Fraser Forum

B.C.-Alberta pipeline war imbued with environmental hypocrisy

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Last week, in the latest skirmish in the British Columbia-Alberta pipeline wars, B.C. Premier John Horgan (pictured above) responded to an Alberta threat to turn-off the oil taps to B.C. (thus hiking gas prices in his province) by saying he wants Ottawa to “deal with” the situation and “take some leadership” in keeping gas prices down.

What’s wrong with Premier Horgan’s suggestion that by some means, the federal government should control gasoline prices? Just about everything.

Premier Horgan (born a few years before me) certainly must remember the insane gyrations of the response to the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s, as well as the causes of much misery.

In the United States, price controls led to long lineups and dry tanks at fuelling stations because the owners of those stations could not raise prices high enough to make consumers change behavior in the wake of a short-term supply threat.

In fact, the price controls caused a perverse reaction: consumers worried about potential price hikes would do everything they could to keep their tanks “topped-off,” even if it meant waiting in line for a few hours or pushing the car to the gas station, which may well have run out of gasoline filling the car being pushed just ahead of you. (Yes, lived there, did that, got the locking gas-cap).

Second, as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has noted, Horgan’s move reeks of environmental hypocrisy.

As an ardent proponent of greenhouse gas controls, the last thing Premier Horgan should want is an artificially low gasoline price. It seems impossible that he would not understand that lower prices will lead to greater consumption of gasoline, and hence, higher combustion emissions of all sorts, greenhouse gas or otherwise.

In fact, Horgan’s carbon tax purposefully raises gasoline prices. Of course, Premier Notley is hardly untainted with hypocrisy, in that she talks a good game about getting Alberta’s oil to world markets, but all the while she piled-on carbon taxes, oilsands emission caps, and a boat load of dubious regulations and alternative energy schemes in Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, all intended to shrink the market for fossil fuels and limit its future growth potential.

The tit-for-tat exchanges in the Great Canadian Pipeline War grow ever more divisive, self-destructive, and yes, supremely hypocritical. Wine boycotts, threatened supply cuts, and now calls for some kind of federal controls on gasoline prices.

How can these things possibly be less damaging to Canada’s economy and social cohesion than building a pipeline that twins an existing pipeline to B.C.? The answer should be obvious.


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