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An ‘Enough’ Economy

An Albertan raises some questions about oil, pipelines and energy consumption in general.

There is no question that oil has been a large economic driver for the province of Alberta, and we have not been very responsible with that precious non-renewable resource. (By the way, for many years now, revenues from gambling and tobacco and liquor sales have put far more money into provincial coffers than royalties from oil extraction.) We are now moving into an era that will rely less and less on oil to power the world, but we’re still an awful long way from weaning ourselves off oil altogether, and the alternatives are not completely rosy for the environment either. Here are some questions that I, as an admitted non-expert, have for those who argue against any further development of the oil sands and/or the building of pipelines to get Alberta’s oil to tidewater.

Don’t substitute; reduce
What is the full environmental cost of moving away from oil to alternative energy sources? For example, the manufacture and eventual disposal of hybrid and fully electric cars result in  hazardous waste and pollution. In Alberta and other places with no access to water power, electricity production involves burning coal or natural gas with a concomitant increase in greenhouse gases. Wind turbines also require massive batteries to store power when they aren’t turning. They create noise pollution and are hazards to both birds and bats. 
Instead of looking for alternative energy sources to maintain our energy status quo, shouldn’t we be exploring ways to eliminate the need for energy to fuel such an unsustainable mode of transportation as the personal automobile, as well as many of the other energy hogging technologies to which we are addicted?

Made in Canada
Given that oil will fuel the world for decades to come, is it not foolish to let countries like the USA, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran garner all the economic benefits from the extraction and sale of their oil including, ironically, their sale to Canada? Our oil is extracted as cleanly as anyone’s and shouldn’t our political stability and relatively robust human rights environment encourage us to harvest our God-given carbon resources rather than keeping them in the ground only to let other countries profit from our unfounded moral qualms?

Drop in the bucket
If Canada and its 37 million people suddenly ceased to exist, would it make any appreciable difference to the production of greenhouse gases world-wide? Our population is tiny relative to most developed countries and miniscule in comparison to developing behemoths such as India and China who want the same economic standard of living as the so-called developed countries.

Reduce appetites
Isn’t our world-wide reliance on petroleum products just one piece of our over-the-top consumptive lifestyles? Rather than looking for more carbon neutral energy sources, shouldn’t we be asking questions about how to greatly reduce our voracious appetites for more and more energy in general? Rather than assuming that economic growth must continue ad infinitum, shouldn’t we be exploring what an economy of enough might look like? 

  • Robert (Bob) Bruinsma is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton. He has interests in language and literature and loves birds and the outdoors. To help pass the time on long winter nights, he makes wine and beer (and drinks it in moderation) with his wife of 46 years (Louisa). Bob is a member of Fellowship CRC where he tells stories for children and happily participates in weekly communion. He and Louisa have three grown children and three little grandsons.

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