.4 billion. 
The con game has been unfolding for several years now. 
In 2011 Kinder Morgan, whose early business mantra was “Cheap, Cheap, Cheap,” finagled with the National Energy Board to get a special fee — paid by oil producers no less — to help cover the costs for regulatory filings on a carbon risky pipeline expansion. 
With other people’s money — about $286 million according to economist Robyn Allan — it then proposed to twin an existing 65-year-old pipeline across the Rocky Mountains to move 500,000 barrels of heavy oil to the coast. 
In 2013 the U.S. company promised the National Energy Board that it would happily finance the project with 100 per cent of its own money.
Kaching, kaching, kaching
At the time the company estimated that the project would cost a modest $5.4 billion. 
Today that figure has now ballooned to $7.4 billion, and economists such as Robyn Allan predict the project can’t be completed for less than $9 billion.
Ottawa's Gross Ineptitude
If the federal government really wanted to act in the national interest it could insist that companies upgrade bitumen into a higher value petroleum product that doesn’t require imported diluent (costly natural gas liquids) to transport it through a pipeline. 
Such a move would create high-paying refining jobs and free up pipeline capacity monopolized by the transport of 600,000 barrels of diluent now needed to move 1.6 million barrels of raw bitumen a day.
But the National Energy Board, a captured regulator, never looked at these alternatives and never questioned Kinder Morgan’s ability to finance the project, even though a sharp Wall Street analyst aptly described the firm in 2013 as “a house of cards.” 
Nor did Canada’s pathetic energy regulator challenge bogus claims made by Kinder Morgan that heavy oil would fetch higher prices in Asian markets — a complete falsehood
The federal government, however, did appoint a Kinder Morgan consultant to the NEB board during the scandal-plagued regulatory hearings to highlight their bias.
Dupes and Saps, Making Suckers of Us All
After failing to raise money in U.S. markets — a clear signal that North American investors didn’t regard the project as a smart idea — the Houston firm used its Canadian subsidiary to raise a skimpy $1.7 billion in 2017. 
But those monies didn’t go to the pipeline expansion project. Instead Kinder Morgan used it to pay off more U.S. debt. 
Although Kinder Morgan Canada arranged $5.5 billion in construction facility loans from Canadian banks, that still left the subsidiary with a $2 billion equity hole to fill. 
Rather than admit that it can’t raise the money and face a financial drubbing, Kinder Morgan shrewdly blamed long-standing and predictable public opposition from First Nations, the City of Burnaby and the government of British Columbia as a project stopper. 
But it cleverly waited for the Canadian government, a modern shill for oil lobbyists, to first promise a $1.5 billion ocean spill response subsidy and then declare the project a matter of “national interest.” 
The Trudeau government, which promised the Chinese Communists an energy pipeline to the coast as part of any free trade deal, has now signalled to investors that if the marketplace won’t fund a foolhardy project then Canadian taxpayers will be sacrificed instead.
...Whenever you scratch a megaproject, says the Oxford business professor Bent Flyvbjerg, you’ll likely find a toxic brew of underestimated costs, inflated revenues, discounted environmental impacts and overvalued benefits.  
That description fits Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal better than a speedy downhill weld
And now a brain-dead federal government with unhealthy commitments to China wants to rescue a truly bad megaproject championed by the bastard child of Enron and a bunch of climate-denying Texans
The result will be an unprecedented disaster for Canadian taxpayers.

Sorry, Ontario. The Comma Makes All the Difference, Eh?



The Whales' Song Has a Special Message - For Us.



Out here you don't hear people express much concern about the influx of marine life from southern waters.

We tend to see them as newcomers rather than what they are, refugees. Whether minuscule or huge they're all components of a marine food chain in pursuit of more suitable, i.e. cooler waters. From seabed to surface, the whole chain moves.

They are, to be sure, a business opportunity for whale watchers who load tourists into Zodiacs to buzz around humpbacks and pods of orcas.

We don't tend to see them for what they are, creatures fleeing something. Creatures emptying out of what had been their home waters since time immemorial. We don't grasp the magnitude of what's happening or the significance to our own lives.

Just because these creatures, fish and mammals alike, have moved into our waters doesn't mean this is a natural home for them. It doesn't mean that northern waters won't present challenges, even hold threats to their survival. It's going to take generations to see how they'll adapt and some are bound to fare better than others.

Nor does it mean that coastal British Columbia waters are their "new normal," their new home. In a decade or two they may migrate further north again whether in search of food or more suitable waters. No one knows but we can hope someone knowledgeable is at least asking the questions.

What are they telling their terrestrial companions, especially the top of the land-based food chain, us? Shouldn't we understand that these are creatures in flight. "It's the trip, not the destination" sort of thing, the creed of all nomads.

What they can teach us is that this is the world we now live in, a world increasingly different from the world most of us were born into. We grew up as part of the Holocene (or so we were told). Now we're part of the Anthropocene (so we are told). Stamp that epochal passport. And it's all man-made, baby. We have done it. We have remade Earth in our own image even if it is not as pretty as our vanity led us to expect. Those whales? We made them move.

I think what we're seeing in these North Pacific waters is a huge wake-up call. It's time to look around us at the other migration, terra firma. Land-based life forms, animals and plants, are having a harder time migrating which means they'll have worse prospects of survival.

Birds have a huge advantage. Earthbound species, however, have to get around roads and fences, rivers and lakes, towns and cities, obstacles of all sorts. They may have to cross areas such as deserts that do not support much life. Some will have to run the gauntlet of predators lying in wait.

Then there are plants. Know what the migration rate is for plants? It's pegged at 8" a year.

These creatures may need a little help from the same species that created their predicament, us. That begins by an awareness of the too poorly understood contributions these endangered species make to biodiversity and the role that biodiversity plays in our own survival. Rule of thumb: they don't make it, we don't make it.

We're going to have to re-think our notion of "invasive species." We're going to have to make room for as many species as possible, some but not all, even if sometimes at the expense of native species. For the "greater good," I suppose.

The arrival of those newcomers - the sardines, the whales, the dolphins, those annoying sea lions - are our wake-up call. That's a good thing if we start paying attention to it and the message that it is sending us.




No Takers for Pipeline? What's the Surprise in That?



To hear Bill Morneau tell it, potential buyers would be falling all over each other to take over Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.  Apparently not. There is no queue. Nothing on the horizon.

There are many reasons for investor indifference. Kinder Morgan says it has orders for two-thirds of the Trans Mountain capacity. Really, from whom?
Asia? Three year contracts? Endless renegotiation and uncertainty? The prospect of bitumen becoming a "stranded asset"? The announcement by OPEC that it may open the taps again to drive current high oil prices back down? I don't know, what's not to like?

Then there's that business about never leaving money on the table. For this pipeline, it's a buyer's market. Trudeau and Morneau have revealed that Ottawa is willing to offer financial incentives to see this pipeline through to "tidewater." Any potential buyer for this has to be wondering how hard they can grind the Trudeau government and they are definitely going to squeeze Ottawa for everything they can get. They're not going to settle for the wallet. They want the diamond ring and the Rolex too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This Way It's Easier to Make Sense of Rachel Notley.



It's easier when you think of Rachel Notley as that distant cousin who shows up blotto at the family reunion, snarling at everyone.

Alberta's outgoing premier is laying it on hot and heavy as Kinder Morgan's disingenuous deadline for the Trans Mountain pipeline is just over a week away.

Oh yeah, without that pipeline Alberta's going down and so is Canada. And, if Alberta's goin' down it'll damn well take British Columbia with it. Gimme another shot. Now, dammit. British Columbia - you bastards had damn well better roll over, and now. Mess around buddy and we'll cut off the gas. Think we won't? Just try us.

This would all be much more impressive coming from a premier of any province other than Alberta. Because we know what they would do with this imaginary windfall, if delusion could be transformed into reality. We know what they would do because we've watched them do it again and again and again. There's even a phrase for it. They'll just "piss it all away."

That's the theme of their favourite bumper sticker, "Dear God, Please Give Us Another Oil Boom and, This Time, We Promise We Won't Just Piss It All Away." Only they will and they do, again and again and over again.

They've let the better part of two trillion dollars of fossil energy slip from their fingers and they've got a 43 billion dollar deficit to show for it.
While Lougheed encouraged development of the oil sands, he took an interventionist approach with industry, making the oil companies abide by laws, regulators and legislators. When the industry boomed in the mid-’70s, Lougheed raised royalty rates, while the federal government hit it with taxes. 
But by 1993, the balance of power was shifting. Both Premier Ralph Klein in Alberta and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien were desperate to ramp up oil sands production to boost the economy. In return, the oil industry wanted less regulation, oversight and taxation. 
Chrétien and Klein obliged. Royalties were dropped to one per cent and taxes rolled back, while environmental regulations were weakened
Norway, by contrast, listened to Lougheed and, even though it never moved as much oil as Alberta, it now has the world's largest sovereign wealth fund to show for its prudent management of its windfall revenue.

Alberta and Ottawa have done everything imaginable to put lipstick on this pig. They've gutted fisheries regulations and navigation laws, they've lavished direct and concealed subsidies on the industry to the tune of $46 billion a year by the IMF's calculations, they've deferred royalties and clean up costs that are at this point probably unrecoverable. They've handcuffed themselves to a now dead hooker and it's making them nervous, desperate, irrational.

No pipeline is going to save Alberta from itself. That ain't gonna happen. They've screwed the pooch years ago. What's done is done. They're just not ready to give up yet and they don't mind who they take down with them. For them, British Columbia is a handy whipping boy and that's what they need now more than ever.

UPDATE

This post brought back memories of Alberta's "boom" days.  Here on the island we always knew when Alberta was riding high.  They would come out to the coast in the summer with new everything and ready to spend.

Who can forget Ralph Klein who, in 2004, dipped into Peter Lougheed's nest egg so he could claim bragging rights to having paid off Alberta's debt.


Of course it was really more like paying an outstanding VISA bill. It might have felt good at the time but it didn't last.

And then there was Ralph's handout, a $400 cheque issued to every man, woman and child in Wild Rose country. I never saw one of those but I'm told it looked just like this:



Chunk by chunk that fund evaporated. The provincial economy expanded, overheated, then the bubble burst until all that could-have-been/should-have-been wealth had been pissed away. Rinse and repeat and repeat again.

Klein begat "Special Ed" Stelmach who begat Alison Redford who begat Jim Prentice who actually mused about introducing a sales tax (what a bizarre notion) before he was trounced by Notley and her NDP. Windfall resource revenues have gone from being a source of future prosperity into an unreliable crutch to see the province through its immediate profligacy. It takes a unique sort of political leadership to allow a government to become addicted to revenues from a soon-to-be stranded asset. A certain junkie mentality seems to set in. Right now, Rachel is jonesin' and she's got it bad.


In Most Countries This Might be Disturbing News. In Canada, Not So Much.



The Trump regime has joined forces with the fossil energy giants in fighting American cities over climate change.

Just before a critical hearing to determine the fate of a pair of climate lawsuits in California, the United States government has weighed in as a heavyweight ally on the side of the fossil fuel companies. 
Lawyers from the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division filed a friend of the court brief last week in support of five of the world's largest oil and gas companies, which are seeking to have lawsuits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland dismissed.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup is scheduled to hear arguments on Thursday on a motion by the companies to throw out the cases. 
Federal lawyers argue in their brief that if the two lawsuits succeed, it could stymie domestic and international energy production. 
"The United States has strong economic and national security interests in promoting the development of fossil fuels, among other energy resources," according to the 24-page brief filed May 10. 
The brief cites President Trump's March 2017 Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, suggesting the fight being waged by the two cities against the companies runs counter to the administration's support of unrestricted fossil fuel development.
BFD. The province of British Columbia and its municipalities get the same treatment from Justin Trudeau and premiers like the soon to be former premier of Alberta, Notley. They jump in with the fossil fuelers whenever some objection is raised in British Columbia to their pipelines.

How does what Trump is doing differ significantly from what we're experiencing from the Dauphin and his coterie? They're birds of a very greasy feather.

It's Don's Party and He'll Cry If He Wants To...


Donald Trump probably believed he was in line for the Nobel Peace Prize. His Congressional munchkins certainly imagined he was a shoo-in. All the Mango Mussolini had to do was work his magic on North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

It seems to have gotten Trump's knickers in a bunch. So roused was the Giant Orange Bloat that he had a commemorative coin cast.


As they say, hubris is usually followed by nemesis. Trump blundered when he set the bar at the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons. He made it vastly worse when he brought uber-hawk John Bolton aboard as his national security advisor. Then Bolton and, more recently, veep Pence, have been on about the Libya treatment. Kim probably has some idea what happened to Gadaffi.

But look on the bright side. There's no specific date on that coin, just 2018. No mention of nuclear weapons either, just "peace talks." There's a bit of wiggle room there for Trump although those coins are probably heading for a smelter somewhere in the vicinity of D.C.

The Boot on That Neck? The Boot is Us. The Neck is Earth.



The human race is just 0.01% of all life on our planet but a study finds our tiny, infinitesimal presence has been responsible for eradicating most other living things. The results can be jarring:
farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.
...The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years. 
But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.
What does this mean? To me, it corroborates what I've been arguing for years, namely that climate change, existential as it is, is not the disease but just one symptom of a greater and far more dangerous problem that has a variety of urgent symptoms including overpopulation and rapacious overconsumption of our planet's finite resources. That means the only viable solution lies in shrinking humanity's ecological footprint and all of our economic activity safely within the limits of our global environment.

Here's the thing. It's hard to imagine how we, as a species, will ever again live in sustainable harmony with our ecosystem, our biosphere, Spaceship Earth. There are some difficult facts we have to face and they're brutal. One of them is that mankind hasn't lived within the boundaries of our global ecology since the early 70s when our population hit 3 billion.

We're now at 7.5 billion heading, according to the UN, for 10 billion by 2050. Over the course of the last half-century we have also changed as individuals. We live longer now and, on a per capita basis, our individual consumption which defines our per capita footprint, has increased substantially. Humanity has become the "triple threat" to its own survival and that of every other species as well.

We are now so far into "overshoot" that we would need 1.7 planet Earths to meet human consumption. That multiple is increasing fairly rapidly, year upon year.


The other, even more problematic aspect of overshoot, is that the worse it becomes the more rapidly it degrades the planet's ecological carrying capacity. In the early 70s the planet could support a population of 3 billion. In the meantime we've degraded Earth's systems and resources. The latest research I've come across suggests that, today, our planet might be able to sustain a maximum of 2 billion people, far less than the combined population of China and India.

So, our challenge is to decarbonize our societies and economies, virtually overnight; slash our per capita and overall consumption by more than half, probably much more; and get our overall numbers well below 2 billion and in short order.

How do we tell people they're going to have to make do with about a third as much stuff as they've come to enjoy and expect? How do we tell them to surrender their gas guzzlers? How do we convince them that vacations are now stay-cations? Even if we were somehow brilliant enough to do all of those things, how are we going to trim the roster by almost three out of four people currently on Earth? How do we orchestrate this mass die-off? Who decides who gets a ticket on the lifeboat and who doesn't?

When I see humpback whales cavorting in the Salish Sea or mega pods of white sided dolphins in our harbours, I'm looking at creatures that have fled en masse from an unsustainable world. They're the harbingers of what is coming our way and not in the distant future either.

Meanwhile we have a prime minister whose overarching priority is to pimp high-carbon, toxin-laden bitumen onto the world energy market. Brilliant.


As Good a Take as Any. The Roots of America's Malaise.



His book is, "Tailspin - The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall - and Those Fighting to Reverse It." He is Steven Brill, founder of American Lawyer magazine and, gulp, Court TV.

In a remarkable essay, Brill outlines the culture that put America into a nose dive, how the country went from meritocracy to aristocracy, and some recent efforts being made to pull America back before it ends as most tailspins end.
Lately, most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have been asking themselves some version of the same question: How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government? 
...About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down. The First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy. America’s rightly celebrated dedication to due process was used as an instrument to block government from enforcing job-safety rules, holding corporate criminals accountable and otherwise protecting the unprotected. Election reforms meant to enhance democracy wound up undercutting democracy. Ingenious financial and legal engineering turned our economy from an engine of long-term growth and shared prosperity into a casino with only a few big winners.
...Income inequality has soared: inflation-adjusted middle-class wages have been nearly frozen for the last four decades, while earnings of the top 1% have nearly tripled. The recovery from the crash of 2008 – which saw banks and bankers bailed out while millions lost their homes, savings and jobs – was reserved almost exclusively for the wealthiest. Their incomes in the three years following the crash went up by nearly a third, while the bottom 99% saw an uptick of less than half of 1%. Only a democracy and an economy that has discarded its basic mission of holding the community together, or failed at it, would produce those results.
...Although the U.S. remains the world’s richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind only Turkey and Israel. Nearly 1 in 5 American children lives in a household that the government classifies as “food insecure,” meaning they are without “access to enough food for active, healthy living.” 
Beyond that, too few basic services seem to work as they should. America’s airports are an embarrassment, and a modern air-traffic control system is more than 25 years behind its original schedule. The power grid, roads and rails are crumbling, pushing the U.S. far down international rankings for infrastructure quality. Despite spending more on health care and K-12 education per capita than most other developed countries, health care outcomes and student achievement also rank in the middle or worse globally. Among the 35 OECD countries, American children rank 30th in math proficiency and 19th in science.
...there is a theme that threads through and ties together all the strands: many of the most talented, driven Americans used what makes America great–the First Amendment, due process, financial and legal ingenuity, free markets and free trade, meritocracy, even democracy itself–to chase the American Dream. And they won it, for themselves. Then, in a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy. 
By continuing to get better at what they do, by knocking away the guardrails limiting their winnings, aggressively engineering changes in the political landscape, and by dint of the often unanticipated consequences of their innovations, they created a nation of moats that protected them from accountability and from the damage their triumphs caused in the larger community. Most of the time, our elected and appointed representatives were no match for these overachievers. As a result of their savvy, their drive and their resources (and a certain degree of privilege, as these strivers may have come from humble circumstances but are mostly white men), America all but abandoned its most ambitious and proudest ideal: the never perfect, always debated and perpetually sought after balance between the energizing inequality of achievement in a competitive economy and the community-binding equality promised by democracy. In a battle that began a half-century ago, the achievers won.
It's a fine essay if not too much of a giveaway. Read it and you might decide you don't need the book.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Okay, I Think We Can See Where You're Going With This.



The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has announced a milestone. April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average temperatures.  The last time NOAA logged a cooler-than-average month was 1984 during Ronald Reagan's second term in office. So that would be Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the Trump administration - hot, hot, hot, baby.

400 consecutive months. That send a message. Maybe that's our new normal. Might we not come up with a new metric to make this warming a bit more meaningful?

A Question Worth Asking - Has Canada Been Captured?



As analysis and reports stack up laying bare how much we know and everything we don't know about dilbit and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, it is looking like this has nothing to do with the "national interest" as claimed by prime minister Trudeau. Instead it looks as though Trudeau is in service to some rather powerful special interests.  Who is he serving?

An article in The Tyee suggests that perhaps we're seeing the face of Canada's own Deep State, the Fossil Fuelers.

It all began with a Greenpeace energy researcher and a bundle of freedom of information documents he received that somehow had briefing notes for Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Christia Freeland. One set was for a meeting Leslie had with the CEO of a major pipeline company. The other was for a meeting between Leslie and officials of the oil patch lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
...the briefing notes revealed that while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government was presenting itself publicly as a stalwart defender of all things Canadian against the bullying new regime south of the border — on the environment, trade and NAFTA especially — in this instance there was celebration of the fact that Donald Trump and his administration were pro-oil and pro-pipelines.
In particular, they expressed delight over the U.S. president’s decision to approve building the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, which TransCanada is constructing, overturning Barack Obama’s rejection of the project. 
“We support TransCanada’s KXL project and efforts to expand its market in North America” was one of the notes’ talking points Leslie was given, consistent with the government’s public position on the pipeline. The briefing notes omitted any hint that climate change was on the agenda — and CAPP confirms the topic was not discussed during its meeting with Leslie. TransCanada and Leslie refused to respond to questions about these meetings.

For years Stewart has seen this sort of language in internal government memos, with cabinet ministers, MPs and civil servants seeing themselves as allies and partners of the energy industry. 
It’s one reason Stewart believes the oil industry constitutes a so-called “deep state” in Canada. 
“When we’re talking about a ‘deep state,’ it’s usually when supposedly democratic institutions and the will of the people is being replaced by the will of special interests,” he observes. “And I think if you look at the development of environmental policy in this country, the oil industry is so powerful, their influence is so pervasive that I think it’s fair to call it a deep state.”
...to academics, deep state is another way to refer to governments that have been captured by corporate or military/intelligence interests, or both
Captured state is a term political scientists have used for a very long time to characterize the relationship in which the government is essentially under the influence of the dominant sector of the economy,” explains Laurie Adkin, a political scientist at the University of Alberta. 
Has the federal government — along with certain provincial governments — been captured by Canada’s energy sector? 
Kevin Taft, a former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party (2004-08) believes so. He’s the author of a new book, Oil’s Deep State. “In Canada, the fossil fuel industry has captured really key democratic institutions and in some ways has captured so many of them that it has formed what I call a deep state,” explains Taft. “So democracy stops functioning for the people and begins to function first and foremost for the fossil fuel industry.” 
Those who believe the oil industry has become a deep state point to how the political elites, whether Liberal, Conservative or NDP — from Justin Trudeau to Stephen Harper to Rachel Notley — go to bat for the industry, even if it means Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions rise and jobs are needlessly lost. Or how Canada has never forced the oil industry to curb emissions — even as the impacts of global warming become more catastrophic. And why Canada is highly unlikely to reach its targets under the Paris climate agreement.
...Deep states ...emerge in countries that are democracies. “With a captured state, there is a strong heritage of democracy,” notes Taft. A deep state occurs when numerous government departments and regulators are captured and serve specific corporate interests at the expense of public interests. “When that happens, you end up with the appearance of democracy but really you have a state within a state,” says Taft.

...it affects all political parties, no matter whether they’re on the left or right. Hence, elections become less relevant as political parties who win office eventually succumb to the fact so many government agencies are captured.

Oil sand development was largely created by government fiat. After Peter Lougheed became Alberta’s premier in 1971, the sole oil sands operation, Suncor Energy, was producing a mere 30,000 barrels a day. Now the oil sands produce 2.5 million barrels a day. 
While Lougheed encouraged development of the oil sands, he took an interventionist approach with industry, making the oil companies abide by laws, regulators and legislators. When the industry boomed in the mid-’70s, Lougheed raised royalty rates, while the federal government hit it with taxes. 
But by 1993, the balance of power was shifting. Both Premier Ralph Klein in Alberta and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien were desperate to ramp up oil sands production to boost the economy. In return, the oil industry wanted less regulation, oversight and taxation. 
Chrétien and Klein obliged. Royalties were dropped to one per cent and taxes rolled back, while environmental regulations were weakened. 
“From then on, oil sands projects would have fewer standards of accountability to democratic institutions and more accountability to investors,” says Taft. “The system of governing and managing the publicly-owned oil sands had been captured by private interests.” 
The industry boomed. By 2015, one quarter of all business investment in Canada was going to the energy sector, while oil and gas topped Canada’s exports.
The Harper Era.
The impact of this lobbying was visible when Harper was in office. From 2008 to 2012, 27 oil companies and eight industry associations registered 2,733 meetings with federal government officials. During this time, the Harper government withdrew Canada from the Kyoto climate accord, government scientists were discouraged from doing climate science and barred from speaking to the media, while the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Revenue Agency were tasked to spy on and audit groups and activists opposed to pipelines and the tar sands. 
But the coup de grâce were two omnibus bills Harper rammed through Parliament in 2012 that gutted Canada’s environmental laws, most notably the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act, which were viewed as impediments for building oil pipelines.
Think Tanks - Captured
The most famous is the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, which has received funding from the U.S. oil billionaire Koch brothers and long campaigned in favour of the oil sands and pipelines while opposing climate change measures. Its staff produce a relentless stream of oped pieces for newspapers across the country. 
Canada 2020, the Ottawa-based “progressive think tank” closely allied with Trudeau, has been instrumental in shaping the Liberals. It lets industry leaders and lobbyists rub elbows with cabinet ministers and senior government officials. Among the corporate “partners” of Canada 2020 are CAPP and oil industry giants Shell, Suncor and Enbridge. 
The influence of think tanks is not to be minimized: representatives from Canada’s 10 leading think tanks appeared at least 216 times before parliamentary committees between 2000 and 2015 and were cited in the Canadian media almost 60,000 times. “It gave them and their research priceless exposure and influence in shaping government policy,” noted the Globe and Mail in December.

The Media - Captured

The oil industry advertises heavily in newspapers, on television and online. In 2013, CAPP and the Postmedia newspaper chain struck a deal whereby the media company promised to further the industry’s interests. The Postmedia papers are famous for championing the energy sector while belittling the environmental movement. A study published in 2013 by University of British Columbia and Memorial University researchers found that the Globe and Mail and National Post were failing to provide readers with a complete picture of global warming issues and underemphasizing the impacts.
Academia - Captured
The oil industry also pours millions into universities — in particular in Alberta. The University of Calgary has been beset by scandals in this regard. 
In 2011, one of its political scientists, Barry Cooper, was discovered to have transferred research funds to a climate change denial group called Friends of Science. (Cooper was also a long-time columnist with the Calgary Herald, where he poured relentless scorn on the environmental movement and any opponents of the oil sands.) 
But the topper was the Bruce Carson scandal. The federal government spent $40 million to finance a University of Calgary think tank chaired by Carson, a former senior advisor to Harper and a convicted fraudster. The institute worked with the industry on a plan to rebrand the oil sands as responsible and sustainable, and Carson co-ordinated some of his activities with CAPP. 
In 2016, Carson was found guilty of violating lobbying laws in connection with his work at the University of Calgary and fined $50,000.
Canada's Regulatory Agencies - Captured
Some critics believe key elements of the federal bureaucracy are under the industry’s sway — in particular Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and Environment and Climate Change Canada
“I think NRCAN has become the Department of Oil and Gas and I think Environment Canada was converted under Harper from a public service agency to a corporate concierge service to speed along the approval of oil sands projects,” says [Elizabeth] May. 
In 2015, after the Liberal government was elected, Jim Carr, the new natural resources minister, appointed Janet Annesley as his chief of staff. Annesley had spent five years working for CAPP as a vice-president, and nine years at Shell Oil before that. (Annesley was replaced earlier last year by Zoë Caron, a long-time environmental activist). 
When Catherine McKenna became environment minister, her deputy minister was Michael Martin, who had been appointed by the Harper government as chief climate negotiator for the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, which set no firm targets for reducing greenhouse emissions.
May feels Martin pressed the Liberals to stick with the former government’s target. “There was a shift and suddenly Harper’s target was Trudeau’s target.” 
But it’s not just the federal government. Last year, internal B.C. government documents [Christy Clark's Liberals] were unearthed that revealed the province’s climate plan unveiled in 2016 had been secretly drafted jointly with CAPP and its members — in part at CAPP’s offices in Calgary.
The Crown Jewel - Captured
Then there is the National Energy Board (NEB), which has the task of reviewing things like pipeline applications. 
In recent years, the board has been accused of being heavily biased in favour of the oil industry. In 2015, for example, NEB board members met privately with Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier, who was a lobbyist for the pipeline company, TransCanada. This led to the resignation of NEB panel members when the meeting was exposed the following year. 
The NEB is also accused of not upholding the public interest when it comes to pipelines. Unifor, a trade union that represents nearly 12,000 workers in the oil industry, is opposed to pipelines designed to ship raw bitumen out of Canada, arguing it should be refined and upgraded in Canada. Over the past 30 years, nearly 20 refineries have been shuttered in Canada. 
Unifor has argued before the NEB that it should stop this trend. In a brief presented to the NEB in 2016, the union noted that by exporting raw bitumen “Canada will forego the enormous economic and employment benefits of adding value to Canadian resources through upgrading, refining, and secondary manufacturing. Not only does the bitumen export model undermine investment in value-added production over the long term, it actually threatens the security of supply to existing Canadian refineries… Incredibly, in 2014 Canada actually became a net importer of refined petroleum products: with imports of product now more than offsetting our own exports.”
The Biggest Capture of Them All - Justin Trudeau - Captured

As I argued recently, with Trudeau, just like Trump, you have to judge this prime minister by his deeds, not his words. All too often one has no relation to the other.

At the Paris climate talks his government pushed for a higher-than-expected goal — holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than two degrees. Trudeau also announced a plan to reduce methane emissions by up to 45 per cent from 2012 levels within the next seven years. 
But Trudeau has also undermined those goals by supporting three pipelines the industry desperately wants — Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL. He also approved the $11.4-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project to convert fracked gas in B.C. 
Prior to the election, Trudeau had promised to cut $1.6 billion in federal subsidies to the oil industry. More than two years later, this has still not happened. While recommendations to overhaul the NEB have been made, they’ve not been implemented. And the environmental laws Harper gutted have not been reinstated, although are under review.
Even the promised carbon tax on industry has been altered to give big breaks to industrial emitters like the oil and gas sector. And regulations on methane emissions have also been delayed. 
Most crucially, Trudeau has refused to place limits on the oil and gas sector’s greenhouse emissions
If you take a look at the climate plan that Canada articulated… it lays out very aggressive and ambitious plan for decarbonizing the nation,” says Abreu of Climate Action Network. “It impacts almost every sector of the Canadian economy — except the fossil fuel sector.”
A Government Wearing Petro-Blinders
Canada’s capture by the oil and gas industry’s deep state is proving ill-timed. 
“The harsh reality is that global warming is real,” says Kevin Taft. “And while much of the rest of the world is moving aggressively away from fossil fuels, Canada is going to get left behind in that transformation if we’re not really careful.”
The Tyee article provides a wonderful backdrop to help make sense of the Trudeau government's energy policy so riddled with contradictions, inconsistencies, outright falsehoods and, ultimately, cognitive dissonance.

It makes sense of the radical transformation from Trudeau 2015 to Trudeau 2018. Liberals, I'm sorry but your boy has been processed, remanufactured, and reissued to someone's liking - just not Canada's.


A Venture Capitalist on Why Kinder Morgan's Pipeline and the Tar Sands Make No Sense.



The CEO of Chrysalix Venture Capital says "let's get honest about the outlook for the Alberta oil sands and Trans Mountain." In Wal van Lierop's opinion, neither makes any financial sense any longer. In other words, Trudeau and Morneau appear to be leading Canada into a huge economic blunder.

If we were to think of the energy transition as a baseball game, we could see the stages of its progression over the past decade. In the first inning, coal lost to gas in the competition for power generation in North America and Europe; solar and wind lit up the scoreboard with incredible cost reductions in the second inning; but in the third, shale oil and gas rallied, creating an energy boom in U.S. gas and making that country the international swing player -- supplanting OPEC in that position.

Now we are entering the fourth inning, with a playing field of abundant cheap energy and midway through the ball game it looks like the players highest on the cost curve will be the ones striking out. Those players will likely include both new projects in Arctic oil and the oil sands, as their business case makes them weak in a game where cost is key.
Not all oils are equal: 
When oil prices rise above $50, shale producers can make a profit. Theoretically, oil-sand producers can compete at that price level but the upfront capital intensity and long scale-up times put oil-sand producers in a very disadvantaged position for any new projects. 
The costs of converting oil-sands oil to gasoline or jet fuel means there will always be about a $10 or more discount; so that discount has nothing to do with pipelines: oil-sands expansions should actually be competitive at $40 for new capital investments to make sense.
Trudeau's wobbly Trans Mountain gamble:
This leads to considering the business case for the Kinder Morgan pipeline: 
Terminal and shipping infrastructure adds another negative of $2-$3 on this line because receivers on the demand side have in the past years created new facilities to quickly load and unload massive ships of a size that cannot sail below the Vancouver bridges. As a result, Alberta needs to be able to compete below $37, while in new projects, it most likely needs north of $50 to be in the money. 
To make things worse, not just the cost of supply has changed in the past four years; there are also significant changes on the demand side with the targeted refineries on the east coast of China recently benefiting from the improved economic relationship with Russia, while on the other hand environmental regulations have tightened. Both give Alberta oil a further disadvantage. 
Historically, a pipeline builder would like to see off-take agreements for more than 50 per cent of the capacity for at least 15 years, preferably 20, before giving the go-ahead. The Chinese don’t do this type of off-take contracts. At maximum you’ll get an agreement for a few years, which is then followed by another round of tough negotiations. Energy is a commodity business where cost is king. 
On this basis, we would have to presume that the Alberta and federal governments hadn’t seen the Kinder Morgan order book before they announced an intention to financially support the company’s pipeline, because that may show a rapidly deteriorating business case. Of course, some will argue that my numbers are incorrect, and there could be a margin of error. My point is that all stakeholders need clarity on this matter. They need a better understanding on how strong the business case for Kinder Morgan is, or if this investment could turn into a “soon to be stranded“ asset. The departure of all oil majors and many large financial institutions from the province of Alberta is also a sign that should be taken into account.
There is some group Trudeau is trying to help, perhaps salvage. Could it be Canada's banks or institutional investors? He's doubling down on a bad bet so it's plain he's not looking out for the interests of the Canadian public.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the people of BC are getting sold out by our prime minister and it sure as hell isn't so he'll have a "compromise" that secures token carbon taxes either. The incoming premier of Alberta is going to tell him where to shove his carbon taxes. The premier of Saskatchewan will sing the same refrain. Depending on the Ontario election coin toss, Trudeau may face the leaders of provinces equaling half the country against him and, let's face it, we know how quickly he folds when the political winds are not at his back.

Isn't it time Justin came clean with us?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Dammit, Do Something. America's Sea Level Rise Whinge.



It's hard to feel too much sympathy for people whose main concern is their multi-million dollar beachfront home. Yet, all along the American coastline, you can hear them grumble and grouse.

News reports tend to focus on America's southeast, especially Florida, mainly from Miami and points south. This one is a story of the beach colony at Del Mar, California. It concerns Herb and Janet Montgomery and their $3+million beach house.

The Montgomerys and their neighbours are upset that their municipality's sea level rise plan includes an option - retreat from the sea.

But considering a strategy that allows for the eventual removal of threatened structures, even as a last resort, would be tantamount to financial ruin for him and other property owners in the small, wealthy coastal city. 
“It won’t work for Del Mar,” Montgomery said.

The mere mention of the strategy known as “planned retreat” in the city’s planning documents will “put a cloud of doubt over the future” and cause property values to plummet, he said last week. Beachfont homes in Del Mar typically list for more than $5 million, and a new blufftop mansion on Stratford Court sold for $21.5 million last year. 
Current owners would be reluctant to invest in improving and maintaining their homes, Mongomery said, and banks would be unlikely to loan money to buy or improve homes that the city has acknowledged could be removed or destroyed.
Many of the city’s residents have fought long and hard against including planned retreat as part of their strategy. They say seawalls, sand retention and beach replenishment are better ways to preserve their coastal homes, and that their property values would plummet if they acknowledge that someday their property could be inundated by the sea. 
However, the California Coastal Commission requires all coastal cities to have a sea-rise adaptation plan, and to include planned retreat as part of their strategy. 
Failure to comply could result in the Coastal Commission refusing to certify the city’s plan, thus robbing Del Mar of the authority to approve permits for developments such as seawalls, homes, businesses, roads and other structures. Instead, that authority would fall to the Coastal Commission.
Socialism - For the Rich.

“We may see five feet of sea-level rise earlier than previously thought,” states a letter dated April 16 to Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden from Coastal Commission program manager Garbriel Buhr. 
The California Ocean Protection Council adopted statewide guidance in March that recommends planning for a 7.1-foot sea-level rise by 2100 for the Del Mar area, the letter states. Seas could rise as much as 10 feet by 2100 if the polar ice sheets melt significantly. And by most accounts, the water will continue to rise for centuries. 
Typically, the retreat strategy is used with other planning techniques such as identifying high-risk areas, regulating types of structures, and instituting buy-back programs or financial aid for relocation.

The State as Indemnitor
Montgomery said cities around the world have found ways to hold back the sea. 
“Look at Holland,” he said. “They have been below sea level almost forever, and they are dealing with it.” 
Montgomery said if the state forces the city to include a retreat policy, “They better come along with a big heavy bucket of money. People should be remunerated for the investments they made.”
This is going to become one of the great challenges of climate change and not just in swank coastal communities. Sea level rise, sustained and cyclical floods and droughts, severe storm events of increasing frequency, duration and severity. the broken hydrologic cycle and disruptions to fresh water supply. That's a pretty tall shopping list for governments in this era of "everyday low taxes." State and municipal governments are often tapped out from decades of catering to miserly residents. Those governments will have to struggle just to replace and maintain essential public infrastructure.

There is going to be no free lunch. The money to do that doesn't exist. Ordinary folks, living well back from the sea, probably aren't going to be okay with the idea of picking up this sort of tab.

And somebody needs to tell Herb Montgomery that Holland has faced reality and is retreating from the rising sea.

Whether it's Del Mar, California, or the Florida Keys or the Jersey Shore or beachfront homes in the Maritimes or Vancouver's toney West Point Grey there are a lot of affluent people who are going to have to realize not all investments pay off.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How Ottawa Got Hustled by the Boys from Enron


The popular narrative is that British Columbia is sabotaging Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline. BC is Justin Trudeau's whipping boy. The province is Rachel Notley's whipping boy. Even Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, is in on the act.

What is that really all about? They're using BC to mask how Kinder Morgan played them for chumps. Veteran economist, Robyn Allan, lays it all out in today's National Observer. That's what can happen when you send a drama teacher to a Texas gunfight.

What Does This Say for Canada's Economy?



Back in February, I did an item about the largest corporations in the US and Canada respectively:

Here are the current standings 
 1. Apple - $849 billion
2. Google - $746 billion
3. Amazon - $ 702 billion 
4. Microsoft - $699 billion 
5. Facebook - $521 billion. 
Boeing, which chose to leave Washington for Chicago, comes in at a paltry $205 billion. 
By contrast, Canada's top 3 are banks: RBC, TD and Bank of Nova Scotia, at $113, $102 and $74 billion (Canadian) respectively. Pretty small potatoes and not an innovator or tech giant among them. Hewers of wood, drawers of water and bank tellers. Great.
That post came to mind as I re-read James Galbraith's book, "The End of Normal," and his discussion about banks. I'm not a banker nor an economist but I put Galbraith's assessment out there for you to decide the role of banks in Canada.

In Canada, chartered banks are creatures of statute, given certain very advantageous rights. Every year, it seems, they announce record profits while ordinary Canadians complain they're getting the shaft. This is how Galbraith sees banks in the 21st century:

Banks are intermediaries. They provide nothing that contributes directly to current consumption or business investment. They are useful only insofar as they support either household consumption or business investment - and then only so long as they do so in an effective, responsible, low-cost way. Business underwriting was once such a function, but it entered a deep decline during the mortgage boom, if not before. Otherwise banks serve mainly to consolidate control and power, and they support this by exacting tribute, in the form of interest, from their borrowers. ...From a social standpoint, this is predation: no net benefit to anyone outside the banking sector comes from it.

Perhaps the country would be better off without its big banks. The basic functions of banking for most of the public - deposits, payments, credit and debit cards - could be handled by a low-cost public facility, perhaps run by cities or states at municipal pay scale or by the postal service. Smaller and regional and cooperative banks could grow into the work of business lending and of sorting good from weak household risks. Since executives of small banks are paid on a less lavish scale, the reduced cost of the financial plutocracy would be a social savings. There is no guarantee that these changes would bring financial stability: small banks can run in herds, and given the experience that bankers have acquired in distributing and hiding risk and fraud, there may be no solutions in the computer age to the dysfunctions of finance. But a decentralized system with smaller top-level units, less powerful bankers, and stronger controls could not be a worse bet than the system that exists now.
Galbraith, of course, writes of banking in the United States. Thanks to people such as Paul Martin, Canadian banks were reined in, held in check, when they lobbied for permission to leap into American style Casino Capitalism that ruined so many banks in the US and Europe during the sub-prime mortgage bubble.

Canada escaped the American contagion - barely - because the crash came before Stephen Harper could remove Martin's prudent constraints. However, unlike the States, our big banks have become the largest corporations in Canada and they've grown immensely profitable while generating very little no no economic activity to benefit the country.

And banks may now be playing a detrimental role in Canada. Some speculate that behind Trudeau's pipeline fetish is concern that Canada's banks are so heavily invested in the soon to be stranded asset, bitumen, that not pushing the bitumen trade could have a devastating impact on the Canadian economy.

It's like riding a tiger. Great fun until you fall off. The bitumen barons have Canada in a real jam and, the recent Kinder Morgan ultimatum that sent Morneau scrambling to Texas, hat in hand, suggests they know it and won't hesitate to play hardball with the Liberal government.

Canada's chartered banks are supposed to serve the country, not the other way around, and yet, by their very size, they may now be dictating government policy. They've grown too big for our own good. Perhaps it is time to put them to pasture.

How sound can a nation's economy be when it is dominated by corporations that produce nothing?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Michael Harris on Israel's "Eye for an Eyelash" Slaughter in Gaza


Michael Harris sums it up as well as any:

When the only thing refugees can do to advance their cause is present themselves at someone’s border to be shot, you know the world has lost its way on this file. 
When 60 human beings are gunned down in cold blood, when a doctor is shot while tending to wounded civilians, and people want to talk about the dress Ivanka Trump wore at the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem, you know a whole class of people has been dehumanized. 
When 2,800 people are hit by live fire or tear gassed by drones for protesting an illegal occupation that has gone on for more than 50 years, it is a strange time to announce that history would look back on this despicable day as a step towards peace. 
Yet Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s gruesomely green Middle East envoy, made that statement with just 40 miles between the embassy celebration and the border slaughter, and the bubbly and the barbarism. 
It was Kushner’s “let them eat cake” moment. The president’s son-in-law delivered his lines like an extra out of the cult film “Night of the Living Dead.” It was as if the mass shootings didn’t register with him. 
It was as if Israel’s “eye for an eyelash” policy, as Special UN Rapporteur, Canadian Michael Lynk called it, was perfectly justified in Kushner’s mind. 
How else could he blame the Palestinians for their own slaughter? Men, women, children, doctors and journalists. 
Remember that fascist-tinted moment in Toronto in 2010 when police rounded up and detained more than 1,000 people protesting the G-20 Summit? It was called “kettling.” 
No one liked seeing fellow citizens put under the jackboots of the police. Former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee wrote that the security fiasco of that year “left a permanent emotional scar” on him. 
Imagine, though, if the authorities had opened up on the crowd with live ammunition and killed 60 people on the spot? All of it captured on video. 
Remember those recent TV clips of a few hundred Mexicans pushing up to the U.S. border, hoping to get a piece of the American Dream? 
What would have happened if the National Guard, which Trump dispatched to “defend” the U.S. from illegal immigrants, had mowed down 60 of these poor and unarmed people? All of it captured on video.]  
In all these cases, we would not be scolding or expressing our disapproval or having a discussion about independent investigations in a country that doesn’t permit them. 
We would be arranging murder trials.
As for Canada, Trudeau and Scheer:
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer utterly disgraced himself and the country by trivializing the mass shootings, and attacking Justin Trudeau for his strong words about Israel’s use of “excessive force.”
Scheer has proven he has both a wooden head and a wooden heart. He’s a remote control northern Republican, just like his ideology-soaked predecessor. 
Trudeau has done a far better job of capturing the revulsion that many ordinary people around the world, including in Israel, are feeling. He charted a wise course in opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and made the right call not to attend the ceremony.
For all that, he deserves credit. 
But his call for an independent investigation into Israel’s possible “excessive force” against civilians was tepid stuff. Possible? Really? 
Although the prime minister and his foreign affairs minister both said the right things, their words don’t change the bottom line. Canada took the minimal diplomatic action under the circumstances — far less than Turkey and South Africa, which both recalled their respective ambassadors. 
So far, Canada has done no more than dutifully echo the secretary general of the United Nations, who is calling for an independent investigation. That’s not terribly inspiring. What are the chances the country that did the shooting is likely to embrace the idea of a third party murder investigation involving its military and political establishment? 
You would think that the circumstances would speak for themselves. 
Thousands wounded. 
Sixty killed. 
Eight dead kids. 
All in one day. 
But this is 1984. That’s why Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador at the UN, is able to say that no country would show the “restraint” that Israel had. 

When You're Trying to Get Out Of a Hole...


It's that old adage - when you're trying to get out of a hole the first thing is to stop digging. You don't make the hole even deeper. You don't make your own job that much harder.

Let's up the ante. What if it was either get out of that hole or die? That would give you a bit more incentive to put down the damned shovel. Or at least it should.

So what does this have to do with butterflies? Quite a bit
Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.

Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn. Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected
However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C - the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement - the losses of insects are far lower.

The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analysing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species. It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.
We're really up against it this time.
In October, scientists warned of “ecological Armageddon” after discovering that the number of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters in the past 25 years in Germany and very likely elsewhere. 
“We know that many insects are in rapid decline due to factors such as habitat loss and intensive farming methods,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, UK, and not part of the new analysis. 
“This new study shows that, in the future, these declines would be hugely accelerated by the impacts of climate change, under realistic climate projections. When we add in all the other adverse factors affecting wildlife, all likely to increase as the human population grows, the future for biodiversity on planet Earth looks bleak.”
“We showed insects are the most sensitive group,” said Prof Rachel Warren, at the University of East Anglia, who led the new work. “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects. They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain.”

“The disruption to our ecosystems if we were to lose that high proportion of our insects would be extremely far-reaching and widespread,” she said. “People should be concerned - humans depend on ecosystems functioning.” Pollination, fertile soils, clean water and more all depend on healthy ecosystems, Warren said.
Warren said that the world’s nations were aware that more action on climate change is needed: “The question is to what extent greater reductions can be made and on what timescale. That is a decision society has to make.”
Well there's one thing Canada is not short of - decisions. We've decided (well, some of us have) that it's in our "national interest" to flood the world markets with the most toxic, high-carbon fossil fuel on the planet, bitumen, as much and as fast as possible.

We're going to keep digging that hole deeper, just as fast as we can.