Tim Hortons fiasco illustrates how debased the Great Energy Debate has become

The greatest challenge facing humankind – the Great Energy Debate about the evolution of the global economy – has been reduced to this: Where are you enjoying your coffee and donut today?

Great Energy Debate

Tim Hortons is named after a famous hockey player – naturally – who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1960s. It was recently bought by the Braziliarn conglomerate that owns American fast food chain Burger King.

Canadian readers know what I’m referring to, but a word of explanation for the Americans who until now have been blessedly spared the churning hyperbole over the past four or five days.

On Thursday, Tim’s – as it’s fondly known in Canada – pulled a video ad for the Enbridge pipeline operator from in-store TV monitors because management received a petition with 28,000 signatures demanding customers and their delicate sensibilities be spared ads about transporting oil sands crude to market. Industry supporters lashed back, with a conservative activist coining the hashtag #BoycottTims, and then Media Bozo Ezra Levant piled on, which prompted federal governmennt Conservative MPs to chime in.

Faster than a Vancouver Tim Hortons barista can reheat an Ontario-manufactured donut the country was embroiled in a raging controversy.

My American readers may find this all vastly amusing (a lot of Canadians certainly do), but this instance of the dumbing down of the Great Energy Debate illustrates just how debased the public debate has become.

Great Energy Debate

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, who along with other G7 leaders agreed to decarbonize the global economy by 2100. Can it be done? How? Good questions for the Great Energy Debate!

Facts? Who needs ’em?

Science? Pfft.

Experts who know what they’re talking about? Forget about it!

The Great Energy Debate now turns on who can get their propaganda into the public eye whilst thwarting efforts of the other guy to block it.

In the meantime, while this farce has been playing out in the media and on Facebook and Twitter, the G7 decided to decarbonize the global economy and the US Environmental Protection Agency released a report that concluded fracking has no widespread systemic effects on sources of drinking water.

Now, there are two issues worth debating!

Which is not to say that Canadians aren’t debating them at all, but judging from my social media feeds, the Tim Hortons brouhaha is way ahead of the substantive issues.

No column full of this much self-righteous outrage would be complete without a smack upside the head for the villians. In this case, there are two.

The first is the environmental movement. My exposure is limited to interviewing eco-activists and covering their activities as a reporter, so I can somewhat confidently say that environmental groups are masters of propoganda. They lie like sidewalks, folks, and they spin like a washing machine.

But my lord are they organized. They run campaigns that are marvels to behold. If they were a political party, they could elect Satan himself.

The second villian is the energy industry. On a good day these clowns couldn’t elect Jesus Christ. Organizations – like Enbridge – quite capable of great feats of engineering can’t quit tripping over their tongues – and other appendages – long enough to communicate simple facts to stakeholders. Precisely, I have come to realize, because they are run by engineers, the world’s worst communicators.

Energy reporting is like a Dilbert cartoon in which the Elbonians put one over on the Pointy Haired Boss every single damn day of the year.

Which leads me to appeal to you, dear readers. You are the key. And the reason to have the Great Energy Debate in the first place.

Demand better. You live in a democracy and you vote, which means your (informed and considered) opinion matters.

Don’t squander it on trivialities like what ads Tim Hortons does or doesn’t show on its TVs. Or whatever is the American equivalent of the moment. Or the inevitable similiar fiascos that will compete for your attention in the coming days and months.

Seek out facts and science (you’ll know them when you see them). Pay attention to thoughtful analysts who at least grapple with the complexity of the subject. And remember above all that the Great Energy Debate is not a binary, black and white topic.

If we get this one right, we create sustainable societies that support ever increasing numbers of our species in a healthy and dignified life. Get it wrong, and we’re mired an endless string of insipid “crises” that distract us from the critical tasks at hand.

I’m begging you, spare us from a Tim Hortons fate. Their cardboard-like donuts shouldn’t be a metaphor for our energy future.