The Canadian prime minister’s awkward effort to promote Alberta’s oil patch while embracing the urgency of mitigating carbon emissions is becoming ever less credible and harder to maintain, commentators both foreign and domestic observe.
“Justin Trudeau’s brand has been badly tarnished by his pro-pipeline stance, even as evidence mounts that new pipeline capacity isn’t needed,” writes former energy executive-turned-analyst Ross Belot in iPolitics. Belot urges the prime minister to accept that “the party’s over” for the tar sands/oil sands. “It was over some time ago, and the only ones still reluctant to bin the leftovers and turn out the lights are politicians.”
A growing number of industry participants have voted with their capital by selling positions in the tar sands/oil sands, or promised to stay but stop looking for more oil, Belot observes. But “Trudeau seems especially loathe to confront reality,” he charges. The PM “continues to support pipelines the industry itself admits may not be needed if Canada meets its commitments under the Paris climate change accord—an agreement Trudeau has been vocal in supporting around the world.”
But the world is beginning to notice the incongruity of the prime minister’s messages.
In the United States, many regard Canada’s genial PM as “the anti-Donald Trump, especially on things like climate change,” Public Radio International (PRI) reports. Trudeau scores high among progressive Americans for his plan to eliminate coal-generated electricity and impose a national tax on carbon pollution. “But Trudeau sounds like a whole different politician when he talks about Canadian oil.”
The U.S. public broadcaster recalls Trudeau’s appearance before an oil industry audience in Houston earlier this year, where he remarked that “no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” He boasted, as well, that his government was “on our way to getting three new pipeline projects under way, which will help connect Canada’s oil patch with energy markets around the world.”
PRI finds Trudeau “so committed to boosting Canada’s oil exports that he appointed a trade lawyer, not a scientist or energy expert, to serve as Canada’s minister of the environment and climate change.”
Leading American climate critic an 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was recently even harsher, accusing Trudeau of being a “stunning hypocrite” for his incompatible pro-fossil, pro-climate stance.
At home, the PM’s contradictory positions have brought him under attack from both Alberta fossil boosters and from environmentalists, particularly in British Columbia, which at least one of Trudeau’s approved pipelines would have to transit. His attempts to appease both camps appear to be working with neither, U.S. Public Radio found.
The outlet spoke with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for the strongly pro-environment B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. May believes Trudeau, whom she “describes as a friend,” knows perfectly well that protecting the tar sands/oil sands industry endangers humanity.
Resolving the obvious conflict “is not a political test” for the prime minister, May asserted. “It’s a test of character. What’s more important? Your kids’ future? Or a standing ovation in Houston?”
Belot summarizes what’s at stake. “For the Trudeau Liberals, the B.C. election offered a warning. They can’t carry on promoting fossil fuel development while paying lip service to climate change action. Voters see through the act now. They know that growing oilsands and meeting our Paris commitments are mutually contradictory goals.
“The party’s over,” Belot concludes. “But Trudeau can’t seem to bring himself to leave.”