August 5th, 2020

Opinion: Energy war room an expensive joke at best

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on December 14, 2019.

“You can’t fight in here, this is the war room,” Peter Sellers says in the classic 1964 apocalyptic political satire “Dr. Strangelove.”

I’m reminded of this joke by Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement this week, unveiling a kinder, gentler war room than the vitriolic inquisition against “foreign-funded” environmentalists he promised on the campaign trail.

The war room has been rebranded the Canadian Energy Centre in a clear effort to detoxify its brand, but the purpose remains the same – to facilitate the province’s transformation into a full-blown petrostate.

CEO Tom Olsen – a former Calgary Herald journalist and failed UCP candidate – promised Tuesday that his propaganda apparatus will operate with “respect, civility and professionalism,” yet its entire premise is based on the notion that anyone who opposes oilsands expansion is a liar with ulterior motives.

The idea that environmentalists believe Canada in general, and Alberta in particular, ought to take responsibility for its highly disproportionate carbon emissions per capita, and start envisioning a future free of fossil fuels for planet’s betterment, is out of the question.

The centre’s $30 million budget is roughly equivalent to the $30 million being cut from the Calgary Board of Education’s budget.

But, we’ve been told by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, teachers are breeding the next generation of radical environmentalists by suggesting that critical thinking skills are also applicable to debates surrounding oilsands extraction.

Remember, we’re at war. There’s no room for nuance here.

Even National Geographic – not exactly renowned as a hotbed of radical environmentalism – is in on the plot, publishing an article that called Fort McMurray the “most destructive oil operation” on the planet.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage wrote them a letter to express the government’s disapproval in June.

Regardless of what one thinks of this frame of analysis – if there’s any value in labelling any one particular fossil fuel project the “most destructive” – it’s frightening when a government thinks they can determine what sorts of articles are fit for publication.

Those expecting a modicum of transparency from the Canadian Energy Centre, whose entire premise is allegedly to enhance transparency among environmentalist critics, will be sorely disappointed.

The Canadian Energy Centre is a private corporation, so its inner workings are exempt from freedom of information legislation.

One of the warriors appointed to the energy centre – Fraser Institute alumnus Mark Milke – wrote a book called the “Victim Cult: How the culture of blame hurts everyone and wrecks civilizations.”

Apparently, this frame of analysis doesn’t apply to Alberta, which is being victimized from all sides – the federal government, environmental NGOs, National Geographic magazine and even its own teachers.

Amnesty International said in September it was “deeply concerned” the war room would be used “to cast a chill” on oilsands critics.

If Kenney was trying to demonstrate otherwise, he did a very poor job in his response, engaging in the crudest form of whataboutism imaginable, pointing to severe human rights abuses in other oil producing nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Iran.

Are Albertans supposed to pat themselves on the back because they don’t jail and execute dissidents, but merely dedicate public resources to their vilification and harassment without a shred of transparency?

Is “We’re not as bad as Saudi Arabia” the winning slogan that will attract investment to the oilsands?

At best, the war room is an expensive joke. At worst, it’s a grave threat to our right to dissent.

(Jeremy Appel is a News reporter. You can contact him by email at

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15 Responses to “Opinion: Energy war room an expensive joke at best”

  1. RW1960 says:

    The Alberta UPC government is destroying both the economy and the social fabric of this province. Nice to see the media finally calling it for what it is – dangerous.

  2. Homer the Conservative says:

    Where were you when Rachael was steering this province straight down the toilet bowl?
    This province has sat back for far too long and let extremist views from environmentalists and foreign interests talk crap about oil and gas while shutting down our energy sector.
    Don’t see those protesters shouting down Russia or China, just Alberta for some reason.
    Kenney is actually pushing for investment in this province and getting the economy back on track. What social fabric has he ripped from your hands and threatened your lifestyle?
    If you think the “war room” is a grave threat to your right to dissent, why is your opinion still present on this site? See, your FUD doesn’t quite cut it.
    Why do you seem to think that ignoring human rights abuses in the other countries that produce oil “such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Iran” is irrelevant? Why would you want to support those dictatorships with billions of dollars when we have the same resources right here. Money going to those countries support terrorism and other abuses. You think people in those regions worry about CO2 levels? They are way more worried that someone will kill them for their views that may not agree with the regime.
    You talk about our government being “dangerous” but in reality, we live in a very safe place where your opinions can be discussed without fear of reprisal. No midnight squads coming to take you away at night here.
    You really need to get your liberal use of fear, uncertainty and doubt in check.

    • nope says:

      How much did this reply cost Alberta taxpayers

    • Steven Forth says:

      The main reason would be that I live, vote, pay taxes in Canada. The second would be that I don’t believe bad actions by others can justify my own behaviour. This would also apply to the specious argument that as Canada contributes less than 2% to global GHG emissions it is somehow fine for us to do nothing.

  3. Bill Little says:

    Opinion piece is spot on. Lord knows we do not need any more idiotic propaganda. The economic problem is that the global price for oil has dropped. That’s it entirely. No conspiratorial adversaries, no billionaire socialist environmentalists, no unequal federal transfer payments. We could ask why the province is so devastatingly exposed to the global markets in oil and the flighty foreign investors who flee at the first sigh of trouble, with all those juicy tax incentives and right offs. But it doesn’t take $30 million to figure it out. It’s time to deal with reality Albertans.

    • factsaregood says:

      Bill (and others) – the US O&G industry quickly recovered from low oil prices in 2016. WTI is in the mid $50s and this is not a bad price. Canada’s sector remains way down. Why the difference – all to do with Canadian governments killing pipelines and chasing away investment dollars. Canada is special in this regard – no other oil producing nation has pummeled itself (other than Venezuela of course).

      • Bill Little says:

        Yes, facts are good. The fact you are missing of course is the cost of producing oil from bitumin. Low global prices for bitumin mean that it is not profitable to produce. Other Alberta oil products have been moving uninterrupted. Moreover the corporations selling those products have been making excellent profits all along, while laying off employees. Another fact you are missing is that the Enbridge III pipeline is already built and could be moving as much oil as Alberta can produce. Transmountain is not even needed. If the Minnesotan’s have cold feet about it, it is because they remember the tragic farce of the Kalamazoo incident. A third fact that seems skewy here is that no Canadian governments have been killing pipelines.

      • Steven Forth says:

        That is not a price that will sustain new investments into bitumen extraction and shipping. Alberta is a high cost producer and it is high cost producers that will fall first as the world transitions off hydrocarbons over the coming decades. Bitumen investment needs long time lines to be viable, which is very different from shale. The idea that there is a big market in China for Canadian bitumen is false. China is shifting into a much slower growth mode (driven by its demographics) and has more reliable sources of oil and gas next door in its Siberian colony. The idea that the future of the Alberta economy is in oil is foolish. The claim that oil revenues are needed to support the transition off oil are not supported by the actions or investment choices of the Alberta government.

  4. Homer the Conservative says:

    The reality is that oil is doing just fine everywhere except in Canada. That’s it entirely. I wish the Alberta energy sector was exposed to the global market. That is what the problem is. The NDP and Liberals have made sure that Alberta’s oil is land locked thru C48 and C69.
    Notice that the Federal Liberals didn’t ban tankers off the east coast bringing oil INTO Canada. Wonder why that is? Isn’t the marine life on the east coast important too?
    Investors are nervous because the liberals and NDP have put in place legislation that has nothing to do with anything but virtue signaling. What investor is going to put money into any franchise that is subject to the whim of governments that make decisions based only on that?
    Oil is about $60US a barrel. Lots of revenue possible there.
    The reality is someone is stopping us from getting our product to market. Ask yourself honestly who that is!

  5. Michelle Stirling says:

    Alberta has the third largest oil reserves in the world – but we’re the only country blocked by foreign funded ENGOS in developing those reserves and reaching global markets. People are so naive and misinformed on global geopolitics. Here’s the Tar Sands Campaign. Everyone else knows about it, except for people in Canada.

    • Steven Forth says:

      They are also high cost reserves, and as we transition off oil over the next 3-5 decades they will not be economically viable. Everyone in the investment business knows this. There is nothing Edmonton or Ottawa can do to revive interest in investment in bitumen,

  6. […] Opinion: Energy war room an expensive joke at best – Medicine Hat NewsMedicine Hat News […]

  7. […] days later, the war room’s hawk-eyed commandos alighted upon their first enemy target: an opinion piece in that hotbed of foreign radical environmentalist samizdat known as the Medicine Hat News. The […]

  8. […] days later, the war room’s hawk-eyed commandos alighted upon their first enemy target: an opinion piece in that hotbed of foreign radical environmentalist samizdat known as the Medicine Hat News. […]

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