Today I heard the premier of Alberta, Alison Redford use the term “bitumen bubble” to describe the reason why Alberta’s provincial revenues have fallen so much that the province now faces an $8 billion deficit. The obvious answer – surprisingly being trotted out by Chambers of Commerce, oil companies and conservative governments! – is that we need to build a pipeline to the west coast to get Alberta tar to an Asian market so that Alberta based oil companies can charge higher prices and therefore more tax revenue will flow to the coffers.
I have a new term too: “gaiacide.”
Over the last few years, the primary case being made for building a new pipeline to the coast has been this. We are “leaving money on the table” and every barrel that goes uncontested to the USA is being underpriced because it’s hungry competitor to the east doesn’t have a chance to drive the price up.
But this is not a reasoned response to the Basis of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline. The reason I am opposed to it is exactly because it will facilitate the mass burning of fossil fuels. Burning the tar fields of Alberta will irrevocably push the temperature of our atmosphere to catastrophic levels. It will endanger all life on earth.
If you have planned your provincial budget around enabling this eventuality, it makes you almost an accomplice to a crime against humanity. Why on earth are you not using the current revenues from the oil sands to diversify the economy and wean yourselves off oil?
Let me give a clear example. You could, by Alison Redford’s logic, argue that BC is missing a huge opportunity by not attracting producers of toxic waste to locate here. You see we have a huge ocean and we could make billions by charging people to come here and then dump uranium, toxic chemicals, PCBs and asbestos into the ocean. Think about it. Other disposal technologies are expensive, but the ocean is right here. We could just fill it up, and the water carries it away. We are clearly suffering a “toxic waste bubble” and all that needs to happen is to make a few regulatory changes to allow us to dump it all in the sea.
Of course this seems absurd. We don’t plan our economy around that opportunity because it would permanently destroy the health of the oceans, and by extension human beings. That seems obvious. So why all the noise about needing to do the same to the atmosphere? Alberta and Canada needs to be told that this is illegitimate economic activity, and that we should not be encouraging it. We are deeply buried in oil and we need to get OUT of it, not get deeper into it. When the ones with the policy and economic power can’t even entertain this possibility, I despair. I cannot wean myself off oil, and neither can you, not alone. All I can do is wait until someone comes along that can change this, and somehow prepare my kids for a life in a hot world.
Until oil is priced according to the externalities that are foisted on to the atmospheric commons and future generations, we will never wean ourselves away from this, and the narcissistic and psychotic minds that plot their own personal profit at the expense of the future of life on earth will continue to believe that they are legitimate business people and not gaiacidal maniacs.