Two sides to the oilsands issue

I first came across the writings of Rapier on theoildrum.com. Whereas a lot of us thought in 2008 that the price of oil would easily continue its trajectory past $147 per barrel, he cautioned that the higher price would first cripple the global economy, and then stabilize for a while at a lower price … which it did (for the past three years at about $90 to $100). So he’s no dummy.

“Environmentalists can be divided into two camps on the issue of oilsands.”

— Robert Rapier

I first came across the writings of Rapier on theoildrum.com. Whereas a lot of us thought in 2008 that the price of oil would easily continue its trajectory past $147 per barrel, he cautioned that the higher price would first cripple the global economy, and then stabilize for a while at a lower price … which it did (for the past three years at about $90 to $100). So he’s no dummy.

And in addition to being smart, he’s diplomatic. Maybe that’s why the Canadian government invited him and a few other energy analysts and journalists to tour the tarsands last year.

The result was a series of writings, ranging from the impact of bitumen extraction on caribou herds (definitely not good), to its impact on water in the region (maybe not good).

During the tour, Rapier attended a presentation by the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based, non-profit think-tank specializing in issues relating to energy. Rapier puts the PI in one environmental camp, while he puts organizations such as Greenpeace in the other camp.

The first camp accepts that bitumen extraction will continue into the future, but thinks that it is proceeding too rapidly (like what Peter Lougheed thought in recent years).

The second camp thinks that bitumen extraction should cease completely. Rapier thinks that the first camp is more realistic.

I tend to agree.

In fact, I wrote in this column back in 2011 that when CO2 calculations are based on what actually comes out of the tailpipe of my car, the tarsands are only five per cent dirtier than the Kern River oilfield in California.

However, I also wrote as recently as this January, that we should quit spitting on Peter Lougheed’s grave and take to heart his warning about the pace of tarsands extraction.

But I digress. Just as Rapier sees the PI as a moderate voice, so must the Canadian government (or why else would they have invited it to make a presentation during the tour?).

Industry likewise trusts the PI. Or why else would big companies such as Shell and Encana pay for its consulting expertise?

PI’s role is somewhat strange, since Rapier notes that it sometimes even consults for a company that it is suing.

How better to affect change, though: advise a company to be serious about the environment and sue it, just to make sure.

But these big companies recognize that “environment” is more than just a word in the dictionary. And they also recognize that PI is the best at what it does.

So why does the Alberta government not seem to recognize the obvious?

The news came out recently that Premier Dave Hancock et al denied PI’s request (as part of a larger environmental coalition) to speak at a hearing for a possible new tarsands development by Southern Pacific Resource Corp.

They reason that PI and others are not directly affected by tarsands operations, so they shouldn’t have a say in what happens. Caribou are directly affected, but they can’t speak English, and they can’t vote Progressive Conservative, and now they can’t even count on PI to stand up for their right to exist.

The Alberta government is a bit like the emperor in the Hans Christian Anderson tale.

Each new development north of Fort McMurray is another piece of fine silk clothing … although one that future generations will see for what it is: a short-term figment which does surprisingly little for the Heritage Trust Fund, and practically nothing for the province’s long-term goal of economic diversification.

The Pembina Institute is the little boy who points out the obvious. But he can only point out the obvious if the powers that be allow him to speak.

Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to wyddfa23@telus.net. Visit the Energy and Ecology website at www.evanbedford.com.

Just Posted

Man dies after being shot in Lacombe

A man is dead after being shot, Lacombe police say. Early Sunday,… Continue reading

One person dies in hospital after house fire erupts in Calgary

CALGARY — The Calgary Fire Department says a person has died in… Continue reading

Jury finds former SNC-Lavalin executive Sami Bebawi guilty on all charges

MONTREAL — A former SNC-Lavalin executive on trial for fraud and corruption… Continue reading

Festival of Trees volunteers honoured at breakfast

This year’s Festival of Trees was able to provide the Red Deer… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: A masterclass on H&M knitwear

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Thursday Join us at the Senior Center Downtown House (5414 43 St.… Continue reading

Red Deer Optimist Chiefs split weekend series

CAC 4 Optimist Chiefs 2 After wins in seven of the last… Continue reading

Sales of electric vehicles plummet in Ontario after rebate cancellation

TORONTO — Sales of electric vehicles in Ontario have plummeted since the… Continue reading

Partway through first term, Quebec Premier Legault already planning his exit

SAN FANCISCO, United States — Political power has an expiration date for… Continue reading

Unifor announces boycott campaign against Co-op in refinery labour dispute

REGINA — The union that represents hundreds of locked-out workers at a… Continue reading

Defence minister says Canada ‘very fortunate’ to have Vance as defence chief

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has come out in support of… Continue reading

Red Deer Vipers earn wild comeback win

The Red Deer Vipers needed a comeback to top the Mountainview Colts… Continue reading

Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston captures second world title at NFR

Zeke Thurston is quickly becoming one of the most decorated saddle bronc… Continue reading

Most Read