operating manual to the future

Last Show the Last Day in Grand Prairie

For the past two decades Grand Prairie has been a notable stop while out playing the Canadian festival circuit. Sixty-three thousand make their home tucked up against the Rockies where a boundless prairie hits its westernmost edge. Further south a favorite hot spring, Miette in Jasper National Park beckons after a month of shows. I do love getting myself into hot water.

 Grand Prairie is located come boom or bust on two of the largest oil and gas plays in North America, the Montney and Duvernay basins. You want to play politician in this region then you are immediately sucked into the commodities market. The price of rapeseed, pulp timber, and natural gas are the leading indicators of your political viability polls.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau somehow (take that America) passed a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade type arrangement, promising to disburse the funds back to the nation’s taxpayers. There’s a lot of moaning, groaning, finger pointing, blame gaming and outright calls from the prairie provinces for secession, this one named after a bunny rabbit, a Wexit. The alleged unfairness of this taxation has sparked outrage among a handful of hotheaded Albertans they echo the same sentiments of some yahoo types down in Wyoming.

The Carbon Tax Hat Trick

Circumstances remain much the same for Wyoming and Alberta.  Nobody wants to be the fool politician who advocates for exiting from the fossil fuel business. Trudeau isn’t saying he wants to exit, he’s just capping and trading, hoping the price signal will wink-wink, nod-nod its way down in value while renewable technologies and other more tenable business opportunities emerge.

Politics being the art of the possible and not the perfect kind only got half a loaf on this cap-and-trade tax. I’d have urged Ottawa, hell I’d urge Washington to put a tax on fossil fuels and instead of rebating this tax to every voter across the fruited plain instead target the revenues to the communities that are getting hammered by the changes. Targeting is the operative concept here, if you work in Midland this doesn’t go lost on you.

Fearless Spectator in Hot Water

Instead, Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney has been fighting to get his province’s fossil fuels pumped to Houston through the on again-off again XL Keystone Pipeline. Fighting to keep the fossil fuels flowing Kenney has run off into the wilds of wonderland issuing a report grounded in climate-denial science, bizarre conspiracy theories and oil-industry propaganda. The Oglala Lakota Water Protectors have found our new President Biden joining their fight in the neverending eternal work of keeping their peoples water pure and safe.

Wyoming don’t you worry about coming in second place in the smear and fear game, try this on for size, there is “a new breed of zealots less interested in saving Planet Earth than in destroying the capitalist system.” 

Having suffered a fresh bout of insurrection down here in the lower forty-eight I’m urging the loyal good natured hosts in Alberta to stay calm as tyranny and revolution are overrated.  

Street Show in Sexsmith near GP

One man’s gridlock is seen by another man to be obstruction. In Page, Arizona the Navajo with coal power becoming uncompetitive took the decision to shut down the reservations coal powered generation station. Hundreds of Navajo are out of work, the coal mine that supplied the fuel for the station contaminated their groundwater, and there is no help from Washington on its way. Seventy-five more uncontrolled coal powered generating station shutdowns scattered across the nation are going to inject their economic turbulence into the venomous politics of our present moment.

Touring across Canada and the United States I have done shows among all the various impacted communities. My most recent visit to Grand Prairie was in July 2019. I have played the Navajo Nations schools and libraries many times, the most recent in 2016. I can’t speak for these people, but I can feel for them, and support their effort to create jobs, grow opportunities for their children, help enable a viable self-sufficiency, not neglect, not ignoring their problems, but opening doors to the 21st centuries renewable energy system.

One of 75 Slated to Close

I’m going to Denver this week before I go here’s what I’d recommend. First, when the Navajo Power Generating Station was built in 1970 renewable energy systems were expensive and unproven. Today many remote Navajo living off grid without access to water could get electricity using solar panels, batteries and inverters. The costs remain an obstacle but they’re getting lower and we cannot afford to leave this precious natural resource, our nations first people, behind. Helping nurture our partners sovereign nation will be a boundless blessing. Where to get the funds? A cap-and-trade tax on carbon. Calm down!

How about Alberta? How are we going to figure out how to untangle this hot cowboy hatted mess of commodity addicted Canadians? I’d urge Ottawa to repurpose their carbon tax funds and aim them directly at the people with the most to lose, and that would be the communities hit by the changing energy system.

Working for a Living

Putting whole regions of North America into economic freefall because some politicians have no stomach for helping its workers, because certain partisans can’t stand government using its ability to organize and respond to a crisis, because they can’t utter the much despised three letter word TAX!!!! Not being capable of using our collective power to nurture change isn’t going to get the job done.

I say get on your horse and ride or dismount and handover your spurs. If you don’t have the guts to try we may just need a better posse for the job.

Instead of fighting efforts to rein in climate changing pollutants, maybe start fighting to help your workers transition into the new economy. I’m plenty sure there is no cheap or easy way around this crisis, but there are reality based ways we can respond. Saddle up, time we head this trouble off at the pass.

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