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Fuel-efficiency and the tarsands last gasp

The Jacksons, from the Jan. 15, 2015 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

So I see you drove over here Andrew,” said Grant Toews as he leaned back in his chair and picked up his cup of coffee to take a drink. “Three blocks too long of a walk for you? Or did you just not want to put on your warm socks this morning?”

Andrew Jackson looked up from his plate of bacon and eggs. “It is pretty dang cold out there,” he said, “but the truth is, with fuel prices this low, I can’t afford not to drive.”

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“Ain’t that the truth,” said Rodney Flett, who had joined Grant and Andrew a few minutes earlier. “I’m taking the wife to the city this afternoon just so I can save money on gas. I just wish I hadn’t bought such a fuel-efficient car. Because the more gas you use the more money you save.”

“Why don’t you just take the long way to the city?” said Grant. “Go around by Virden.”

“I don’t have enough time,” said Rodney. “That would take all day. I have to be home on time to watch the Jets game on TV. Also if I went around by Virden I’d have to stop for meals, which means all the money I save on gas would just go to pay for food.”

“You could pack a bologna sandwich, or two,” said Andrew.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Rodney. “I like bologna sandwiches. I eat them all the time. They taste great and I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m supporting every type of livestock farming at once.”

“The Jackson Agricultural Corporation thanks you for your support,” said Andrew.

“You’re welcome,” said Rodney. He took a sip of coffee. “You know what I’ve been saying for the last five years?” he continued.

“We have no idea what you’ve been saying for the last five years,” said Grant, “because, frankly, we haven’t been listening.”

“I’ve been saying,” said Rodney, “that Prime Minister Harper’s obsession with sucking dead dinosaurs out of prehistoric tar ponds and then pumping them all across North America through massive pipeline projects can only end in disaster. In fact his obsession is so powerful I think he should be on some kind of meds. That’s what I’ve been saying.”

“That’s why we haven’t been listening,” said Grant. “I’ve been listening now for a minute and a half and already I’m completely bored.”

“Still,” said Andrew, “it’s kind of an interesting perspective.”

“I’m an interesting guy,” said Rodney. “I like to think outside the box.”

“When you say end in disaster,” said Andrew, “what exactly do you mean?”

“What I mean,” said Rodney, “is that the whole tarsands project is going to wind up being a colossal white elephant. Oil prices go down and the tarsands project just sputters and dies. Kind of like the dinosaurs did.”

“And what made you think oil prices would go down?” Andrew wanted to know.

“Lots of things,” said Rodney. “To begin with, the U.S. decision to try to become energy self-sufficient. Also China’s inevitable need to deal with its pollution issues. Add to that the expansion of oil exploration and production around the world, and finally the fact that fears of global warming would drive a revolution in alternative energy development. The end result of all these factors would be a situation where the oil producers in the Middle East would start losing market share and facing competition, which they would counter by dropping prices, because they can afford to do that.”

“Wake me up when this conversation is over,” said Grant.

“Are you saying oil prices aren’t going to go back up?” asked Andrew.

Rodney pushed his chair away from the table and got up. “Exactly,” he said. “Just wait and see.”

Andrew and Grant watched him make his way through the café and out the door.

“Prime Minister Harper will be very disappointed,” said Andrew.

“You think so?” said Grant.

“Obviously,” said Andrew. “He has kind of staked his political future on Canada’s ability to compete in the global energy marketplace. He’s kind of put all his eggs in one tar pit so to speak.”

“So you think Rodney’s right?” said Grant.

“Rodney’s a moron,” said Andrew, “but that doesn’t mean he can’t be right every so often.”

“Good lord,” said Grant. “That’ll be a tough problem for Harper. People will say he should have known the tarsands development was too risky and he’ll have to try to defend his decision to stick so much money in there. Plus people will wonder why it didn’t occur to him that the oil market might shrink and prices go down.”

Andrew put down his coffee. “You can’t blame Harper for that,” he said. “Only a moron could have seen that coming.

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