Interview with the Rt. Hon. Edward R. Schreyer
During May 19th-20th the 4th International Workshop on Oil and Gas Depletion Conference was held in Lisbon, Portugal. Edward Schreyer participated on a panel 'The Oil Depletion Protocol: Panel Discussion on Political Action'. His communication from the event titled 'Global Energy Crisis Emergent' can be found here.
On Dec. 15th, 2005 Schreyer announced his candidacy in Canada's 2006 Federal election. An unprecedented move for a former Governor General.
All media in Canada has focused solely on controversial comments that Schreyer made nearly 20 years ago. This interview is the only one that uncovers his true motivations for returning to politics.
If Schreyer is successful in his campaign he plans to raise the issue of Peak Oil in the House of Commons. To date, no politician in Canada has openly discussed Peak Oil in Canada's Parliament.
Schreyer's political career began at the age of 22. On December 21st,2005 he will be 70 years old.
Why is that a man like Schreyer must come out of retirement in order for Peak Oil to be brought to Parliament. Furthermore, why has Canada's media not made mention of his intentions. These are important questions that need to be addressed for the sake of Canada's future.
Edward Schreyer :
Premier of Manitoba 1969-77
Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief 1979-84
Canadian High Commissioner to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands & Ambassador to Vanuatu 1984-88
Visiting professor at universities in Canada & Europe on Energy & Strategic Resources in Global Context 1990 - 2002
Chancellor, Brandon University, Brandon, Canada 2002
National Representative for Habitat for Humanity
Honorary Director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund
Director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Sat. Dec. 17th 2005
Interview length 40 min
CRAWFORD: Has 'Peak Oil and Energy Availability' had any influence on your
decision to run in this Federal election?
CRAWFORD: If elected, will you raise the issue of 'Peak Oil' on the floor of the House of Commons?
SCHREYER: You bet.
CRAWFORD: What solutions/preparations are you advocating for?
SCHREYER: To begin the transition to renewables and subside or diminish the rate of depletion of Oil and gas. That is the first step to being the transition now because the lead times involved are very considerable.
CRAWFORD: What message do you have for the youth of this country in dealing with their uncertain future?
SCHREYER: To continue your insistence on better conservation and efficiency efforts and continue to improve those standards and those efforts. To watch the current generation of policy makers to see whether they are making real and genuine efforts towards conservation, efficiency and renewables as opposed to doing lip service and press release service only.
CRAWFORD: Has anything come as a result of being involved with the 4th International Workshop on Oil and Gas Depletion held in Lisbon during May of 2005, were any relationships forged with fellow participants such as Matthew Simmons, Colin Campbell, Richard Heinberg??
SCHREYER: I have had the most contact with Colin Campbell. In fact I've been to his home.
I think these conferences are important but could become much more so if media attention were more genuinely involved and by that I mean that its hard to know, without doing a systematic investigation of the matter, but it seems to me that the media has certainly not given particular attention to the oil and gas depletion issue and its impossible to know, or at least so far we have not been able to find out, if this is something that is a matter of deliberate policy or whether its something that is decided at the writers desk or whether its decided in the publishers and editors boardrooms. But either way no one would surely argue the point, the point being that thus far the media has given very disproportionately small attention to what I consider to be one the most dramatic issues looming on the horizon.
The reason for this, I'm sorry I can not explain to you, simply because I do not understand it myself.
[Later in the interview Schreyer added]
...why is it that media is not giving more attention, not just during this election campaign but in the past 5 years to peak oil and oil depletion an so on. I believe that there is a media strategy or at least a media pre inclination to minimize the coverage or conversely to play it off against the 'there's lots of oil' lobby.
I don't know if you have noticed but there is peculiar sort of double campaign or self-canceling campaign going on here. The best example I can give you of that is Chevron Oil and also BP. Now BP they have changed their name and logo by having a logo of the sun and the word bp is spelled out as beyond petroleum. Now in the same vein, Chevron later about 4-5 months began an advertising campaign 'Will You join us'. When you read it at first its seems all very genuine and dramatic evidence or acceptance of the notion that the word depletion really does mean something to them, that they are finally acknowledging that. But in the case of both of them notwithstanding all this, they later go on in lengthier statements to imply that there is enough oil for the next 30-40 years . You can hardly blame people who haven't had the chance or the time to do in depth research. You can hardly blame them for getting completely confused. However if you look carefully at the Chevron statement and weigh it against the peak oil message it isn't a complete contradiction. Because peak oil says that there will be, unquestionably, there will be oil around but that the ability to produce it in a way that is commensurate with demand will slowly and steadily diminish and the consequence of the demand gap is that immediately the price goes haywire - thats with Peak Oil and Chevron says enough for 30 years and well, yeah, but they don't however make it clear that within those 30 years there will be oil but there will not be enough to meet demand necessarily and that's something they fudge.
CRAWFORD: In your communication for the Peak Oil conference, titled 'Global Energy Crisis Emergent' you state "In this respect I am not a pessimist. I am at one with those who do believe that many citizens wish to be responsible toward the environment and toward the next generation by avoiding the fast track depletion of oil and gas which are also major contributors to CO2 emissions and POSSIBLE climate change."
For clarification, do you support the theory that climate change is real? and that CO2 emissions are a leading contributor to climate change?
SCHREYER: I support the view that the theory is certainly sound science. The offered examples of the acts of commencement of climate change are often times persuasive enough especially in high latitudes in the Arctic and subarctic. But thus far the evidence is slightly short of being conclusive. But there is no doubt that 30 billion tons of CO2 per year is a prelude to some extreme event and thats about all I can say. I mean, I feel that the amount of emissions already taking place is bound to cause problems its just too vast a scale to be innocent much longer. I know that some writers try to attack the science of climate change warnings. I don't think they are succeeding.... where they do succeed to some extent is where some that write on this subject and over stretch in drawing connections for example between the hurricane season and climate-change. I think that is over-stretching and in trying to make that case they lend themselves to a some what persuasive rebuttal by the nay-sayers.
But here is where I consider to be a very sound public policy guideline in this case something called the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is that if you have the prospect of overwhelming negative results or consequences and if this can be fended off or postponed or delayed by adopting a policy and course of action that succeeds in putting off that prospect then why not follow it. Simply as a matter of common sense precaution.
I feel very strongly, in fact thats one of 6 main reasons I'm in this campaign at the age of 70. Is that we could be practicing following some very common-sense very sound precautionary principles that would cost the Canadian economy in net terms virtually nothing. Because sure there would be some costs but there would be tremendous benefit spread apart from the major future questions.
We are not doing it and its a great pity and it may in a few short years be something that we will regret tremendously and the future generations will curse us for it.
We are not doing it and its not as though it would cost us any unmanageable amount of money.
This is just so frustrating that I can bare it no longer.
CRAWFORD: What is the NDP's position on Peak Oil?
SCHREYER: You would be better served by contacting the national campaign office because I haven't had an opportunity to communicate with anybody on this issue and for the next 40 days or so I will be out in the rural areas so I will not be able to answer this question.
CRAWFORD: How did you become a member of the Energy Council of Canada ?
SCHREYER: I simply received an invitation one day [this year] from the offices of the Energy Council of Canada asking if I would interested in becoming a member and I accepted.
CRAWFORD: You mentioned that you have 6 main reasons for running in this election, what are those reasons:
- Agriculture, rural life and the decline of towns especially across the entire prairies.
- Energy and the Environment
- The Reform of Parliament
- Parliament authority of effective committee's
A simple but all important point is that if you solve one problem we automatically solve the other. We fail in one, we fail in both these are inexplicably intertwined both depletion of non-renewables and the amount of emissions we produce. Some people seem to want to rate one as more important or imminent than the other, but in fact they are inseparable.
The reform of parliament so that parliament can clean up cabinet. So that cabinet reinforced to its former status can hold people in meaningful check on the opposite of the Prime Minister's office, which has become increasingly presidential.
There to is an interconnection to hold the Prime Minister's office in check. To ensure that the Prime Minister functions and the office functions in relation to cabinet like it used to 100 years ago. Which is to say collegial, collective responsibility first among equals but not a president, not a king. Cabinet has got to get back to making decisions in a collegial, collective way instead of log-rolling. By log-rolling I mean the rather lazy habit, although it does save a lot of time, but its a very bad habit of decisions being made between the minister and the Prime Minister and then in another case another Minister and the Prime Minister so that a lot of decisions of quite some importance and scale are being made in recent years by a one-on-one instead of a collegial fashion.
This is a bad habit and it has got to be stopped because it is part of the reason why we have such recurring problems with corruption and sleaze. Because things are not being hammered out on a collegial basis, except on far too infrequent basis. For this to happen I can't help to think that parliament has to re assert itself. The individual member of parliament has been marginalized over the past couple of decades and because of that cabinets tend to not be held responsible, the issue of transparency is circumvented often.
Its ironic isn't it because cabinet government initially 100 yrs ago meant responsible government. The term responsible government means that the cabinet is responsible to the electorate democratic institution of parliament. That doesn't seem to happen anymore. All to often the members of the back bench on both sides are treated rather indifferently. I think its because of the excessive degree of party discipline and both sides of and etc, etc and there to, it is an integrated linkage.
Which leads to my next point, A reformed parliament would give more status and more authority to the members of parliament.
Another way to ensure this happens is to give parliament the authority to have a really meaningful system of committees and right here, I will borrow a page from the American congressional system, in so far as committees are concerned. By that I mean that more subjects of crucial public importance ought to be investigated and investigatable by committees in Parliment. They should be given the authority to summon witnesses and to take testimony under oath and then with that to start in on the task such as - to give you some examples - to hold accountable executives in Canada and the whole idea of governance of a corporation so that they can regain control of executive salaries that have become scandalous and which have risen out of control. There is no system in Canada to deal with this phenomenon but it has become so ridiculous that it has become scandalous. I'm referring to the fact that boards of directors which are supposed to govern the executives hired and CEO's and vice presidents ... There is no mechanism for keeping a lid on it. In some companies of course they do a reasonable job. But, in too many cases they aren't holding the lid. and when they don't there is not a blessed thing anyone can do about it. Shareholders certainly can't there is no effective way for shareholders to regain control of a large modern business. Then the abuse section. For example, CIBC, allowing its executive echelon to hand out 2.2 billion dollars and then the president decides that maybe enough is a enough and he resigns after signing 2.2 billion dollar payout and he's given a 50 million dollar parking dock bonus for good work.
We will never know what was so egregious that they would do that and if they say well they settled, they weren't guilty and they just settled. There is the horn of the dilemma they have breached one of their most important duties which is judiciary trust. They settled out of court, they weren't compelled to, they willingly did so, which means they breached their trust by simply trashing away 2 billion dollars of shareholder's money. So the whole thing is just a scandal. At least in a parliamentary committee where you could, if no where else, you could compel testimony under oath and could get to the bottom of the why and where for of it all.