If we fully develop Alberta's oilsands and burn the oil they produce, we will raise the temperature measurably all over the planet. That's the conclusion of an analysis by University of Victoria scientists Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart and published in the journal Nature.

Rather a big deal, one would think. But that's not what we read in the media this week.

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With Oil, It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Friday, 11 March 2011 12:46

It's March, 1980. You are 19 years old and sitting at the wheel of your lime-green AMC Gremlin. Normally, you'd feel pretty cool. But you just left the gas station and it cost a fortune to fill up. Apparently, there was a revolution in the Middle East or something. Stupid Middle Easterners.

Ah, but who are you kidding? You can't afford gas at any price because you lost your job bagging groceries. The price of food and lots of other things is also going up like crazy. People are cutting back. They have to. This recession is brutal. And everybody says it will only get worse. They're scared.

You're scared, too. How will you score with the ladies if you can't take the Gremlin out of your parents' driveway?

Anxious and distracted, you miss a stop sign and T-bone a cement mixer. The Gremlin is totalled. You're in a coma.

For 31 years.

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Beware The Rock Star Business Guru

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 09:50

When a slick and smiling Jeff Rubin appeared in a Harry Rosen ad earlier this year, it was clear that the former CIBC World Markets chief economist has become more than a practitioner of the dismal science. He is a brand. A rock star. An international guru with a best-selling book and a long list of corporations eager to pay very large amounts of money to hear him forecast the future.

Unfortunately, the future the guru sees isn't pretty.

"What will 2011 bring?" he wrote on his blog. "Triple-digit oil prices." Unless you happen to have an oil well in your backyard, that's bad news. "Our last encounter with those prices was brief but decisive," Rubin wrote. It was in 2008. The shock to the economy was so severe it caused the global recession.

So should we batten down the hatches in 2011? I don't know. Unlike Jeff Rubin, I claim no powers of prognostication. I did, however, write a book about why expert predictions routinely fail, how experts delude themselves about their failures, and why people are drawn to the sort of expert who is most likely to be wrong. So I know something about the subject.

And what I know is that Jeff Rubin is an almost eerily perfect example of the sort of expert people should not listen to - but do anyway.

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The Great Biofuel Swindle

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 08:38

Want to make $100? It's easy. You send me $550. Cash or cheque. In exchange, I will send you a cool $100. Cash or cheque. Or a money order, if you prefer.

Is that a deal or what? No? Only a fool would fall for this? Well, then, the government of Canada is run by fools -- because it is about to implement a new environmental regulation which delivers $1 in benefit for every $5.50 it costs.

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The World's Most Respectable Criminal

Sunday, 06 November 2005 18:31

On a June evening in 2004, Washington's elite gathered at the Marriott hotel for a black-tie dinner in honour of Condoleezza Rice, currently the U. S. Secretary of State but then the national security adviser to President George W. Bush. Rice was to receive the Leon H. Sullivan International Diplomacy Award, an honour named after the black American minister who fought for human rights in Africa and around the world.

As Senator Hillary Clinton and others looked on, Rice began her acceptance speech by thanking a list of "distinguished guests." First, was Rev. Sullivan's daughter. Second, "President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea."

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Nexen and the Dictator

Saturday, 05 November 2005 18:28

When the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy finally withdrew from war-ravaged Sudan in 2002 -- after the company's reputation had been dragged through the global mud by activists who blamed Talisman for enriching the brutal Sudanese government -- oil explorers realized that in the modern business world a reputation for ethical conduct is at least as valuable as any item on the balance sheet. No company took that lesson more seriously than the Calgary-based oil company Nexen Inc. "Corporate social responsibility" is a mantra for Nexen executives, and the company's focus on doing business in a way that respects people, the environment and human rights has paid off with a slew of corporate citizenship awards and a sterling reputation for being an oil company with a heart.

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