Kumbaya: An Opera with David Suzuki & the PC Party, with a soprano entrance by Danielle Smith…

Not my words… I borrowed it from Todd Babiak from the Edmonton Journal, who I don’t know where he got it from but anyway here it goes. BTW I imagine …

It was the subtext of a musical sketch at their convention last month in Calgary. Dave Hancock, education minister and Red Tory, sang a version of Kumbaya with Finance Minister Ted Morton, who would have trouble saying the word “progressive” without lifting his upper lip ever so slightly.

“Someone is slashing, Lord. Kumbaya,” sang Hancock.

“Someone is spending, Lord. Kumbaya,” sang Morton.

“Someone’s abandoning, Lord. Kumbaya,” with David Suzuki, Morton and Hancock  all chiming in to form a bizarre trio, with Danielle Smith providing a lovely but only slightly dissonant soprano to complete the quartet.

This is a well known operatic device used by composers to weave opposing themes into a common motif, one that is typically the melody that plays over and over in your head after you leave the theatre. The interesting thing about it though is how protagonist and antagonist are saying exactly the opposite but somehow saying the same thing and what you are saying despite the beautiful tune is oh boy this isn’t going to end well for the baritone (that’s me, I have been killed, run out of town and sent to hell more times than I can remember)!

These are the bedfellows we have created in this Province and quite frankly it is not good AND it is a sure ticket to ensuring that 60% of Albertans, many of which are well educated Calgarians and urban voters stay home and the quartet continues. The boys in the PC Party and Ms. Smith NEED Dr. Suzuki and Dr. Suzuki NEEDS them. My dear Alberta Party colleagues and anyone else who is willing to listen, we don’t need any of them.

I watched with interest last night a repeat of the Suzuki Diaries on CBC. I have tremendous respect for Dr. Suzuki, but as I watch him travel through Europe on high speed trains (I voted for this policy by the way, with mass transit for ALL Albertans) and buzz down the canals on a solar powered boat with his daughter, even she commented on how peaceful and content he was. The yelling and bullying is over. He drew attention to critically important matters back in the 70’s and 80’s. We all get it. The only ones left to “yell” at now are the aforementioned quartet and their insistence on pushing through with their oil soaked agenda, which in turn “fuels” the “fire” of Dr. Suzuki et al. The yelling has now turned to “mutual admiration and respect, despite the fact that we don’t see eye to eye on every issue” sings the wise old Uncle, Ed, to begin the opera (every great opera always begins with a sense of foreshadowing by an uncle, apothecary or servant).

In my mind’s eye I see them all gathered around one of my gas wells, the flame burning out slowly, to match with my dwindling corporate bank account. The LEFT part of the concert hall (privately funded by Bullfrog AND EnCana) swaying back and forth while the good Doctor sings (every great opera has a Doctor in it) visions of windmills and geysers dancing in their head like some Disney Fantasianesque dream. The RIGHT lulled to sleep as the cannons fire and dancing scarecrows waltz back and forth scaring the ducks and migratory birds off the tailings ponds. Oh yes and there’s the choir at the ERCB singing ever so softly so as to not give the audience a clue whose side they’re on. The baritone is about to shatter this Elysian dream with a resounding cymbal crash… I’m sure you can see that unless this quartet is broken up and the audience scared ___________ out of their snooze, this is not going to go well.

With a flaming natural gas torch he rides onto the stage in his NGV powered chariot and demands an answer. It is at that point that the ERCB shrugs as choruses often do and the quartet starts into a typical patter, another operatic technique where upon Elysium being uncovered for what it really is, a hodgepodge of Don Quixote windmills, dancing Disney geysers, and Wagnerian pools of tar, each side starts quickly into blaming the other! At this point the baritone breaks into a lonely, questioning and often confused Aria which is drowned out completely by the argumentative patter and shrugging chorus. Often as the baritone lays dying on the stage, his tune plays quietly while everyone stares wondering if maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. He just wanted the girl, but alas she always went for the tenor and the good Doctor despite his potions can’t really save anyone.

Did I mention as often happens with choruses, they get split offstage somewhere and come out as separate entities. Did I mention that somehow in all of the confusion that the quartet took the natural gas and burned the village down. As the baritone lays dying the homeless from their burned and charred villages mix in with the still shrugging “merchant chorus” (the ERCB, yes the ERCB has been voted last year as one of the Top 50 COMPANIES, yes that’s what I said, to work for) but I digress from the poignant moment in the opera when the baritone sings with his last dying breath, his “death Aria”.

“60% of our natural gas exports were halted to the land across the border. You did nothing. You all fought and argued amongst yourselves until there was nothing left. You didn’t consult the farmers in the village to move their cattle and you killed them in the downdraft of your windmills. You decimated the birds and bats so that now we have even more mosquitoes than we did before and the people you didn’t leave with nothing, now have malaria (long drawn out note for effect) because your tax cuts left no $$ for hospitals and the private companies that funded your hospitals with “donations” and fancy wards dedicated to them dried up because they were heavily weighted in natural gas and when the exports dried up and you didn’t do anything to replace demand but only focussed on your windmills and geysers and shit from the cattle and pushing your agenda of heavy oil which killed all the ducks and migratory birds. Why couldn’t you all just work together to create a MODERATE SOCIETY. He dies, but not before lighting a ring of fire, natural gas of course, as everyone sings a haunting final chorus, not sure how it all went so terribly wrong. The Doctor tries to give him a last minute potion of sunshine and heated water mixed with, nah I better not go there, but to no avail he pronounces him dead and the curtain falls.

Hey, its opera it has to be over dramatized. Only this time folks, the curtain falls forever on this great place we call home.

The PC/WAP alliance has all but destroyed the domestic natural gas business by their indifference and flip flopping and the ERCB has been completely complicit in the operation in the rush to bolster oilsands development and fund the Minister’s trips to Abu Dhabi. The “green” side has presented many worthy and viable alternatives that are fraught with unproven economics and are completely unscalable. We have no ocean to build a wall of windmills on. We have vast, beautiful, open prairie sky, that will be completely obliterated if we are to construct enough wind turbines to completely replace our energy needs. Fly into Abilene, Texas and drive down the highway and everywhere you look there is a wind turbine. It is a mess. Geothermal is a worthy choice, eventually after we figure out how to deal with the staggering cost. And solar? Have you ever seen a solar farm in New Jersey or California? In New Jersey vast tracts of arable and cultivatable land are being turned into solar farms to attract the massive tax rebates? Hmmm think about what I just said. We glorify the renewable resource Mecca Europe as the good Doctor does in his diary, and so we should, as many of the amazing things that they’ve done should be applauded BUT, why do they do this? Europe as in the major winemakers (my favourite part) isn’t blessed with an overabundance of natural resources (read hydrocarbons). In places where it exists there is significant and potentially catastrophic results from ACTIVE seismology and ruins and artifacts that even SUNCOR wouldn’t want to construct a tailings pond over. Much of the natural gas flows from Russia, hmmm, I will leave you to ponder that for a bit. Their oil comes from seas that make Wagner’s Flying Dutchman look like a paddle across the pond. More importantly their infrastructure was left in shambles after the 2nd World War, and we cannot comprehend what needed to be done to bring it back let alone move it forward. With a Cold War in place, little infrastructure, and difficult and risky hydrocarbon development, you can’t help but bring a quixotic vision into place.

BUT the key to all of this that we forget, Europeans are willing to pay more. Here is yesterday’s close (per 1000 BTUs):

UK NBP (Day Ahead):  $8.02 +12¢
Netherlands TTF (Day Ahead):  $7.83 -4¢
Zeebrugge (Day Ahead):  $7.92 +10¢

Here is AECO (Alberta) Spot:  $3.72 -1¢

Here is NYMEX (New York) Dec10:  $4.007 -2.3¢

Based on what the Dutch and British are shelling out, anyone want to volunteer to tell people that their ENMAX/Direct Energy bill is going up. Anyone in Washington want to tell the Tea Party what the real cost of shale gas drilling is?? Cheap cheap cheap that is the mantra. I don’t want to pay for it, but you need to give it to me because I deserve it. This is faulty logic and it is leading to UNPROVEN and potentially harmful development in the race for who can SAY they are the cheapest, all the while knowing that the full cost accounting is not really there.

In the same diary, the good doctor laughs and jokes with a politician who derides the detractors of his vegetable oil run Reichstadt in Berlin. Incredibly impressive but it is run off rapeseed oil which is grown he laughs “not anywhere near the Reichstadt”. Yah achtung! Food for fuel mein herr to power the Parliament! I perhaps can understand some of the skepticism. BTW Europe despite its valiant efforts on the renewables front consumes vast amounts of hydrocarbons but has been switching more and more as a transitional fuel, while others are being PROVEN to natural gas. Interestingly enough in the dying aria above, the cow shit was mentioned. Massive bio fuel movement in Europe to do what? Produce METHANE GAS from dung. Ah yes something the Europeans have also realized, agricultural waste, A MASSIVE CONTRIBUTOR TO GREENHOUSE GASSES BUT WHAT IS THE END RESULT? METHANE GAS. It’s not different gas folks, it just sounds better if it comes from a feedlot with industrialized food production than if I drill for it. My wells in Saskatchewan are 90% Methane and involve a wellhead no bigger than the size of one of those green telephone boxes at the end of a SUBURBAN street. My wells in Thorsby, Alberta 75% Methane gas. All of which is rendered basically uneconomic by the rush to bring oil out of the ground and falling “industrial demand”, yet oil prices  ARE GOING UP, hmm. Volvo one of the world’s largest truck companies has mused lately about discontinuing manufacture of diesel or gasoline based trucks and manufacturing only NGV. A full NGV truck fleet alone would wipe out ALL of the surplus nat gas we have and make shale gas drilling and development slow in comparison to what the demand would look like.

BUT not only do we have lots of cows and pigs, we have thousands of miles of transmission lines, thousands of facilities that are 100% SELF CONTAINED. I use byproduct and/or “waste” gas to run the majority of our producing facilities, so no extraneous gas or power is used to generate our natural gas production. Do you realize if you travel North or South on the QE2 and see the flaming torches in the middle of the night that we have the infrastructure and engineering to ensure that NONE of that flared gas would EVER be flared again and ALL of it could be captured into the transmission system. The quartet previously mentioned does nothing about this vast CONVENTIONAL resource that we have. In order for Albertans to truly get their “fair share” we should be supporting green development, which is 100% possible, of our conventional gas resources by ensuring truly economic pricing for producers that allow them to feed 100% of that gas into providing heat AND POWER for ALL ALBERTANS including the aformentioned’s friends in the Oilsands. We could reduce our dependency on fresh water resources significantly by recycling gas back into “the oilsands system”. Once again though, enter the junkets by the energy minister, we are GIVING IT AWAY. 60% of our nat gas goes South (Calgary Herald Page D1, November 19th, 2010). Stability in pricing will come from developing a robust domestic market by getting rid of dirty fuels and beginning a revolution in our thinking. THEN when we have only 20-30% to sell back to the US we will see how much they are willing to pay for OUR resources!! We WILL NOT win the 60% of voters who don’t turn out if the vast majority who are highly educated, and AWARE citizens, and professionals who are employed in the NATURAL GAS INDUSTRY (which represents the majority of producers in this province) if they see exports dry up (due to supposed supplies of US shale gas), zero domestic market (with little domestic gas development in Alberta, Ontario is considering increased pipeline transmission FROM the US!!!) and rhetoric convincing them that upon being laid off sun, wind and/or pig farming will be their new vocation.

We must work together. WE MUST MODERATE. We must explore ALL energy sources and truly make Alberta a GLOBAL LEADER in energy. We also must understand that a balance must be struck between ensuring fair and economic pricing for consumers AND producers, and we can in fact begin to change the way we “do energy”. Also think about every “independent” out there running their own “grid”, doing their own thing, “sticking it to the man”. I’m interested to know how the workers at our utilities and energy companies would feel about that when they get their pink slip but you “are off the grid”. It will be interesting to see how the Jubilee Auditorium and Winspear Centre pack ’em in with donations from the SUNNYSIDE NEIGHBOURHOOD INDEPENDENT POWER PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION (SNIPPA), Dr. Swann’s neighbourhood. In addition, who will regulate all of the “energy producers” to ensure that they are doing the right thing safely, effectively and in a way which does zero impact to their fellow citizens. Our company, Sandbox Energy Corp. has a subsidiary, GasPlants Inc., part of our mission statement is “doing energy differently”. We have engineering to convert 100% of waste gas from production facilities to “gas for greenhouses, not greenhouse gasses”. It can be done. I fully believe in the process of getting us there BUT IT IS A PROCESS.

Often operas were based on “morality plays” or “lessons from society”. They poked fun at, or dramatically downright subverted the authority of the day with music and text. The people got it. So how does this one end? Does the curtain come up, with a collective sigh of relief that says “whoo it’s a good thing we all worked together to make sure that Alberta NEVER became that place. BRAVO!!” Or does the curtain NEVER come up and Alberta becomes a battleground of “green” unproven, uneconomic kneejerk reaction PLUS a “no plan” approach to oilsands development and giving it away to our “neighbours” to the South, and our “neighbours” ahem, in our global neighbourhood of China, Spain, Norway etc, while all the while taking a namby pamby approach to coal LOBBY fired electricity. In the meantime allowing a safer, greener, viable and vast resource which forms the backbone of this Province and COULD BE SO MUCH MORE to completely go to economic ruin and waste??

I would COMPOSE that if we ALL work together this chorus is going to be incredible and a grand and glorious melody for the world to hear. We choose how it ends.

~ by lotsofenergy aka Chris D. Tesarski on November 19, 2010.

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