It is always fascinating to me how unidealistic many of my co-workers in the resource industry are. In many ways it saddens me. We all commiserate about how miserable work conditions in the brutal cold are, the long hours, the failed relationships due to prolonged shift work and many other grievances. Yet as soon as someone comes up with an idea on how to improve our lot, a strange phenomenon occurs. Instead of considering the new idea, investigating its merit and determining if you could make such a change work in your favour, most of my resource co-workers turn the other way, and slam those bunch of “lazy hippies” who “do not want to work” etc.
It is sad really because governments like our current Harper-lead Conservatives are masters at manipulating these sentiments to their favour. The majority of Canadians who voted for and created a Harper majority in the last election did so citing their perceived assessment that as an “Economist” Harper would have the best idea on how to keep Canada’s economy safe and secure.
For me this is troubling because Canada does have some incredibly intelligent and internationally-recognized economists (one now runs the Bank of England, others have written international current events best-sellers). Harper’s accolades? A Masters Degree from the University of Calgary (whoopty doo) and a decade hammering out political policy for the Reform Party of Canada. In other words, Harper has no real experience as an economist, and certainly no respect on the international scene in this regard. Matter of fact, once one gets involved in the oil industry, one soon realizes he is actually not all that respected in these management circles either. And floundering and laughable attempts in the last month have frankly lead me to start assessing if I am embarrassed to admit to my foreign friends that I am even Canadian.
The “spat” between our Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and internationally renown climatologist James Hansen was so one-sided that it only showed that Oliver is too delusional to even realize that he got intellectually man-handled by the NASA veteran. Frankly, “Neanderthal” was a flattering term Hansen bestowed on Oliver. Considering the weight class difference between the two, a more suitable response by Hansen would have been “Joe who?”
But last week’s announcement by the Harper government that they are going to spend $82 million of our taxpayer money subsidizing the oil sands industry makes me want to cry. The worst part is that they have the gall to call it “clean energy” investment. Now, it is still vague exactly where the money is going. There is a list of recipients and some may include other “green” energy projects. But the main recipients appear to be carbon capture schemes. In simple terms, burn oil, then pump the emissions below ground. Frankly, Neanderthal is a pretty accurate assessment. There is a mountain of logistical problems with this theoretical band-aid solution. Can you imagine a garbage bag attached to your tailpipe which you would dump off at a depot every 100km?
They just do not seem to get it! The world is transitioning away from oil. Now enter the cynics who will say “but you drive too, you do fly right?” The key word is transition! The future involves oil as a specialty item, not the main commodity on which an entire global economy relies. Chainsaws, airplanes, yes these will likely run off oil for most of our foreseeable future. But everything else can run off of electricity. I even read an article arguing that heavy machinery will likely run off of batteries before personal cars. The reasoning is that heavy machinery are not limited by weight to the same extent as light vehicles. Apparently some battery powered machines in underground mines (where internal combustion engines are unfeasible for many reasons) are proving to be so efficient that plans for battery bulldozers are already on the table. The renaissance of the electrical storage system is finally here. “And where do we get this electricity?” I can already hear the cynics belittlement! “You burn coal!!” No!! We drill for geothermal heat.
Valemount, write to your MP! Geothermal is not a theoretical solution. We can not ignore this incredible resource any longer. I do not resent having to pack a chainsaw around Northern Alberta looking for oil all winter for a living, but you better believe that I will consider myself a complete failure if the next generation has to do the same whilst knowing that what they are doing amounts to little less than environmental genocide.
The days of bickering, belittling, and cynicism are over! The solutions are all now right in front of us. We must only decide to act, remembering the key word “transition”. Do not buy into the fear mongering! To the older demographic who disproportionately voted in Harper, please stop being so gullible to economic fear mongering. Your pension is safe only if we can avoid environmental collapse and the already clearly-evidence economic sicknesses resulting from being hamstrung by an uncontrollable petro dollar. The economy is NOT in good shape, and your pension is NOT secure until we have at least 5000 MW of geothermal energy in BC alone, and several hundred thousand MW of energy available from other truly clean energy sources. These sources are not theoretical and unlike Carbon Capture schemes, are already online and working.
Canada cannot afford to become a petro-state. We most certainly can not afford to waste precious taxpayer dollars propping up an archaic and Neanderthalish oil sands industry. And for Valemount specifically, 1000 people should be out in the streets shouting at the top of their lungs demanding that at least $5 million of the clean energy fund go towards getting our geothermal plant online. No more subsidizing Alberta oil. And to our local MP, do you really care about Valemount? If so, get us in on this “clean energy” money your government has suddenly decided to spend.
By Joseph Nusse