"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau



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Deep Freeze Smashes Record for Natural Gas Consumption

By Eric Rempel

The headline above, lead an article in the Winnipeg Free Press last Saturday. The article was buried on page C2, and the record was reported almost as if this was an accomplishment. Certainly no concern was expressed. But we should be concerned.

During this cold snap, I had a conversation with two friends, recent immigrants from other parts of the world: one from Congo and the other from Madagascar. The conversation was – you guessed it – about the weather. As I reflected on that conversation, it occurred to me that these two families had migrated to Canada seeking a better life, and I think they have found the political and social stability and economic prosperity they were looking for. But stability and prosperity has no meaning in Canada without a warm house.

In the countries they come from the absence of warmth in a house would not be a defining issue. Without natural gas, life in Congo or Madagascar would be inconvenient, but acceptable. The absence of natural gas would not result in freezing, unbearable conditions. We all know that if, for whatever reason, natural gas were no longer available, many, perhaps most of us would not survive a winter.

That’s right! Here in Canada our survival, or at least life as we know it, depends on the availability of natural gas. But, it seems, this is not something we want to think or talk about. We seem to be totally comfortable taking the availability of natural gas for granted.

So the Free Press story reports that Manitoba Hydro not only set natural gas consumption records two days in a row, but also Hydro set record electricity consumption records on the same days. The story is buried on page C2.

Ha kuhna matata. Life goes on. No reason to worry. So when LNG Canada announces the construction of the largest LNG plant ever at Kitimat BC, this is seen as a major accomplishment! In other words, even though we know that we in Canada are absolutely dependant on natural gas to survive our winters, we applaud the sale of this gas for export. And did you catch who the five major investors in this project are? Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi Corp., The Malaysian-owned Petronas, PetroChina Co., and Korean Gas Corp. Not a single Canadian company.

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are patting themselves on the back as if this a major accomplishment. Whom do they represent? I mean really! Perhaps Canadians who love to pamper themselves, but certainly not our children and grandchildren.

Culpable in this perversion of priorities are not only Trudeau and Chretien, or Harper and Scheer, but most of us.

Not many years ago the Alberta based natural gas companies were promoting gas pipelines throughout southeastern Manitoba. The result is that now, not only is Steinbach utterly dependant on gas piped in from Alberta; so are all the municipalities around Steinbach.

What we should be say to those controlling our gas resources is “You encouraged us to become dependent on your natural gas, Do you now have the right to sell it off-shore?” Why aren’t our political leaders saying this?

Currently this is the story we all buy in to: Natural gas is so cheap, convenient and clean. That’s why we love it! One must be stupid to consider any other way of heating one’s home, business or barn. That’s the story we have bought.

But now assume for a moment that we would not have bought this story – that we would not have piped natural gas into every home business and farm – what would life in southeastern Manitoba be like. Maybe not so bad! I’ll share some of my thinking in that regard next week.

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