B.C.’s premier is set to react to strong words form his Alberta counterpart after Jason Kenney blamed him for driving up the price of gas and obstructing the progress of oil pipelines.
Kenney said B.C.’s obstruction of his province’s oil and gas industry — specifically the blocking of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — was the reason for gas prices topping $1.70 per litre in Metro Vancouver.
He then threatened to use the newly proclaimed legal tool to prod B.C. into approving the Trans Mountain project.
Shortly after Kenney’s comments, provincial officials filed the legal paperwork signalling plans to fight Alberta’s Bill 12 on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.
Industry analysts and legal experts say Kenney’s legal tool is a bluff and more pipelines are not guaranteed to cool the punishing prices at the pump.
They say soaring gas prices are caused by a combination of factors, from the 32 cents-a-litre tacked onto Metro Vancouver gasoline to a lack of supply — and of course, profits.
But Kenney says the high prices are Horgan’s fault.
He stood beside his new energy minister Wednesday, warning that he’s ready to use newly enacted “turn off the taps” legislation at any moment.
“We are serious about it. This is not some bluff. We will protect the value of Alberta’s resources,” Kenney said during a news conference Wednesday. When asked why he hasn’t begun screwing shut those taps, he explained that he’s agreed to talk further with Horgan.
But he said the fix is simple: green-light Trans Mountain.
“We don’t have enough pipeline capacity to ship both refined gas and unrefined bitumen to the Lower Mainland,” Kenney said.
Gas industry analysts are not so sure. They say B.C.’s high gas prices are driven by a combination of taxes and a lack of refinery capacity, which, it has been argued by B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, might actually get worse if the Trans Mountain pipeline were twinned.
It’s important to remember that Trans Mountain only carries a limited amount of gasoline alongside crude oil that must be refined, analysts say.
“Pipeline or no pipeline, it doesn’t change the supply or availability of gasoline without a change in refining capacity,” said Mason Hamilton, a petroleum markets analyst with the US Energy Information Administration.
As for Kenney’s promise to cut off the supply altogether, legal and political experts question whether that will happen.
Bill 12 would face a challenge from this province and fail, said Joen Bakan, a constitutional expert with the University of B.C.
Bakan said that there are provisions in the law to prevent provinces from cutting off critical resources to each other — especially as political leverage.
Others describe the legal showdown as a sideshow.
University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley said Bill 12 is more of a political tool.
“They are picking a fight and they look good whether the courts hold it up or not. They look like they are standing up for Alberta’s interest … a lot of this is posturing,” he said.
“An action taken by an energy minister to actually stop shipment to B.C. would be the constitutional and intergovernmental equivalent of a nuclear weapon and I don’t think the Kenney government is in the mood to go that far.”
This story originally appeared on CBC