Sunday, 13 May 2012

Am not a "radical" or anti-development

Lest my last blog gave the impression that I'm somehow an environmental radical, pro foreign money laundering anti-development aboriginal dupe, I am an anishinabe Canadian (love the term "anishinabe"), been accused of political radicalism in my Inuit rights advocacy work, but not anti-development per se. I just have this incorrigible belief in humanism and sustainable development.

I think human intelligence is capable of great and wonderful things - just not have had much chance to be allowed to germinate and flower in our sad history. In this current discourse and the subsequent climate thereof on the development of Canada's tar sands (yes, b, "tar sands"), there is an undeniable element of desparation on part of the Conservative Party of Canada and the big oil lobby that I think warrants further examination.

Oil is a depleting resource - there is no denying that it is a vanishing commodity. This alone is proving too tempting for venal men who currently hold power in Ottawa and the Western Canada oil patch. Though I find Premier Redford's notions of "social license" overtures to "change the dynamics" of the relationships between Alberta's needs in terms of resource development and environmental groups encouraging, there is much work to be done before we can make judgements whether her ideas are good and honest. She, it seems, is the only adult in a room full of immature, overwrought short-sighted old men; a sincere good luck to her.

M. King Hubbert, an engineer for Shell Oil in the 1950s, made a seemingly crazy prediction that the US oil reserves were being depleted so fast that 50% of it would be taken out of the ground by 1965 and 1971. Michio Kaku, a popularizer of science, wrote a section in his book, Physics of the Future, about Hubbert's predictions:

His prediction seemed so rash, even outlandish and irresponsible, since the United States was still pumping an enormous amount of oil from Texas and elsewhere in [the] country. But oil engineers are not laughing anymore. Hubbert's prediction was right on the button. By 1970, US oil production peaked at 10.2 million barrels a day and then fell. It has never recovered. Today, the United States imports 59 percent of its oil. In fact, if you compare a graph of Hubbert's estimates made decades ago with the graph of actual U.S. oil production through 2005, the two curves are almost identical.

Now the fundamental question facing oil engineers is: Are we at the top of Hubbert's peak in world oil reserves? Back in 1956, Hubbert also predicted that global oil production would peak in about fifty years [around 2006]. He could be right again. (pp. 244-245)

Kaku goes on to write that the oil industry and oil ministers like talking about "proven oil reserves", but behind this rhetoric one cannot deny the implications of Hubbert's predictions: "Proven oil reserves" sounds soothingly authoritative and definitive, until you realize that the reserves are often the creation of a local oil minister's wishful thinking and political pressure (ibid, p. 245) - I'd also add "capital markets and corporate interests" to the political pressure. Kaku writes that Canada's tar sands deposits may be enough to supply the world markets for decades to come; what is a few decades, really, but a blink of an eye?

I ask this question because Canada's current political masters seem intent on capitalizing on the extraction of the tar sands come hell or high water without much thought given to developing alternative energy sources. Mulcair's recent bid for cheap political gains by invoking the spectre of the "Dutch Disease" is really pathetic, but so are Ministers Kent's and Oliver's vitriolic desparations to paint dissenters to Harper's one-trick pony as neighbours of Satan.

Let's give Premier Redford the benefit of the doubt and support her bid to change the dynamics of the discourse around oil and gas development; she is at least seem willing to consider green energy as part of her agenda for Alberta.

Jay

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