New Zealand calls for thousands of new ‘green’ jobs in bold comeback plan

New Zealand's Wellington Cable Car seen arriving at the station.

The Wellington Cable Car may be an old idea. But a less fossil fuel-dependent New Zealand may see more tracks and fewer cars. (Photo: Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock)

There’s plenty of speculation over the origins of the pandemic that has ground much of the world to a halt. But there’s little doubt about who caused it. As a panel of international scientists noted in a release issued this week, “There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — us.”

The statement — authored by professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo Brondizio and zoologist Peter Daszak — goes on to point the finger squarely at our obsession with “economic growth at any cost.”

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.”

Now, the real question is how do we make things right in the world, while avoiding the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? At least one major political party thinks it has the answer.

This week, New Zealand’s Green Party unveiled an ambitious plan to get the country back to work and the gears of industry turning once again, in environmentally friendly fashion.

And all for the tidy sum of $1 billion.

It may seem like a lot, but the cost pales in comparison with what we’re paying in lost economic output from this pandemic. Early estimates peg that tally at around $2.7 trillion, which is about the entire GDP of the United Kingdom.

So what does a billion-dollar stimulus plan buy, according to New Zealand’s Green Party? For one thing — and likely at the top of everyone’s minds — the plan would create jobs. It promises to create employment for 7,000 people over the next three years, all in industries that have been pummeled by the pandemic. For New Zealand, that would be tourism. But the catch is these would be “green” jobs, with people working to help build and sustain the country’s chief tourism draw: nature.

“These work opportunities are well suited to those who have worked outdoors such as tourist guides currently out of work, have people and project management skills or who want to quickly retrain and get their hands dirty helping nature,” notes Eugenie Sage, a Green Party member who also serves as environment minister, in a press release.

“Our tourism industry depends on the health of our nature, and culture, and so it is important to invest in this critical infrastructure, rather than just bulldozers and asphalt.”

The plan calls for plenty of building projects, only they would focus not just on reviving the economy, but also the environment. It includes funding, for instance, to save Raukūmara Conservation Park from the invasive deer and possums that have taken it over. As well, there are details on how to bring native birds back to the country. Other projects would restore the country’s ailing freshwater reserves, create carbon sinks and natural buffers against rising sea levels.

A panorama of Milford Sound in Fjordland, New Zealand.Milford Sound, home to seal colonies, penguins and dolphins, is one of several spectacular tourist draws in New Zealand. (Photo: Henner Damke/Shutterstock)

“This investment creates thriving native forests and wetlands, assets that last centuries and suck carbon out of the atmosphere,” Sage explains. “It will avoid future pest control costs, better buffer coastal areas from sea level rise and provide corridors for birds to come back to neighbourhoods.

“There are all sorts of exciting projects across the country that are planned and ready to go, and this funding could see them get started immediately.”

That’s not to say the shiny, green plan is guaranteed to become a reality. The party, which is part of a ruling coalition, has yet to officially present it to the legislature. For now, it’s been adopted as Green Party policy. And, as Michael Nelson writes in the New Zealand Herald, “in the past, coalition partners have not been particularly friendly to some Green Party environmental proposals.”

Indeed, the party’s recent call for $9 billion to be spent on electric trains as a sustainable and practical alternative to cars may also face an uphill climb.

But then again, the New Zealand model, if adopted, could be just the fresh inspiration the rest of us need to reboot a post-COVID world. One thing, at least, is certain: we can’t go back to the way things were.

As scientists noted in their statement this week, the world needs “transformative change” across the board. That includes fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values, promoting social and environmental responsibilities across all sectors.

“As daunting and costly as this may sound — it pales in comparison to the price we are already paying.” SOURCE


New Zealand Deprioritizes Growth, Improves Health and Wellbeing

Amsterdam is now using the ‘doughnut’ model of economics: What does that mean?

It’s a simple way to illustrate an economic system where the city doesn’t let anyone fall into poverty, while also living within a sustainable environmental footprint.

[Photos: Vlad Hilitanu/Unsplash, Antonel/iStock]

As Amsterdam plans for its post-coronavirus recovery, it’s also rethinking what economic success looks like. In doing so, it’s not looking at traditional financial metrics of how to determine when the city has recovered. Instead, the city will be the first in the world to officially adopt the “doughnut” model of economics.

The model, developed by U.K. economist Kate Raworth, is a simple way to illustrate a complex goal. The inner ring of the doughnut represents minimum standards of living, based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This entails the basic essentials everyone needs to thrive, from food and clean water to gender equality and adequate housing. According to the model, no one should fall into the hole in the center of the doughnut, which would mean they don’t have enough to afford basic needs. The outer ring of the doughnut represents the ecological limits of the planet, from biodiversity loss and air pollution to climate breakdown. Amsterdam wants to stay between the inner and outer rings.

“Within these two boundaries, between the social foundation that is on the inside and the ecological ceiling, there is this doughnut-shaped space where it is possible to meet the needs of all within the means of the living planet,” says Ilektra Kouloumpi, a senior strategist at Circle Economy, a nonprofit that has been working with Raworth, along with the nonprofits Biomimicry 3.8 and C40 Cities, to help the Amsterdam government adopt the doughnut model to make policy decisions. “The overarching question is: How can our city be home to thriving people, in a thriving place, while respecting the well-being of all people and the health of the whole planet?”

[Image: courtesy Doughnut Economics Action Lab]

The city already has ambitious environmental goals, including a plan to become carbon neutral, and to transition to a circular economy, meaning that all materials will be used in closed loops instead of ending up in landfills. But it also recognized that it needed an overarching strategy that included social goals. Circle Economy, which was already working with the city on its circular economy goals, saw the opportunity for the doughnut model to help the city create better strategies. The planning has been underway for more than a year; the city formally adopted the model last week.

“The big added value of putting this in the heart of the city’s vision is that it creates a holistic vision where all the different agendas that the city drives and all the different targets that the city needs to fulfill sit together within one common vision,” Kouloumpi says. “I like it because it’s for the first time that we can see important topics like climate change and gender equality, or health education and land conversion—very different angles—coming together under one conversation.”

In a series of workshops, the city and groups of stakeholders looked at Amsterdam’s current status through the lens of the doughnut. Housing, for example, is one local social challenge, as nearly 20% of tenants can’t afford to pay for other basic bills after paying for rent. It’s simultaneously a climate challenge. Now, Kouloumpi says, as the city thinks about how to add housing, it’s also thinking about how housing impacts issues such as air pollution and health. “We’re really thinking about the interconnections,” she says.

The approach also looks at the impacts the city has beyond its own borders, from the air pollution that’s created in China when Chinese factories make goods that are exported to the Netherlands, or the social impact of the cocoa grown in Africa—sometimes with child labor or slavery—that’s imported in huge quantities through the Port of Amsterdam. “It stretches the boundaries of responsibility of the city,” Kouloumpi says.

The analysis helped the city create a “city doughnut,” a visualization of the city’s challenges that is helping it decide what changes are needed and whether the plans it has in place are ambitious enough. The doughnut model is also helping it evaluate new policies that can solve its challenges. The coalition of groups working on the project, called the Thriving Cities Initiative, is also beginning to work with other cities; both Portland, Oregon, and Philadelphia have also created city portraits, though they haven’t yet been published. “The idea is that we pilot this program and we work now with these three cities, and once we have created that complete journey, then more cities can take this path,” says Kouloumpi. SOURCE

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world’s largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century.


Scientists call for the COVID-19 pandemic to be seen as a warning for the future

The pandemic has had widespread health and economic ramifications across Tasmania. Thirteen people have died, thousands have been quarantined and more than 20,000 people have lost their job.

While we don’t know exactly what animal species the virus originated from, scientists widely consider bats the likely source.

Dr Scott Carver is a senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania who specialises in the ecology and epidemiology of infectious diseases.

He said human impacts on the environment can create new contacts with animals and increase risk of pathogens transferring between animals and humans.

“Pathogen spillover between species … happens quite often,” Mr Carver said. “It is just that most pathogens don’t cause really significant health outcomes. Some of them, however, do.

With a growing human population size and growing human impacts on the environment it is not surprising that you get more of these events happening  Dr Scott Carver

“The chance of any one spillover event resulting in an epidemic is low, but if you increase the opportunity for that to happen, through increasing new contacts, then the probability increases.”

He said implementing policies to limit the risk of potential future pandemics would benefit both public health and biodiversity.

“With a growing human population size and growing human impacts on the environment it is not surprising that you get more of these events happening,” Dr Carver said.

“It is incumbent upon us to really take a serious look at the way we treat the environment and think about policies that can limit these sorts of things.”

Ecocide is an attempt to criminalise human activities that destroy and diminish the well-being and health of ecosystems and species within an ecosystem  Dr Olivia Hasler

UTAS’s Dr Olivia Hasler believes legislating a law of ecocide could be one way to approach establishing these policies.

“Ecocide is an attempt to criminalise human activities that destroy and diminish the well-being and health of ecosystems and species within an ecosystem,” she said.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted how connected we were as a society, and she hoped that would not be forgotten in the recovery effort.

“A law against ecocide would provide accountability to those that are in positions of power to make decisions about the use of our resources and shared land,” Dr Hasler said.

Premier and Climate Change Minister Peter Gutwein said Tasmania’s coronavirus recovery would focus on sustainable economic growth.

“Tasmania already has in place strong environmental management frameworks [and] a comprehensive reserve system to protect biodiversity,” he said.

“In 2016, we were the first state to achieve zero net emissions, and we have a renewable energy generation target of 200 per cent of our needs by 2040.

“As we look to recover from COVID-19, we will build on and leverage these competitive advantages, which includes our clean, green and innovative brand.” SOURCE

Land Defenders Describe a Violent Night Attack on Their Camp

Four white strangers reportedly burst on the scene, beat an Indigenous man and stole and crashed a truck.


Red dresses hung at the entrance to the Tiny House Warriors encampment on unceded Secwepemc territory. Invaders tore down the dresses, according to the land defenders. Image from Tiny House Under Attack, a short documentary by Doreen Manuel.

n the edge of Blue River, a town of 157 people on unceded Secwepemc territory in eastern British Columbia, a handful of land defenders live in a cluster of five small houses. The group, who call themselves Tiny House Warriors, oppose plans to build nearby housing for hundreds of transient workers constructing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

At the gateway to their encampment, the Tiny House Warriors erected a sign saying: “Man Camps Equals Violence against Indigenous Women.” They also hung red dresses to symbolize Indigenous women missing and murdered.

On April 19 at 10:45 p.m., three men and a woman drove two all-terrain vehicles into the encampment shouting profane slurs. They knocked down the sign, tore down the dresses, stole a truck and rammed it into a house, and punched and kicked an Indigenous man on the site, according to a video account.

The short documentary, titled Tiny House Under Attack, is produced and narrated by Doreen Manuel, director of the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University.

Her niece, Kanahus Manuel, whose people are Secwepemc and Ktunaxa, is one of the Tiny House Warriors.

“They were yelling profanities and slurs at me. I believe it was a hate crime,” Kanahus told The Tyee in a phone interview. “They said ‘You were the one who shut down Canada.’”

In February of last year, Kanahus gave a speech at an Ottawa conference called PowerShift: Young and Rising, saying, “Native people could shut this whole country down.”

In late February and into March, Indigenous people and allies in support of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders blocked rail lines, creating a crisis for the federal government.

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‘I believe it was a hate crime,’ says Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc land defender. Image from Tiny House Under Attack.

On April 20, Kanahus tweeted a cell phone video which she said captured some of the attack. On it, one of the men can be heard saying to her, “You’re racist and you’re on my land.”

“You’re f***kin’ white as f**k and trespassing on my land,” responds Kanahus, referring to Secwepemc territory. “Now get outta here.”

Clearwater RCMP are pursuing several charges, according to Sgt. Grant Simpson who spoke with The Tyee over the phone April 30.

“We’re treating it as a hate crime at this point,” Sgt. Simpson said. “But we have to consider some of the comments that [Kanahus] has made as well, right? Not just her… but we have to be very careful about how we examine this.”

The Tiny House Under Attack video includes a photo showing two of the men said to have taken part in the attack, and asks for help identifying them. One is shown kneeling on the collapsed sign.

RCMP have yet to identify the two men in the photo. They are “not known to us here,” said Sgt. Simpson, who said the RCMP had not shared their images on the internet or social media sites. “We’re still looking at that,” he said. “We’re trying to determine what direction to take with this.”

He said the police need, but had not received, more information from the Tiny House Warriors. “It’s difficult to pursue if the complainant is not going to be cooperative with us,” Sgt. Simpson said.

Kanahus Manuel’s lawyer Joe Killoran said he listened on the phone as Clearwater RCMP Cpl. Mark Labossiere took his client’s victim statement. Killoran said the officer “was pretty hostile,” treating Kanahus “more like a suspect than a victim.” For that reason, Killoran said, he cut off the interview.

Kanahus told The Tyee she wants action by the RCMP, saying there have been other incidents of harassment, though none this dangerous. “This isn’t the first time something like this has happened,” she said. “What if my kids were here or there were elders in the house when this all happened?”

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The house where Kanahus Manuel says she sought safety as it was rammed by a truck driven by attackers of the Tiny House Warriors encampment. Image from Tiny House Under Attack.


Amnesty International has sent a letter about the incident to Premier John Horgan and the RCMP, saying it “is very concerned about the violence, threats and property damage that occurred and more generally about the menacing nature of the attack.”

This Secwepemc safe zone has been in place since July 2018, Kanahus said, to signify the lack of consent given by the nation for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The RCMP has not intervened.

Near the end of the documentary, Doreen Manuel says, “This Tiny House Warrior encampment is how these Indigenous women are answering the call to action… by reoccupying the land, growing gardens, and establishing this community to protect the land and life for future generations.” She connects these activities to the Calls to Action in the report by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“There are weekly reports of Indigenous women going missing and being found murdered,” Doreen Manuel says in the video. “Indigenous people have endured a long, documented history of unfair treatment in Canada.”

Kanahus Manuel said the day after their encampment was terrorized, members could hear the sound of vehicles revving engines loudly nearby.

The night invasion of April 19 was foreshadowed by an earlier incident, according to Kanahus. She says she told the RCMP, “A white truck also came near and someone threw a wrench out the window while they were speeding around.”

So far, she noted, none of these acts of intimidation have led to a tragic death.

Weighing on everyone’s mind at the encampment, however, is the killing of Barbara Kentner, an Indigenous woman struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle in Thunder Bay, Ont. in 2017. Kentner’s sister has said she heard a white passenger in the car shout an expletive and yell, “I got one of them.”

In the cell phone video about the attack she tweeted April 20, Kanahus says, “I want to highlight this so what is happening to Indigenous women and girls is documented. It is very real that there’s a genocide happening in Canada against Indigenous women and girls. We’re here because there’s a man camp proposed just metres behind me.”  [Tyee] SOURCE

A Webinar Today: “Are we in the omega phase of the adaptive cycle?”, Thomas Homer Dixon in conversation with Michael Lerner

“Are we in the omega phase of the adaptive cycle?”,

Thomas Homer Dixon in conversation with Michael Lerner– A Webinar 
May 13, 2020 9am PT

Register here to confirm your participation and receive the webinar link.

The Omega Collaborative  invites the MAHB to a webinar with, Thomas Homer Dixon on  May 13, 2020 at 9:00 AM PT.

Homer Dixon is a Canadian professor of political science and one of the world’s widest read public intellectuals in the field of the global security. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, has influenced millions, appealing to senior thought leaders and millennials alike. Recently he launched the Cascade Institute  “..a centre addressing the full range of humanity’s converging environmental, economic, political and technological crises.”

His talk will address the Upside of Down, his forthcoming book Commanding Hope, and the Cascade Institute.

If you are not familiar with adaptive cycles, we suggest you read: The adaptive cycle: More than a metaphor  Shana M. Sundstroma,⁎, Craig R.Allenb

Register here to confirm your participation and receive the webinar link.

May 13, 20209:00 – 10:30am Pacific Time for webinar, discussion and questions 


Sponsored by The OMEGA Collaborative, a joint project of:

Group launches constitutional challenge of gun rules

An Aero Precision X15, one of the guns with an AR-15-type design that was banned for use, sale, purchase or transport on Friday. National Observer photo Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

OTTAWA, O.N. – The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights has launched a charter challenge of the ban on firearms announced by the Federal Government.

The Government announced last week that it would ban 1,500 makes and models of firearms. The CCFR believes the ban will deprive Canadian’s access to their property and freedom. “This issue gives rise to complicated arguments of constitutional law and the legislative process, however, the arguments boiled down to this fundamental truth: the government, in an entirely arbitrary and irrational way, has created legislation that will deprive us of our property and our freedom to live as we wish, on pains of incarceration for failing to comply.”

Prince George, Peace River, Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer has come out strongly against the new rules. “Canadians have been very clear. They want action on crime, gangs and illegal firearms.”

In the past, the Supreme Court of Canada said previous rules that banned automatic firearms were within the constitution. The CCFR knows they aren’t guaranteed to win the challenge. “We are not guaranteed success in this fight, although the arguments are far from frivolous. In the end, we can either choose to simply take this treatment, or we can oppose it in the only ways we can.”

On Monday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said firearm owners would be allowed to have 10 and 12 gauge shotguns. The Canadian Sports Shooting Association said the new rules would ban some shotguns because they exceeded the 20mm bore diameter included in the new regulations.

A spokesperson for Blair told CBC News on Wednesday that the choke will not be considered when measuring a firearm’s bore diameter.

“The regulation introduced on May 1 does not prohibit 10 and 12 gauge shotguns. The regulation for 10 and 12 gauge is based on their standard size, both under 20 mm,” the spokesperson said.

Learn more about the CCFR by visiting their website.

Adam Reaburn

Adam Reaburn

Adam moved to Fort St. John in 2004 and he now owns both Moose FM and

Green Recovery Part 1: What Planet of the Humans Got Wrong

Environmental documentary Planet of the Humans argues green energy ...

Join us for week five of The Recovery Series with Executive Director, Tim Gray, where we try to make sense of the COVID-19 crisis from an environmental perspective. Each week, we dig into the most pressing questions on current environmental issues.

This week is the first of two parts on the Green Recovery after COVID-19. We’ll explore current myths about renewable energy with the controversial film Planet of the Humans – a film that suggests a green recovery isn’t good for the planet and that environmentalists are steering humanity in the wrong direction. Missing many key facts, this film is riddled with outdated information. So, what are the facts? Ketan Joshi, a writer and renewable energy expert, and Sarah Buchanan, Clean Economy Program Manager, join us to discuss what Planet of the Humans gets wrong and to explore the scientifically supported facts about renewable energy and other climate change solutions.

Register today so you can tune in for the discussion! You can check out our previous episodes here.

Webinar Details

Topic: Green Recovery Part 1: What Planet of the Humans Got Wrong

Date: Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Time: 12:00 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. (EDT)


Tim Gray (Host)
Executive Director of Environmental Defence
Ketan Joshi
Writer & Renewable Energy Expert
Sarah Buchanan
Clean Economy Program Manager, Environmental Defence

Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

This Energy Analyst Says the Oilsands Are ‘Done’

COVID-19 is making many bearish about bitumen. Deborah Lawrence’s past pessimism has proven unpopular, and correct.


Deborah Lawrence, formerly Deborah Rogers, warned of the shale gas and oil crashes, and called Teck Frontier’s proposed new oilsands mine ‘uncommercial even at relatively high oil prices’ years before it was cancelled. Photo: submitted.

Deborah Lawrence used to be a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch. Over the past decade, the independent economic analyst has developed a reputation for telling oil investors what they don’t want to hear.

“I think we have a big problem,” she told a colleague at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where she was then an advisory committee member. But finding a larger audience proved difficult. The so-called “shale revolution” was transforming the U.S. into the world’s biggest oil producer and everyone from oil executives to state leaders to Wall Street bankers wanted a piece of it.

“I kept saying, look, ‘There’s no free cash flow and it keeps deteriorating every year I look at this,’” Lawrence recalled in an interview with The Tyee. So she contacted business outlets like the Wall Street Journal. “I sent them stuff for so long with all the underlying documentation and they were like, ‘Oh no, shales are gonna save us forever.’”

With those warnings eventually being taken more seriously by regulators and media outlets like Rolling Stone and the New York Times, Lawrence expanded her focus. She began looking at the finances of Teck Resources, which was in early days of proposing the Frontier mine that would massively expand its presence in Alberta’s oilsands.

“The Frontier project is uncommercial even at relatively high oil prices,” reads a report Lawrence co-authored in 2015, years before Frontier became a political flashpoint in Canada. Teck’s problems apply to the entire sector, she argued, writing that “in spite of the optimistic rhetoric coming from the industry, the large build-out of the Canadian oilsands is probably not realistic. The implications for Alberta and Canada are only beginning to unfold.”

Several years ago, Lawrence was eating lunch at an energy event in Switzerland and she shared her opinion that the entire oil and gas industry could see a huge drop in oil demand by 2025 that would devastate revenues: “I was sitting at table with a bunch of old-time oil and gas people and they were going, ‘Oh that’s ridiculous, that will never happen, 50 years maybe.’”

To them, Lawrence might have seemed gripped by a pessimistic “fantasy,” as the head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers recently branded oilsands doomers Green Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet (see sidebar).

Except Lawrence’s predictions keep turning out to be correct.

Chesapeake Energy is reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy as the U.S. shale fracking industry flounders, its well productivity peaked and prime drilling areas largely exploited before COVID-19 hit.

Teck withdrew its Frontier project in February due to poor economics.

And the oil industry is forecast to lose potentially $1 trillion in revenues this year due to the gigantic drop in oil demand resulting from the coronavirus pandemic — for reasons having not just to do with a black swan pandemic, but other fundamentals that prompted her warning in Switzerland years earlier.

Lawrence is now predicting that Alberta’s oilsands industry is fast dying. The main drivers are COVID-19 and the plummet in bitumen prices hastened by Saudi Arabia and Russia fighting for world oil dominance. Already the price crash could shutter close to two million barrels per day of bitumen production. Output will stay indefinitely low, expects Lawrence and many other analysts. And that will deal a fatal blow to Canada’s heavy oil industry. “Shale and tarsands, they’re done as far I can see, unless there’s some miracle out there,” Lawrence told The Tyee.

“I just don’t see how they’re going to ever be able to recover,” she said. “There’s just too much oil and not enough demand anymore. And demand’s only going down, it’s not going up.”

Those who remain bullish counter that the intense financial pain being experienced by oilsands producers — some of who have seen their share price plummet 50 per cent — is temporary. Once a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available, global oil demand will shoot back up, and with it oil prices and the fortunes of Alberta’s oilsands. “Yeah, so, we expect this to be a short-term development which will make way for gains in oil prices in the longer term, over the next 12 to 18 months,” Fiera Capital’s Candice Bangsund argued last month.

Morningstar equity analyst Preston Caldwell meanwhile predicted “a relatively V-shaped recovery.” Once oil demand comes back, “Canadian crude supply ramps up,” he wrote, adding, “we expect all the major pipeline expansions to be operating near full capacity within the next decade.”

By this line of thinking, Premier Jason Kenney’s $7.5 billion wager of taxpayer money on TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline, which Moody’s deemed so risky it downgraded the company’s credit rating, looks solid and perhaps even visionary. “The collapse in oil prices has hurt Alberta’s energy companies, but it has absolutely devastated their peers in the United States. Market watchers are already suggesting the collapse of the shale industry could ultimately be a boon for Canadian producers, who had already spent the past few years cutting costs and tightening up their operations,” writes former Alberta Oil magazine editor Max Fawcett in the Globe and Mail.

“It’s just simple economics,” Lawrence says. “I mean, unless you can get tarsands down to $10 a barrel, you can’t compete, and there’s no way they can do it for anywhere close to that. They’ve always been the highest-cost producers.” The only way the industry can recover is with a swift rise in oil prices, but not even top oil producers consider that very likely.

During an extraordinary late April conference call, the head of oil and gas supermajor Shell admitted it has no idea what to expect for the future. “Everything has become much more challenging macro-wise, and we know it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said the company’s CEO Ben van Beurdan. “The biggest challenge we find ourselves is this crisis of uncertainty that we have.”

The social distancing measures brought in around the world to combat coronavirus have cut deeply into global demand for oil. With far fewer people flying and driving, analysts forecast a drop of 29 million barrels per day in April. Shell told its shareholders in the call that the idea of a speedy return to normal for the industry is extremely doubtful. Its CFO Jessica Uhl anticipated “more of an ‘L’-shaped recovery than certainly a ‘V’ or sharp recovery.”

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Suncor’s power plant in the Alberta oilsands. The bitumen extractor reported a $3.5 billion net loss in early May. Photo: Wikimedia.


But the news is even worse for Alberta. As global cases of coronavirus decrease, the world is likely to enter a punishing recession that could keep oil demand and prices low, while at the same time concerns over climate change are rising. This could put Alberta’s expensive and emissions-heavy bitumen industry at the back of the line for recovery, which is exactly the risk Shell hoped to avoid when it left the oilsands in 2017. “We have made the choice to get out of high breakeven, high carbon projects,” van Beurdan confirmed on the conference call. “I think more of that may be still to come going forward.”

Plotting the fate of the oilsands is made harder by the wildcard of how much the pandemic will change people’s behaviour in months and years ahead. Do people go right back to flying to conferences and booking international vacations once fears of coronavirus ease, or do our lives become much more decentralized, virtual and local?

“People won’t be travelling for business or going on cruises and all the rest of it,” predicts John Nenniger, a Canadian cleantech scientist with over 40 years’ experience in the Alberta oilsands. “So I think the demand destruction is likely to be permanent, it’s quite likely it will be really long before the market gets to balance.”

The longer it takes to regain that market balance, if it can be attained at all, the bigger the edge for electric vehicle manufacturers, clean energy companies and other potential competitors to oil. “If demand for fossil fuels bounces back in 2021 by half the amount it fell in 2020, and grows at 0.5 per cent a year, it would take eight years to get back to where the industry started,” writes Kingsmill Bond with the U.K. group Carbon Tracker. “And in the meantime, the renewable energy revolution has not stopped.”

So if there is no “V-shaped” recovery for the oil industry, what should oilsands investors and miners expect instead? At the very least, a much slower pace of bitumen expansion. Even the best-positioned producers are suffering massive losses. Back in March, the Financial Post described Suncor as being “better prepared” for this crisis than it was during the price crash in 2014, given that it had managed to reduce its operating costs by 17 per cent in recent years. But that still didn’t prevent the top integrated oilsands company from reporting a $3.5 billion net loss in early May. Nevertheless, some investors tried spin it as a positive, with one writing that Suncor’s massive financial hit “may not have been as bad as what some market participants may have expected.”

Some of that pain was due to Suncor having to shut down production at oilsands projects like Fort Hills because of the price of oil being so low. RBC Capital Markets forecasts further oil sector cutbacks to be as high as 1.7 million barrels per day in the coming months. To Lawrence, this is the very definition of “stranded assets,” an endgame that groups like Carbon Tracker have been warning about for years. “When you’ve got an asset and you can’t afford to produce it, it’s stranded,” she said. “What are they going to do with this stuff?”

If and when those shuttered oilsands projects become profitable, it may not be easy to restart them. “A halt in mining can permanently damage underground reservoirs if heat and pressure are not maintained,” Quartz reports. Any maintenance that was deferred can slow things down further.

“That asset integrity issue does kind of loom here depending on how bad this demand destruction gets and how much volumes eventually have to be taken offline,” explains Thomas Liles, a senior analyst with the oil and gas consultancy Rystad Energy. “There’s certainly the potential for permanent damage for those smaller, lower quality assets, some of which have already been taken offline, so we have a hard time seeing those coming back.”

Rystad is forecasting oil prices will return to something resembling normal by 2022. But even in that scenario, oilsands industry growth is likely to “be slower than it has been over the past five to 10 years.” The time for large new projects is likely over. “I think it’s going to be extremely challenging for any operator to seriously propose a greenfield mining project on the scale of [Teck’s] Frontier,” he says.

An era of slow growth and few prospects for major expansions is not an enticing pitch for investors. Even before the current crisis, financial giants like BlackRock were cutting funding to the oilsands. The one factor that could stall this market decline, even if only temporarily, is the direct intervention of governments. We’re seeing this with U.S. shale producers begging the Donald Trump administration for a bail-out, or Alberta Premier Kenney floating the idea of state ownership of oil projects and pledging billions of dollars in public money for Keystone XL.

“The situation that we’re seeing right now is governments and industry scrambling to keep the show going,” says Nafeez Ahmed, an investigative U.K. journalist and energy and climate researcher who recently wrote a piece in Le Monde headlined “Will COVID-19 end the age of Big Oil?”

Ahmed cautions that a rapid and ongoing collapse of fossil fuels could have “huge repercussions” for our ability to manufacture things, or grow food at the scale society requires. Alternatives to oil are improving quickly, but ongoing neglect from our political leaders in favor of industries like the oilsands means those alternatives still aren’t able to replace the energy source upon which most of our global economy is based.

“There are some people who are looking at this and in a way celebrating, going ‘Yay, it’s the collapse of the oil industry, finally, we can switch to renewables and it’s going to be great,’” he says. However, “this is not a staged and managed happy transition, this is coming at us really fast and we’re not ready for this, and governments haven’t anticipated the risks or prepared for them.”

The moment demands that political leaders work towards a planned, quick and smooth transition away from fossil fuels in any ways possible.

Lawrence expects that will be very hard for the fossil fuel industry and politicians who are tied to its fortunes. “They’re eternal optimists who always think the price of oil is going to $140. But it will never do that again in my opinion,” she says. They didn’t listen to Deborah Lawrence before and she’s an unusual and unwelcome voice in their midst now.

Are the oilsands really done? “You’re not going to hear that from many other people, but I was the first to call” the decline of shale oil, she reminds. “I said ‘It doesn’t work.’ And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I was right. And I think that’s what you’re seeing now.”  [Tyee] SOURCE

E-bikes, not electric cars, may hold the key to greener transportation

(Francois Mori/Associated Press)

Gregor Macdonald, a Portland, Ore.-based journalist and author of the ebook Oil Fall, has been chronicling the way electric cars have been disrupting the petroleum industry, which of course relies heavily on people driving gasoline-powered vehicles.

But Macdonald admits he slept on a development that might have an equally significant effect on oil demand and, consequently, carbon emissions.

“I consider myself to be someone who’s very on top of these trends, and I have nearly missed the e-bike explosion because it’s happening so fast,” said Macdonald. “It’s blown up in the last 12 to 18 months.”

Suffice to say Macdonald is now up to speed on the e-bike surge. These devices — which still have pedals, but also contain a rechargeable battery and can hit speeds of 25 km/h — have seen tremendous growth in recent years. In a report released in December, market research firm Deloitte said it expected global sales of 130 million e-bikes between now and 2023.

That outlook is a lot more bullish than the one for electric cars. For example, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, whose projections are generally seen as more optimistic than those of other research firms, sees the number of electric cars worldwide hitting the 130 million mark closer to 2030.

Electric cars have long been viewed as the most effective way to decarbonize the transportation sector, but Macdonald believes people are waking up to the benefits of a smaller, stealthier ride. For one thing, they’re cheaper: Whereas the lowest-priced electric car is about $30,000, a new e-bike is in the $1,000-$5,000 range.

Macdonald said a typical adult rider can get a range of about 30-40 kilometres on a single charge, which makes e-bikes well-suited to the average daily commute (provided the weather is nice). If you get a slightly larger e-bike with a bit of storage, you can transport your groceries and even other people.

“It’s not that [e-bikes are] going to replace cars wholesale, but they’re going to replace trips made by cars,” said Macdonald. “A $3,500 [US] e-bike is going to allow many families to think about going from two cars to one car.”

Another reason e-bikes are gaining traction is that many people have abandoned the notion that bikes are purely meant for exercise, said Darnel Harris, executive director of Our Greenway, a Toronto-based mobility advocacy group.

“As much as we talk about health and the importance of health, society-wise … we gravitate towards a comfortable ride that’s safe and practical,” he said. In the past, the default solution would have been a car. But e-bikes provide another option to get around without breaking a sweat.

While some people have expressed concern that the rise of e-bikes and other modes of low-speed transport are making bike lanes more crowded and precarious, Harris said it really comes down to how they are regulated.

Not surprisingly, Europeans have something to teach us. Harris said bike lanes in the Netherlands are built for “more than 20 different devices,” including bikes, scooters and even a wheelchair-friendly vehicle that looks like a Smart Car.

Harris said the key is recognizing that “we shouldn’t really be building bike lanes. We should be building mobility lanes for different types of low-speed devices — which the Dutch have done for decades.” SOURCE

— Andre Mayer

E-bike users, sellers dismayed by B.C. Supreme Court decision

Motorino dealer Steve Miloshev says his e-bikes are unfairly targeted

E-cyclists say they’re being unfairly ticketed by the RCMP for not having insurance on a type of e-bike that shouldn’t require it. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

People who ride and sell e-bikes that look like scooters say they’re dismayed by a recent decision in B.C. Supreme Court that ruled against a man who was fined for riding one without a licence or insurance.

Steve Miloshev, operator of distribution company Greenwit Technologies, says the e-bikes he sells are perfectly legal but are unfairly targeted because they look like motorcycles or mopeds.

“Our customers are suffering, our business is suffering, our dealers are suffering because of misinterpreting the regulations,” Miloshev said.

In B.C., e-bikes are regulated as motor-assisted cycles. The bikes must have limited power and a maximum speed of 32 km/h. Also, they must be outfitted with pedals. The provincial insurer, ICBC, doesn’t offer coverage for them. A person must be 16 to ride them but doesn’t need a driver’s licence.

But recently a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld fines against a man in Surrey who was riding a Motorino XMr, which Miloshev markets as an e-bike, without a licence or insurance. The judge said the Motorino “does not comply with the intent of the legislation.”

Justice Robert W. Jenkins said the Motorino is not a motor-assisted cycle because the pedals don’t propel the motor and the vehicle can operate without them.

Steve Miloshev says electric cargo bikes like this take up more space in the bike lane than his e-bikes. (Shift Delivery)

Miloshev and other e-bike dealers in B.C. take issue with the judge’s interpretation. They say the law is clear, and bikes like the Motorino XMr fit within it.

Specifically, Miloshev thinks the judge misinterpreted the section of the motor-assisted cycle regulation that says the motor must stop if the operator stops pedaling, releases the accelerator, or applies a brake.

The defendant in the case testified that he had never used the pedals on his e-bike, so he didn’t know if the motor would disengage when he stopped pedaling. But Miloshev says that shouldn’t matter, because the bike fits the other criteria for the motor to stop.

This Veemo was touted as the latest in e-bike technology in 2016. (Christer Waara/CBC)


Miloshev says the legislation for motor-assisted cycles has been in place in B.C. for 18 years and he didn’t notice any pushback on e-bikes like the Motorino until a couple of years ago.

He doesn’t think that other devices like motorized skateboards and push-scooters, which unlike e-bikes are currently illegal to operate on roads and sidewalks in B.C, get as much attention from law enforcement.

Miloshev says his Motorinos also take up a lot less room in the bike lane than some new cargo bikes.

‘It’s my transportation’

Kelly Goldbeck, owner of KGeez Cycle in Victoria, says the fines are a shame because e-bikes like the Motorino XMr are great for the environment and work out well for commuters who don’t have a driver’s licence.

“It’s people who can’t afford to buy a car,” Goldbeck said.

That’s the case for Terry Wojtkiw, a commercial painter who lives in Victoria. Wojtkiw lost his driver’s licence due to an impaired driving incident years ago, and uses a Motorino to get to work sites with all his gear in tow.

“It’s my transportation,” he said.

Wojtkiw said he was issued a ticket in 2018 for driving without a licence or insurance and driving along the side of the highway. He says a judge waived the fines, but the Crown has appealed the decision. He’s currently waiting for a trial date.

‘It’s not the future, it’s now’

Andrea Guyon, another Victoria resident issued a fine for riding without a licence, also said she uses her Motorino to get to work.

“This is what people are doing to get around,” Guyon said. “It’s not the future, it’s now.”

Guyon says she enjoys going by the long line of cars stuck in traffic while she whizzes by in the bike lane, which e-bikes are allowed to do. She also notes that she often sees commuter cyclists blow past her because her Motorino is limited to 32 km/h.

The province is currently reviewing the Motor Vehicle Act to find ways to make way for new forms of transportation like e-scooters and electric skateboards. The province says it has invited communities to submit proposals for pilot projects.

But Miloshev says the law for e-bikes like the Motorino XMr are clear, and don’t need to be updated.

“There is a law that says that they’re legal,” he said.

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidlerMaryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at