Thoughts and Things

This is my blog for random thoughts on the events in my daily life.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pipelines - Stop Protesting Them and Stop Encouraging Them

Ok, so we've got a hot topic here. How do we protect the environment and "encourage" pipelines and why?
Many of my friends and people that I look up to are against pipelines because they are infrastructure that requires extensive investment, which would be better spent transitioning to a more sustainable economy. Ok. Good point.

What is the response then to those who are looking for work, and being told that the economy is down because of oil prices, but getting access to tide water would make our oil production more competitive, and help revive that same oil economy that used to employ them?

For this reason, primarily, I think that we need to stop being anti-pipeline, and start being pro sustainable economy. I know that sounds like the same thing... but the message is not the same.

The first step is to continue to promote the message that global warming is expensive. The number of denialists is diminishing daily, but what does it mean? Well, it's going to be expensive to deal with the effects, by many estimates billions in Canada, and trillions globally. Let's start hammering that home, so that carbon taxes look like they're not going far enough.

Next, what does a sustainable economy look like? (and no, I'm not talking about us all becoming teachers) The jobs that the oil patch produces, jobs for people who don't mind working hard, for long hours, when the pay is good, and the necessary education is limited, those are the jobs we need to consider replacing. Those jobs will need to exist for some time to come, as those are the people that will drive the construction of the infrastructure that is needed to support a sustainable economy. Eventually though, we can expect a decline in jobs that require hard physical labour and little education as technology continues to innovate. At that point we need Mincome, or negative tax, or whatever you want to call a guaranteed income, which will allow people to work at whatever they want, including creative jobs that we haven't yet thought of.

The question is what will be the economic drivers of tomorrow? Infrastructure building, teaching, etc. are part of the economy, but they're not the fuel in the economic engine. Manufacturing, agriculture, and resources are Canada's historical strength. The number of jobs in agriculture is dropping as technology makes large scale farming more and more efficient. Resource jobs are tied to cyclical price trends, and can be difficult to make sustainable while competing in a global market, however, I think they are still a good chunk of the jobs of the future. Manufacturing is being driven out of Canada by a lack of labour protection in other countries, and a rush to the lowest cost labour markets, which Canada just can't compete with (and shouldn't). To be competitive Canada has to lower the cost of energy, and resources necessary in the manufacturing chain, and/or work to raise the cost of labour globally (no small task, but worth considering).

It seems the well paid oil jobs of the future don't exist (no... there aren't going to be enough wind farm and solar field jobs in the short term to replace the oil patch, but they may help east the transition). Forestry, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing jobs are all getting shipped to places where the pay is less, and environmental protection is lax, or they are being lost to more efficient automated technology. So forgive the oil industry it's attempt to keep those high paying hard working jobs, and look to ways to encourage resource and manufacturing industries to try to fill the gaps, at least in the short term. Pipeline jobs only have so much time left, especially once the accountants start assigning the cost of global warming to the oil industry through mechanisms like carbon tax, but let economics drive the decline, because protests are just pissing off the people who used to be able to make such good money in the oil patch. Put energy into supporting a more complete accounting, and better protection of the commons, rather than stopping something that currently has a strong economic impetus.