The Canadian Federal Government has until the end of this month to decide if the province Alberta can build the Teck Frontier oil sands mine.
Canada is federally governed by its Liberal Party.
The Liberal party is, per its name, liberal. Consequently, its members are bullish on climate change action.
The Teck Frontier mine is decidedly not carbon neutral (link). However, it will generate valuable high-paying jobs in a struggling oil sands sector which is the lifeblood of the Alberta economy.
Those jobs put the Liberals on the horns of a dilemma.
ALBERTA’S STRUGGLING ECONOMY
Alberta’s economy is substantially tied to the global price of oil. The American shale oil Revolution dramatically reduced the price of oil, rendering Alberta tar-sand oil uneconomical.
The resulting Alberta tar sand oil drilling slowdown and corollary oil worker layoffs have hit Alberta’s economy particularly hard . That the Liberal government has been unable to build an oil pipeline through provincial neighbor British Columbia to get Alberta oil to market has focused popular Albertan recession anger on the federal government. A bone fide Alberta secession movement has been the result.
Antidote #1: The American shale oil boom rendered Alberta oil expensive, hurting the Alberta economy.
JOBS VS. CLIMATE CHANGE
If the Liberals approve the Teck Frontier Mine, their constituents will howl bloody murder.
If they don’t, Alberta’s secession movement will gain momentum.
The Liberals’ Teck Frontier dilemma broadly accords with what we said in December: Western nations can’t pursue climate change action through carbon reduction without threatening the integrity of the state
Antidote #2: Western nations can’t fight climate change without threatening their individual national stability.
THE LIBERALS WILL APPROVE TECK FRONTIER
When weighing the uncertain risk of gradual global warming against the certain risk of a collapsing social contract, national governments will always choose to preserve territorial integrity.
ie: Alberta seceding is a far worse political outcome than uncertain planet warming.
That’s why Prime Minister Justice Trudeau choose to build Trans Mountain Pipeline despite the fierce opposition of his constituents. And that’s why he’ll choose to build Teck Frontier now.
The only complicating factor is the Liberals’ minority status in government: if enough Liberal voters defect over climate change, the Liberal won’t hold on to power in the next election. But that’s a problem the Trudeau can manage. Secession isn’t.
Antidote #3: when forced to choose between a collapsing state and gradual temperature warming, Western governments will always choose national stability.
Consequently, the Liberals will hold their noses and build Teck Frontier.
1. The American shale oil boom rendered Alberta oil expensive, hurting the Alberta economy.
2. Albertans blamed the Alberta oil sands recession on the Liberal government.
3. Western governments cannot fight climate change policy without threatening national stability.
4. When forced to choose between a collapsing state and gradual temperature warming, Western governments will always choose national stability.
5. Consequently, the Liberals will vote against their beliefs and build the Teck Frontier Mine