Little alternative to the oilsands

In his June 10 editorial, Lee Giles wonders if the Bellingham, Wash., city government might be setting a domino effect in motion by adopting a resolution to avoid the use of fuel that originates within Alberta’s “tarsands.”

In his June 10 editorial, Lee Giles wonders if the Bellingham, Wash., city government might be setting a domino effect in motion by adopting a resolution to avoid the use of fuel that originates within Alberta’s “tarsands.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of the resolution, have the city fathers of Bellingham actually given this idea more than a cursory glance and really examined it in light of their responsibility to the people of Bellingham?

Do Buicks fly?

This is an important question that rarely gets asked alongside the politicizing of energy of any sort, including the oilsands.

While it’s probably unfair to generally malign those who advocate a trend away from fossil fuels as our primary energy source, it’s hard not to be infuriated by the general lack of intellectual heft amongst a vast swath of those very souls.

Look a little deeper at Bellingham, for example. Is it the best use of the combined intellect of the Bellingham city government to politicize their energy use in this fashion?

According to Bellingham’s website, there are very pressing issues at hand down there. That city, like many, is in the midst of a serious budget crunch, leaving them wrestling with issues such as cuts to emergency services along with personnel cuts in multiple departments.

We’re faced with a daily barrage of criticism from people who advocate gargantuan changes in how we generate the energy we use to make our society work. Much of that energy also provides taxes that fund our governments, including hospitals, roads, our legal system, and even our national defence.

Taxes on fossil fuels are also used to finance some very large scale “alternative energy” projects such as solar and wind power.

In the last few years, as the world has been hit with a massive economic downturn, our energy use has dropped slightly but measurably.

One of the reasons unemployment in Red Deer remains a bit high is that world energy demand has remained a little stagnant, and lower-cost producers are meeting the demand.

Digest this. In spite of a fairly painful downturn, we’ve only made a modest dent in our use of fossil fuels.

The anti-fossil-fuel movement near constantly advocates the kind of wholesale abandonment of fossil fuels that can only be accomplished by our literally being cast back to the Middle Ages.

Not only are alternative energies unable to come anywhere close to meeting our energy needs, none of them would be affordable to a populace deprived of the tax money derived from fossil fuels.

There is no question that our use of fossil fuels will come to an end. Someday. But, and it’s a big but, this can only happen as an evolutionary process. The day-to-day cross-pollinization of technologies will generate that evolution.

We in Alberta own a tremendous chunk of a resource that the rest of the world desperately wants and needs.

If we are to have a chance at participating in the evolution of technologies that will lead to solving energy challenges of the future, we have no choice but to sell that resource to those who wish to pay for it.

I ask those opposed to our oilsands the simple question, much like the one that the city of Bellingham needs to ask itself. When one advocates restrictions on oilsands production, what are you personally willing to give up? Are you willing to give up hospital beds, funded as they are by oilsands money? Are you willing to give up firefighters and ambulances? Police officers and pothole crews?

Taxes on fossil fuels pay for all this stuff.

Probably not, so you’re going to have to let evolution do its thing.

Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.

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