Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leaders or figureheads?

Deciding which candidates would be figureheads and which would be leaders is up to you.
With the Alberta PC party replacing Premier Ed Stelmach who is resigning October 1 what changes? Will we get a figurehead or a leader?
Changing things isn't easy. Alberta is a big ship and can't turn on a dime. Claims of being an energy superpower is code for continued expansion on oil and gas, rather than any major expansion in renewables.
Provincial leaders have a choice of loyalties: to the party, to their riding, to their province, their country, or the world.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." -Upton Sinclair
Anyone who can get elected premier will be under immense pressure to pander to the Oil and Gas sector, despite climate change and the environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel production.
In 2008, the energy sector made up 30.8% (almost $90 Billion) of Alberta's GDP. That should indicate how entrenched the industry is, and how much money can be made in the industry. Political muscle? You bet.
With flagging economies, and these resources available, loyalties to party, province and country would suggest exploiting as much and as fast as possible. A strong economy is good for jobs and re-election.
Climate change impacts are down the road and hit poor people in far away places first. Profit and jobs are here and now. Very tempting.
We have a history of trying to pitch the cleanliness of our oil, treating it as a marketing problem. The product is the problem, and our entire system is complicit. Some of us admit we have a problem.
A political figurehead can keep the ship going straight ahead. A leader can forego the easy option, embrace reality, and usher in a clean energy future that we can be proud of. A principled future that we don't need to defend with marketing or guns.
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Short Sighted Money or a Green Energy Revolution

Image of the Keystone XL Protest from radiohead.com . Yes, the band.
The Keystone XL Pipeline, oozing towards Whitehouse approval, demonstrates a commitment to short sighted goals.
Canadian and Alberta governments are pushing for the project to go ahead, eager for the money, market, and jobs that the project would bring about. It hearkens back to Canada's early days, selling natural resources, leaving the value adding to others.
To build the pipeline or not is a question of foresight and loyalty. Unfortunately, the scarcest resource in question isn't oil, it's room in the atmosphere for carbon dioxide. That convenient ignorance paves the way for jobs and money, the main attraction for this project. The pipeline would encourage more bituminous sands development while reducing the incentive to building renewable sources of energy.
The people pushing this 'business as usual' project forward have a different set of loyalties than those opposing it. On one hand, we have jobs and money. On the other hand, we can ease off on the climate change gas pedal, set an example for the rest of the world, and build a green economy. Many jobs that could be created by retrofitting buildings to use less energy, for example.
It seems only fitting that hurricane Irene blasted the US west coast as the Tar Sands Action protests take place outside the Whitehouse. Consider the calibre of the protesters, including author Bill McKibben, and leading climate scientist James Hansen. There have been about 600 arrests so far.
It's up to President Obama now, to decide whether to take the jobs and the carbon bomb that come with KXL, or to usher in a green revolution. It's going to be a tough call, and one that will define his presidency. At least he's a democrat. Right wing republicans seem to have a hard enough time with evolution, let alone climate change.
Canadian support for this pipeline is devastating to the next generation, but understandable given the short memories in politics.
On the other hand, where you should really feel betrayed by the people who 'represent' you is in the Alberta Utility Commission's approval of the 500MW expansion of a Maxim Power Corp. coal power plant near Grande Cache.
Federal regulations are scheduled to come into effect in 2015, and former Minister of Environment Jim Prentice said "We will guard against any rush to build non-compliant coal plants in the interim".
Maxim blatantly rushed this through, knowing that complying with the upcoming regulations would make the project non-cost effective, and the AUC went along with it.
The Maxim Coal project, like the KXL pipeline locks in carbon emissions for a long time, while reducing the appetite for renewable solutions.
Phase out the coal. The bituminous sands will still be there later, we don't need to extract them all now. The green revolution is at our door, but we're too stoned to let it in.
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