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Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver Unable To Answer Question re: Hydrocarbons & Climate Change

2012/02/01

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who most recently has been publicly vilifying ordinary Canadians who are concerned about clean water, clean air, and a stable climate, demonstrated in the House of Commons this week the lengths that the current Canadian federal government will go to in order to avoid making the link between the burning of fossil fuels and the warming of the earth’s atmosphere.  One can only surmise that this is because it will rile up their Big Oil buddies and backers in the Alberta tar sands.  Here’s a sample of some of the recent exchanges between Megan Leslie, the NDP’s health critic, and Mr Oliver:

Ms. Leslie: Mr. Speaker, we really do have a minister for the 19th century because the Minister of Natural Resources fails to understand the impact of Conservative inaction on jobs, on the environment and on future generations. Instead, he attacks people who actually care about the environment. It makes me wonder if the minister actually believes in climate change. Is the minister a believer or a denier?

Ms. Oliver: Mr. Speaker, since we are into theology, I will tell the House that I believe that no project in Canada should go ahead unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. However, groups that are opposed to any development of hydrocarbons, groups that say that the oil sands, which represent 1/1000th of global emissions, will result in the destruction of the planet, these groups are not related to science. These groups are radical…(Bolding mine. To read the debate on Hansard click here)

Since Ms. Leslie didn’t get an answer from Oliver on Tuesday, she tried again yesterday, and she (and Canadians) were subjected to the same old fossil fuel-friendly song and dance:

Megan Leslie: Surely the minister knows the basics of his file and he must know that hydrocarbons are a leading cause of climate change. So can the minister tell us if he agrees with the scientific link between hydrocarbons and climate change, yes or no?

Joe Oliver: Mr. Speaker, what I said yesterday, as the government’s policy, is that we will only approve projects that are safe for Canadians and for the environment. We are in favour of projects which will create jobs and economic activity and which will be nation builders for Canadians right across this country, from coast to coast to coast.

Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, I did not hear an answer and maybe that is because the minister does not understand the question. Hydrocarbons are these tiny little compounds that form a gas called methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that causes climate change. This is not theology; this is science. I will ask again. Does the minister understand and agree that hydrocarbons cause climate change, yes or no?

Joe Oliver: Mr. Speaker, I have invested over $10 billion in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating energy efficiency programs. The oil sands, which represent 1/1,000 of global emissions, have had their emissions reduced by over 30% in the last 12 years. The gap between oil sands oil and conventional oil is narrow, about 5% to 10%, and it is narrowing even further. We favour technological innovation which will improve the performance of the oil sands.

Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot answer this question. Let us back up a bit … there is one thing the minister and I agree on, there is a radical fringe group that is trying to block Canada’s movement forward and is moving our economy forward. They do believe in elaborate scientific conspiracies theories and they are backed by big foreign groups. They are called climate change deniers. I would like the minister to clarify, does he believe in the science of climate change or is he a denier?

Joe Oliver: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite continues to talk about the radicals. Let us remember what some people believe. There are some radicals who do oppose all hydrocarbon development. There are some who think that 1/1000 of 1% addition to global warming will somehow destroy the planet. These are people who are not backed by science. We are going to continue to support job-creating projects that are important to build this country.  (Click here to read the transcript.)

Welcome to the world of prevarication and doublespeak, ala Canada’s Harperites. Here is a video of the last exchange; it leaves no doubt about who is using straightforward language to address an issue that is pressing and urgently needs government action, and who recycles talking points over and over in an attempt to skirt the truth and confuse the issue.  Canadians deserve better than this in a federal government.

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More links:

Oily in Canada, eh?

Joe Oliver Recycles Debunked EthicalOil.org Talking Points, Refuses to Accept Climate Science

Macleans.ca: Yes or No?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/02/01 12:18 pm

    Ms. Leslie thinks hydrocarbons cause methane?

    “Hydrocarbons are these tiny little compounds that form a gas called methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that causes climate change.”

    I think she needs to sort out CO2 from methane.

  2. 2012/02/01 12:33 pm

    Agreed, her science needs some refreshing – she’s a lawyer, not a climate scientist. All the more reason we need our elected officials listening to scientists, not shutting them down and pretending everything’s fine.

  3. klem permalink
    2012/02/01 1:00 pm

    But everything IS fine.

    • 2012/02/03 12:19 am

      Sure, Klem, everything is fine. The world has seen more climate disasters in the last two years than it has ever recorded. Dengue fever is invading areas where it previously could not exist. 30,000 children died from the drought in East Africa last summer. In 2010, floods devastated Pakistan and Australia. In 2011, floods devastated large parts of the USA while droughts and wildfires plagued another. Mexico dries and burns. South America floods. Moscow sets temperature records above what has been seen in 1000 years while thousands of Muscovites died of heat prostration.

      And this is just a sampling of how “fine” everything is with the climate.

      • klem permalink
        2012/02/08 10:13 am

        Um, so what were they using for thermometers in Moscow 1000 years ago anyway?

        The thing is, you believe all of that climate fear talk you wrote. How do you people get along each day believing that the world is about to end in a climate catastrophe?

        I’m so glad I’m a climate denier.

        cheers

        But according to Wikipedia “the global warming potential of methane over a 20 year time period is 72.”

        So methane is way more dangerous than she even realizes.

        Wow, they should collect it all and use it in their bar-b-qs to roast thier porterhouse steaks during lunchbreaks at the tarsands sites. Great idea.

  4. nac permalink
    2012/02/01 10:28 pm

    Methane is a hydrocarbon that is smaller than CO2 and 25x more potent as a greenhouse gas. She is right.

  5. 2012/02/03 12:22 am

    Methane is one of the gases released as a by-product of tar sands. As the tar sands get mined, the percentage amounts of methane released will increase over time as poorer and poorer quality tar sands are progressively exploited.

  6. 2012/02/03 7:35 am

    The tar sands mess is just going to get dirtier and dirtier. Thx for providing that extra info, Theo.
    And for more info on methane, here’s a link to a National Science Foundation article on Potentially Large Methane Releases From Arctic, and Climate Change:
    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116534&org=NSF&from=news

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