Western Standard Opinion Editor Nigel Hannaford interviewed Premier Danielle Smith on August 23. Here are the highlights..Is this really Alberta in 2023? Energy executives risk jail for keeping Albertans warm and in the light? For doing their job, in fact? So says Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. And she's not kidding..Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe made headlines in May, when warned of criminal penalties touted by the federal Liberals for generating electricity from natural gas after 2035, said, “Come get me!”.Good line. But unfortunately, it turns out that there’s nothing to laugh at: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says fear of criminal prosecution among energy executives is actually holding back needed investment in electricity generation..Certainly, the federal draft regulations announced earlier this month by Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault do provide for criminal sanctions under Ottawa’s Environmental Protection Act, if the minister’s standards for a net-zero electrical grid are not met. Moe was not joking about that..But while the public expects companies that pollute the environment to pay up, does Ottawa seriously mean to jail the corporate leadership of public utilities if they fail to meet arbitrarily selected emission-reduction targets?.Says Smith, “That’s what I think a lot of the generators I talked to, are worried about. They know that this — I’m not sure why the public has or most media coverage hasn’t got down to understanding… This is jail time, they’re using criminal law power to potentially throw some electricity company generators in jail, if these targets are not met by 2035. Is there any wonder there’s a chill in natural gas generating plants? It’s no surprise to me.”.If it seems hard to imagine, it is..Unfortunately many things that were hard to imagine in 2015, the year the Liberals took power, are now already done… a healthy energy industry attacked, with pipeline cancellations, tanker bans and emissions limits that appear less about reducing the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than undermining the public finances of Western Canada..That the public anywhere accepts this is a tribute to the power of federal propagandists playing with language. Carbon dioxide is not pollution. It is plant food — the necessary ingredient by which green things produce the oxygen that sustains all life..Bottom line, anyway: Executives at Epcor, Altalink and the rest are smart to consider the possibility that their otherwise unprepossessing environment minister put the criminal sanctions in the draft because he would use them..What then will Premier Smith do to shield them?.“We may have to de-risk investment of some of these proposals. If I want to bring on a natural gas power plant, the federal government has said it must be 95% emissions-free by 2035. What if it’s only 80% emissions-free? We have to be able to de-risk that so that the proponent building it knows that they’re not going to be going to jail if for some reason they fall short.”.And how does the Government of Alberta de-risk a power project?.Perhaps by taking on some of the action itself, thereby making the government the target of federal action, not corporate executives..Smith: “Do we enter into a partnership, do we do a power purchase agreement, do we do some form of joint ownership where the premier of the province becomes the person who goes to jail in the event of any non-compliance at the federal level?”.Seriously. It staggers the imagination that in Canada in 2023, we even have to have this discussion..Meanwhile Minister Guilbeault is off to China for opaque purposes: What honourable business exactly a Canadian elected official could have as a member of an organ of the Chinese government is known only to himself..This is my fantasy only, but perhaps he is about to explain to them that as he does not want Alberta exporting clean natural gas to China to replace coal-fired generation he will, in the interests of policy consistency, order the end of Canadian (dirty) coal exports to China as well? (A fantasy, indeed.).Smith, with the Sovereignty Act in her pocket that was put together for exactly such a time as this, remains an optimist..“I’m willing to bet that when I go to court, if they do try to force this issue, they [The Supreme Court] will not allow the people of Alberta to freeze to death in the dark in minus-30 degree weather. I’m willing to bet that even the Supreme Court justices will be persuaded by that argument especially since 2050 is our target and we’re making our best efforts to get there.”.She is probably right. But that is where things stand, in Alberta, in 2023..In 2015, who could have imagined it?