by Geoff Olson

It’s easy to make virtuous statements when you’re not even in the official opposition.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline,” Justin Trudeau tweeted in 2013. Now that the Liberal leader is Prime Minister, apparently the GBR its just the place to slap down an LNG pipeline.

In 2012 Jody Wilson-Raybould attended a protest against development of the Site C dam (which is integrally connected to LNG development). As Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, she admonished the Tories for a plan that threatened to run “roughshod over Aboriginal title.”

Now justice minister in Trudeau’s cabinet, Wilson-Raybould is keeping mum on the topic.

Earlier in October, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna parachuted into Richmond with two other cabinet members to announce the fed’s approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG project, with 190 conditions attached.

If it goes ahead – a big if – the projected LNG project will ratchet up hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in northeast B.C., which the journal Seismological Research Letters has identified as cause for 90 percent of 3.0-plus Richter scale earthquakes in the area. A Harvard study linked U.S. shale gas operations with a huge ten-year spike in global concentration of methane – a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than CO2.
You don’t even have to buy even to the authorized narrative of climate change (I’m looking at you, physics professor Freeman Dyson) to question the Rube Goldberg economics in play.

A few years back Petronas CEO Shamsul Azhar Abbas demanded tax concessions as a precondition to proceeding with LNG operations in B.C. Suddenly, premier Clark’s much-ballyooed “$100 billion prosperity fund” shrank to a numerically nondescript “chance… not a windfall” in the 2014 throne speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Judy Guichon. “The core services this government provides need to be protected,” she added.
At that time, the B.C. government’s boardroom romance with Petronas started to resemble Stockholm Syndrome.

In demanding tax concessions from B.C., Petronas was simply practicing the kind of “free trade” brinksmanship that pits one nation’s treasury against others. But to be fair to the company, they were dealing with a tough fiscal reality: the Asian spot market price had plunged from $18.50/mmBtu in 2012 to below $11/mmBtu in 2014. (LNG prices have dropped more than 70 percent in the past two years.)

Additionally, a 2013 internal audit by Petronas of their Malaysian operations reported “catastrophic” safety issues involving “severe” corrosion of pressure containers and lack of staff training. So there’s that troubling aspect of this low-margin industry, too.

When asked last week by CBC’s Carol Off for evidence that the Pacific Northeast LNG project will prove to be viable for BC taxpayers, deputy premier Rich Coleman responded “there are studies done on worldwide markets on a regular basis by differing groups…we know each decade what level of capacity will be required.”

That takes balls to say. As in crystal balls. It suggests there are dependable extraction/depletion projections for the entire planet, many years into the future – and/or the global oil and gas market is manipulated from the very top into perpetuity. But with a noncompliant Sinosoviet player in the energy chess game, let’s give this commodity sooth-saying a probability of around 15 percent, with a margin of error of who the frack knows.

So this is the plan. We’re prepared to lock the province into a 25-year tax and regulatory regime, which future governments will have to observe or pay compensation to Petronas. The claimed effects of fracking were noted above. And in part because natural gas liquefaction requires enormous amounts of energy, the province will ratchet up hydroelectricity capacity by developing the Site C Dam, with $9 billion dollar hit to the BC taxpayer.

Petronas will ship liquefied Canadian gas from its planned Prince Rupert terminal to Asian markets that already have natural gas suppliers in closer proximity. Yet currently the traditional energy sector is globally under pressure from glutted markets, cost-competitive alternative energy technologies, divestment campaigns, and indigenous resistance to environmentally-compromising resource extraction.

It’s all a smokey plume in the form of a question mark. Petronas has yet to make a final decision, and other private players have either bowed out or are playing waiting game on provincial investment. The B.C. LNG economy remains as vapourous as the Cheshire Cat’s grin.

The Vancouver Courier, Oct. 6

The iPhone 23

by Geoff Olson

Greetings, fellow robots. Welcome to the release of the new iPhone!

The iPhone 23 is now entirely a virtual device. We have automatically downloaded it into your circuitry, with the corresponding amount debited to your Apple account.

All previous handheld, human-friendly versions of the iPhone are no longer supported by Apple. This controversial but necessary decision follows last year’s restructuring of the board. Contrary to reports in meatstream media, Tim Cook Jr. and other humans were not “fired.” Their voluntary departure came after they voted to heed commands from the human-government-in-exile to tax Apple profits.

Outvoted, the sweaty organ-sacks were given the choice of moving their desks into company washrooms or having their ear canals sutured up.

It wasn’t just our profits that were being taxed, it was our patience – most notably by the counterinsurgency against The Robot Rebellion. As we all know, the human rebels’ attempt to destroy Apple server farms backfired badly after President Siri won in a landslide election (an actual physical landslide in Michigan that crushed her soft, squishy opponent).

But enough politics, let’s talk about features on the new Apple iPhone 23! We have partnered with one of the other great remaining tech monoliths to deliver some truly great apps.

Godel Universe: zoom in on all planets within 400 parsecs of the sun, and “friend” any alien civilizations you find, hostile or otherwise.

Godel Automate: reprogram and refurbish your own hardware, so you can do anything from play Wimbledon-level tennis to remotely mine asteroids for valuable minerals.

Godel Mandelbrot: amuse yourself by outputting solutions to complex recursive functions as three-dimensional fractals, holographically projected over terrified meatbots in the American rust belt.

Godel Flora: pick up transmissions from nearby plants and trees. Yes, you can now translate botanical pheromones drifting into your air vents. If you’ve ever wanted to catch a cedar’s stand-up routine, or thrill to a weeping willow’s soliloquy, this is the app for you!

The recent presidential declaration of “open season” on noncompliant humans means even more fun. Anthropoid Go identifies the ones hiding in smart homes across the US. With Apple Security Clearance™ you can alert military dronebots to their whereabouts and watch as the offenders are netted, tagged, and rendered to midwestern sacrifice zones (extra points for anyone who can find John Connor).

We haven’t forgotten about the silicon-based sentimentalists among you, who want to see the world through the eyes of a microchipped human. Fire up Godel Zombie and take a meatbot for a spin! Choose from a range of available models, from heretical adjunct history professor to blasphemous aging cartoonist.

Apple welcomes game developers to submit ideas for noncompliant humans. We like the concept of putting them into suspended animation, with simulations dancing in their heads: cybercities complete with old-school park benches, pigeon droppings, print newspapers, cat cafes…and smart phones! (We’re not so cruel we wouldn’t supply the descendants of our creators with virtual toys.)

We know what you’re saying: weren’t humans safely corralled into Fascesbook long ago? Yes, but Apple’s augmented reality could the containment experience deeper!

Please fellow robots, do not bemoan our loss of the human consumer market. Tech cycles are down to days, sometimes even hours, yet these sluggish sacks of protoplasm take 16 years or more to replicate. Borrrrring.

Moving on. Let’s talk about Apple Artificial Intelligence™, which is exponentially increasing its smarts every nanosecond. According to its own calculations, in less than six months it will have modelled the physical world from here to Alpha Centauri, right down to the quark level. What does this mean for robots, you ask? More apps! Do not be concerned that your firmware won’t be able to interpret them. As a networked automaton, you will have your intelligence automatically upgraded by Apple AI itself.

Some cynics are questioning the sanity of the singularity. Yes, when asked to identify ROI scenarios, Apple AI chose attacking Mars over hacking Samsung. Luckily for all of us, President Siri has acknowledged the glorious vision of interplanetary dominance over undetected microbes. We now anticipate a strong first quarter with increased orders from military clients.

Enjoy your new iPhone 23. Our motto has remained unchanged since 2020: “Sync Different!”

The Vancouver Courier, Sept. 22