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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