Alberta’s much-maligned oilsands got a vote of confidence from a “sensible environmentalist” on Wednesday.
That is the self-dubbed moniker of Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, who split with the organization in 1986 to pursue what he calls a more sensible, science-based approach to environmentalism and is now chairman and chief scientist for a Vancouver-based environmental consulting firm called GreenSpirit Strategies Ltd.
Moore said he’s visited the oilsands twice recently and came away impressed with the community of Fort McMurray and oil company efforts to reclaim strip mines and tailing ponds.
The kind of strip mining being done in the oilsands is no different than the coal mining that has been going on in the U.S. for decades and on a far larger scale, he said during a presentation at the Synergy Alberta Conference in Red Deer. Yet, some environmentalists are treating the oilsands as if they “are the “most destructive thing that’s ever happened on the face of the earth and should be abolished and all of that.
“Meanwhile in the United States, there’s 10 times as much (coal mining) going on as there is anything happening in the oilsands.”
Showing slides of picturesque reclaimed mines and tailing ponds, Moore said it’s clearly possible to return the oilsands to their natural state.
“And yet people are being told this is the permanent and total destruction of the North and that all the caribou are going to go extinct because of this.
“That’s absolutely balderdash and that’s what got me involved as an environmentalist to speak out on this because what people are being told is such a lie it should not be allowed to go unanswered.”
Moore also defended the proposal to build a pipeline from Hardisty to refineries in Texas. While some have questioned why the bitumen is not refined in Canada before being sent south, Moore said that would mean building multiple pipelines for the different products created such as gasoline, aviation fuel, diesel and propane.
If the oil is refined in Texas it can be easily trucked to its heavily populated markets there.
“That’s the only sensible way to do it. Yet there’s a whole movement now that thinks the right thing to do is not let Texas have the oil from Alberta.”
Moore also took aim at those who purport to be so certain that the last century or so of global warming is caused by humans.
Scientists know that there have always been periodic warming and cooling trends in Earth’s history, but don’t know why it happened. So why are many so sure that they know humans are to blame for the latest warming trend, he asks.
Neither he, nor any other scientist he’s heard of, denies the earth is getting warmer, he said. “I am a denier of the fact that we know we are the cause that it is warming.”
Moore, who has written a number of books, including Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist touched on many of the positions he has taken that have often put him at odds with environmental groups, including Greenpeace.
While many environmentalists decry forestry, Moore sees trees as a sustainable resource. With 60 per cent of the world’s harvested wood used for cooking and heating, we should be planting more trees to maintain that renewable source of energy, he argues.
Nuclear energy should also be pursued more aggressively, he said. When all of the fossil fuels are gone, there will be enough uranium remaining to provide power for thousands of years. Twenty-one countries get more than 20 per cent of the power from nuclear sources, led by France which harnesses nuclear energy for 80 per cent of its power needs.
Other renewable energy sources are unreliable. Moore said, Solar and wind power alternatives are costly and only provide energy part of the time. And they still must be backed up by conventional power sources, he said.
Hydroelectric power is a better option and already provides 90 per cent of all renewable energy, he said.
As an added plus, Canada is among countries that still has much untapped potential.
While other sources of energy have their uses, the reality is transportation still relies on fossil fuels and that won’t change any time soon. That’s why he supports the oilsands and new pipelines, he said.
But the world must wean itself off of those fuels because they are running out and getting more expensive to extract, Moore said.