A trio of writers in Halifax is accusing Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s government of misinformation over its “freezing in the dark” propaganda campaign, just as two energy analysts declare one of Smith’s favourite fossil fuels, natural gas, a “dying commodity”.
Smith launched the campaign in late September with truck-borne mobile billboards in Ottawa, carrying the evidence-free warning that Canadians will freeze in the dark if the federal government’s Clean Electricity Regulations go into effect. When the ads reached Nova Scotia, authors Brenna Walsh, Brian Gifford, and Mark Butler swung into action.
The ads “are paid for by a government that doesn’t usually show interest as far east as the Maritimes,” Walsh and Gifford wrote for the Calgary Herald. But Smith poured C$8 million in taxpayers’ dollars into her Tell The Feds campaign when “there is zero evidence to support Alberta’s claims for Nova Scotia, and the declarations being made about Alberta are easily disputable. This puts the campaign in the arena of misinformation and propaganda, clearly aimed at pushing forward the Alberta government’s own goals at the expense of Canadians.”
“The ads claim that our power rates could rise by up to four times and we’ll face blackouts,” Gifford and Butler added for Halifax’s Saltwire Media. “Don’t believe a word of it. There isn’t a shred of evidence to back up these claims for Nova Scotia. Alberta is selling snake oil.”
The claims in the ad campaign trace back to “a disputed analysis for Alberta that doesn’t apply in Nova Scotia because conditions are so different,” the Saltwire post explains. “Nova Scotians concerned with affordable energy and the torrential rain and devastating forest fires caused by climate change should ignore Alberta’s false advertising and support the [federal] regulations.”
Walsh is senior energy coordinator at Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre. Gifford is a member of the Nova Scotia Affordable Energy Coalition, while Butler runs an environmental consulting firm.
The Herald op ed suggested the Alberta government could learn from Nova Scotians’ recent experience rather than lecturing at them, citing the province’s low-income energy efficiency program, legislated emission reduction goals, and clean power plan—all of which won the support of all the parties in the legislature. The Saltwire post added that while electricity rates are rising, actual energy bills fall when expensive, volatile fossil fuel supplies are replaced with energy efficiency and electric heat pumps.
“The Alberta government is right about one thing: no one wants to freeze in the dark,” Walsh and Gifford stated in their Herald post. But that can’t mean ignoring extreme climate impacts that confronted both provinces this past summer. Instead of “spreading false information with taxpayer-funded ads,” they concluded, Alberta can do better “by supporting low-income residents to make homes more efficient, and power affordable and reliable, and supporting the innovation needed to transition its grid to renewables.”
The Herald op ed October 28 and the Saltwire post November 9 coincided with analysis by Nichole Dusyk and Jessica Kelly, senior policy advisors at the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, urging Canadian governments to stop subsidizing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry that is entering its sunset. With the International Energy Agency projecting that gas demand will start declining before 2030 along with oil and coal, and the agency’s last four annual reviews projecting lower global gas demand based on governments’ current “stated policies”, they say, “it’s time for governments to heed the signals and end public support to the fossil fuel industry.”
The gas industry’s claims that Canada can be a major LNG exporter may have added a sense of urgency to contentious, expensive projects like the recently-completed Coastal GasLink pipeline. “But this urgency to build is misplaced: The forecasts and analysis just don’t support the hype,” Dusyk and Kelly write. “The IEA’s most recent report highlights the EU’s accelerated move toward renewable energy sources after feeling the sting of gas’s use as a geopolitical weapon. China’s economic growth is slowing as well”—and the IISD analysis was published days before a new assessment on Carbon Brief that projects a pathway for Chinese fossil fuel demand to fall faster still.
With the industry “attempting to launch into a weakening market,” and multiple new projects set to flood past global demand, the change in conditions “means that developing LNG in Canada is an economically risky proposition,” the two analysts caution. “And propping up LNG as a ‘cleaner’ energy export than some of Canada’s dirtier fuels is undermined by higher-than-expected methane emissions in LNG supply chains, not to mention the large energy needs of LNG infrastructure itself.”
At which point, they conclude, it’s governments’ responsibility to “protect taxpayers from this risk” by cutting off the flow of subsidies, tax breaks, exemptions, discounts ,and deferrals to the industry—including the cost of building transmission lines to electrify LNG facilities.