Fonda’s attack on the oil sands is inconsequential; Trudeau’s is evil.

Immoral Government: “Phasing Out” Fossil Fuels

by | Jan 16, 2017 | Energy

I thought of writing a post to defend the producers of the Canadian oil sands against yet another celebrity attack, after Jane Fonda flew here to lecture people, including the unemployed oil industry workers, to stop consuming fossil fuels and building oil pipelines. However, I found a weightier topic, when shortly after the Fonda visit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a town hall meeting with ‘ordinary Canadians’ that we must “phase out the oil sands” and other fossil fuels, presumably as a part of Canada’s climate change commitment to reduce our “carbon footprint.”

Fonda is just another ignorant celebrity hypocrite who might influence somewhat the views of the most gullible and uninformed. Her visit and pronouncements will be soon forgotten. Trudeau, on the other hand, is Prime Minister and holds the political power to actually phase out the oil sands. That would seriously harm human flourishing, like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne did on a smaller scale, when she phased out coal-powered electricity and tripled its cost in her province by replacing it with unreliable, scarce, and expensive renewable wind and solar energy. Fonda’s attack on the oil sands is inconsequential; Trudeau’s is evil.

To suggest that we should phase out a source of abundant, affordable and reliable source of energy is immoral. The most fundamental reason is that human flourishing depends on such energy. In the future, such energy may come from different sources, but most of world’s energy (over 80%) today comes from fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal). Fossil fuels heat or cools our homes and workplaces; powers our agriculture, means of transportation, factories, and hospitals; and help save lives when natural disasters strike. Energy from fossil fuels has made possible division of labor that has led to new innovations (in fields such as medicine and sanitation, among others), reduced poverty, and helped enhance human life expectancy by decades.

The argument for stopping the use of fossil fuels so as to reduce carbon emissions and thus to prevent climate change, which allegedly is jeopardizing human flourishing, is also dubious. The climate is always changing, and the impact of human carbon emissions on it has not been established. While the carbon content of the atmosphere has increased slightly since the Industrial Revolution, temperatures have fluctuated, and some research (as reported by Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post) shows that a mini ice age has already begun. Human flourishing requires CO2 (more than the current levels, for optimal crop yields) and a sufficiently warm climate.

While Trudeau advocated phasing out all fossil fuels, he singled out the Canadian oil sands. That is completely unwarranted.  Even if human carbon emissions contributed to climate change, phasing out the Canadian oil sands, at less than 1% of the total global emissions, would not make a dent (and it would not make Trudeau the climate change warrior hero he apparently clamors to be). Moreover, the companies producing oil from the oil sands in Canada do it without violating individual rights and continually innovate to increase efficiency, minimize pollution, conserve water, and improve land reclamation. If we want to enhance human flourishing, it would be better to “phase out” oil production in countries that use its proceeds to sponsor terrorism or otherwise violate their citizens’ rights.

Finally, it is immoral for a head of a government to propose phasing out any industry and company. Such action violates the right of business to produce and trade freely—another requirement of human flourishing. Instead, government should limit itself to its only proper role: protecting its citizens’—including businesses’—freedom of thought and action by preventing and punishing initiation of physical force or fraud.

We can do our part for human freedom and flourishing by challenging evil ideas and speaking up against them when they are proposed, particularly by those with political power.

Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

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The views expressed represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine.

5 Comments

  1. In countries like Canada and the U.S., we need gatekeepers, or checks, to keep entities like Trudeau from getting into any elective or appointive office. Countries are supposed to be run by governments under law as properly defined, not by criminal regimes by their criminal plans. Mike Kevitt

  2. Those who advocate “phasing out” fossil fuels, like all policies elevating environment or nature over humans with individual rights, are arguing to increase death and suffering of human beings.

  3. Claim: “While the carbon content of the atmosphere has increased slightly since the Industrial Revolution”

    Fact: CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased by almost 50% since the start of the Industrial Revolution (and with little sign of slowing down).

    Claim: “temperatures have fluctuated”

    Fact: The recent five-year mean is 0.6C above the 1950-1980 baseline. 2016 was the warmest year on record. 2015 is second. 2014 is third. And that’s just the atmosphere. The oceans have warmed by about 0.5C as well, which represents a massive amount of heat absorption, akin to an H-bomb going off every second for the last 50 years.

    Claim: “Even if human carbon emissions contributed to climate change, phasing
    out the Canadian oil sands, at less than 1% of the total global
    emissions, would not make a dent”

    Fact: No single source of human carbon emissions is a significant percentage. You can take any one of them individually, and it’s no big deal. But all of them together are potentially disastrous.

    Claim: “some research (as reported by Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post) shows that a mini ice age has already begun”

    Fact: The referenced researcher is a solar physicist with no experience in climatology. Given the recent warm years, there’s no evidence his claims are true.

    Claim: “Human flourishing requires CO2 (more than the current levels”

    Fact: Humans flourished for millennia with CO2 at around 280 ppm. There are no guarantees that humans are going to flourish at any other level.

  4. If climate change truly is the result human activity, there is no chance it can be undone by governmental action of c. 200 sovereign states, all of whom have conflicting priorities. Live long and prosper!

  5. For better or for worse, you’re probably right. We’re almost certainly going to find out how significant going from 280 ppm to 450 ppm is.

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