Good Sunday Morning 23 February

Hello everyone, I do hope this Sunday morning finds you well.  Elizabeth and I have been home in BC for two whole days, going back to Ottawa this afternoon.  Sure is nice to breathe some fine BC air, even for just a little while.

The  Wet’suwet’en blockage of Coastal Gaslink, and the sympathetic blockades across the country have of course been the subject of intense debates and discussions and one-on-one meetings in Ottawa and across the country.  They are not likely to get less so in the week to come. 

It seems to me unfortunate that the Prime Minister was not able to muster up just a little more patience – he said in his press conference on Thursday that the federal government had done all it could, that the barricades had to come down, and that it was up to indigenous leaders now to make the shifts – the fear shared by many is that some hot-headed police leader will decide that he has been given license to move with force to dismantle some blockade – should that happen, this whole thing could go quickly out of control across the country. 

It seems to me as well that the government could fruitfully have followed the suggestions made by Elizabeth and by Jody Wilson-Raybould, and asked all parties for a cooling-off period.  Get Coastal Gaslink to stop its preconstruction work, move the RCMP out of Wet’suwet’en territory, ask the Mohawk to get their blockades down, and get everyone back to the table.  Deal straight up with the Supreme Court decision that the Wet’suwet’en own the land, get the company to move its pipeline to the location that the Wet’suwet’en have suggested, and cool everyone’s jets.  That this whole situation could erupt just because a company, a heavily subsidized company, does not want to spend some extra money and time to put their new line where one already exists speaks volumes to the priorities we continue to accept as governing principles in this country.  Bah, humbug.

But: speaking of money and time, it is astonishing and encouraging to see how fast the movement of the world’s financial community away from fossil fuels is accelerating.  Everywhere – the US, Australia, Europe, Africa, China – everywhere, people are finally waking up.  The shareholders of Australian coal companies are demanding that the companies get out of the business that has made them rich[1], US hedge funds are bailing[2], European regulators are getting tough[3], in the UK, financial disclosure of climate risks became an election issue[4], and on and on it goes.  There is hardly a single smart new dollar flowing to big oil & gas anywhere in the world.

Big financial people truly do care only about money, not about your kids or mine or even their own. But they are at last realizing that the world will not go on as it has, and that the age of fossil fuels is, in hard cold fact, going to be forced to end.  If they don’t get out now, they’ll lose money.  So they’re getting out now.  If you watch the finance news as I do, you too will be greatly cheered by how fast it’s starting to happen.

Combine this sense of a real “existential crisis” (imagine seeing the Financial Times describe global warming that way – that’s new language for them), with the hard cold fact that it’s increasingly difficult to make money with any new projects, and the run away from fossils gets even faster.  The price of natural gas, the price of oil are dropping consistently as new techniques make development and exploitation of cheap projects more and more simple and rapid.   Prices will never again (barring someone like a US President starting a war) be high enough to make any but the cheapest projects financially viable.  Woodfibre? LNG Canada?  Teck Frontier?  Not a chance that any of them will ever make a nickel. 

The gas and oil promoters are starting now to say that various bits and pieces of delays and regulations and protests may make it “impossible” to build our Coastal Gaslink[5], that government holdups may make it “impossible” for Teck to proceed with the Frontier Mine[6].  This is just scapegoating, smoke without mirrors.  LNG Canada does not have a chance of proceeding with gas at $1.85 per mcf.  Teck’s breakeven for Frontier is somewhere between $65 and $80 per barrel – oil’s not going there again.  These projects will not make it out of the starting gate.  Not that this will stop the companies now in them from trying to milk us, the public, for every nickel they can get before they finally pull the plug.  But pull the plug they will.  And won’t that be a cheerful day?  

I know I risk boring you by going on and on about this, but it’s getting exciting to have conversations with people in government, finance, law, and industry about this.  One can talk now about massive rapid disruption of the oilpatch without being seen as just another Green loony – when the conversation is also being carried by Warren Buffet and Mark Carney, suddenly it gains a whole new currency.  Maybe, just maybe, the transition will actually happen soon enough to save even the financiers’ children.

Cheers to all, talk to you again next Sunday,

John

ps: as always, love to get your responses and comments on kidder at telus dot net.                  


[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-australias-big-bet-on-coal-is-about-to-go-from-economic-saviour-to/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/14/business/dealbook/larry-fink-blackrock-climate-change.html

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-21/why-eu-climate-weapon-is-in-the-financial-fine-print-quicktake

[4] https://impactalpha.com/stock-market-climate-mandates-are-on-the-ballot-in-u-k-election/

[5] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-is-there-a-chance-that-coastal-gaslink-pipeline-investors-will-walk/

[6] https://business.financialpost.com/commodities/mining/teck-warns-frontier-oilsands-mine-rejection-could-lead-to-1-1-billion-in-impairment-charges