Bay du Nord: The Avoidable Fiasco

The Trudeau Liberals decision to approve a massive new oil and gas development in the deep and stormy waters of the North Atlantic off Newfoundland and Labrador is a perfect illustration of corporate colonialism at work. Big Oil has had its way. The rest of us be damned!

From the disingenuous impact assessment process behind this project, to the short-term political skin-saving logic of the federal and provincial governments, to the unimaginative economic analysis that prefers a costly dead-end fossil fuel development over a viable future based on renewable energy and a restored fishery, this is a shameful decision.

Apart from giving a Canadian finger to the latest IPCC report which makes clear the idiocy of approving new fossil energy developments, the decision belies the promise of the Liberals’ new climate action plan. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing — but doing another. Simply put, they are lying, and the results will be catastrophic.”

The tragic dishonesty of the former environmentalist, now Big Oil comprador and federal Environment Minister, Stephen Guibeault, justifying Bay du Nord as a positive step on the road to a clean energy economy, demonstrated the sad fact that he has decided to drink the Kool-aid supplied by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). His evidence-free conclusion that Bay du Nord “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects” mimics the assurances of the discredited and captive regulator, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. It also reflects the project’s impact assessment report which privileged industry research and, not surprisingly failed to reference neither the lessons of BP’s Macondo deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, nor the lessons from Husky’s (now Cenovus’ – Equinor’s partner in Bay du Nord) shallow water 250,000-litre SeaRose spill in 2018 from a vessel analogous to the one Bay du Nord will employ. No one familiar with either of those events could utter such a complacent remark.

The industry-supplied hype about this project stresses the fact that Bay du Nord oil will be a “low carbon” oil. That claim only refers to the emissions deriving from the extraction of the oil, not the emissions from its consumption. In this case, the latter will contribute an additional 30 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) to our atmosphere every year when it is burned (see Barry Saxifrage, National Observer). The argument that this is “clean” fossil fuel is an inexcusable sleight of hand, simply designed to mislead us.

There is so much that is wrong about this undemocratic, scientifically questionable decision that it makes one despair that our democracy can actually deliver what is needed to address the climate emergency, let alone a viable clean energy economic vision for this country. One thing is clear, it has locked Newfoundland and Labrador into what will likely (and should) become a stranded investment, at the risk of endangering the renewable resources that could be a vital part of the province’s future economic success. Nationally, it has set back our progress towards confronting the climate emergency immeasurably and has put at risk the health if a sizeable chunk of our already compromised East Coast marine ecosystem. From a global standpoint, it borders on criminal.

Coming Next: The IPCC’s latest report on the climate emergency lists “colonialism” as a “high confidence” causal factor in climate change for the first time. I’ll look at some of the implications.

By Peter Puxley

Hi, I'm Peter Puxley, an economist, geographer and urban planner by academic training, and a political organizer/activist, development educator, journalist, policy wonk, researcher and political staffer by practice. I have tried my hand at poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, some of which has been published.

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