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An Unsustainable Energy Strategy

2012/08/02

Canada’s Premiers (leaders of each province) have been meeting this week, as they often do, and what has been making the news is talk of a National Energy Strategy.  Despite the fact that we are only years away from losing the ability to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the new Energy Strategy is focused on the Alberta Tar Sands and offshore drilling.British Columbia’s Premier has, until now, boycotted the Energy Strategy over the Northern Gateway pipeline project.  This project would take crude bitumen from Alberta’s Tar Sands to the town of Kitimat on the Pacific Coast of B.C.  From there, it would be put on massive tankers which would have to navigate over 100 km of narrow, dangerous waters before reaching the open sea.

The path of the Northern Gateway pipeline

The path of the Northern Gateway pipeline

How oil would spread from a tanker spill along the coast of B.C.

How oil would spread from a tanker spill along the coast of B.C.

Before getting B.C.’s approval, the pipeline project will have to meet a set of five requirements which revolve around safety and B.C. getting a “fair share” of revenue from the project.  In a sane world, B.C.’s approval would never happen as there exists no technology to efficiently clean up the tanker spill that is bound to happen.  To make matters worse, Tar Sands oil is heavier than water and would SINK if a tanker leaving from B.C. were to have an accident.  Good luck cleaning that up.

As a whole, this National Energy Strategy is, in my opinion, dangerous and irresponsible.  It is based on greed and politics rather than science and the need for real leadership.

I found an excuse to publicly “vent” about this so-called Energy Strategy when a PEI reporter described it as a “strategic plan for sustainable energy development that takes into account regional strengths and needs” (my emphasis).  The following is my letter to the editor of The Guardian newspaper of Prince Edward Island.

An Unsustainable Energy Strategy

In the Guardian article “Eastern pipeline not a pipe dream”, author Teresa Wright concludes by stating that a working group, including three of Canada’s Premiers, “will come up with a strategic plan for sustainable energy development that takes into account regional strengths and needs”.  I have a serious issue with the use of the word “sustainable” in this context.

This “national energy strategy” that the premiers are discussing is centred on the Alberta Tar Sands and offshore drilling.  If you look up the word “sustainable” in the dictionary, you will see that there is nothing sustainable about these means of energy production.

A first definition of sustainable is “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”.  Since petroleum is a finite (will run out) resource, the Tar Sands and offshore drilling cannot, by definition, be sustainable.

A second definition of sustainable is “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources” such as water trees and animals.  The mining of Alberta’s Tar Sands requires the destruction of the Boreal Forest and the pollution of incredible amounts of freshwater taken from the Athabasca River.  Again, not sustainable.

Meanwhile, the drilling for oil and gas offshore (in the sea) invariably leads to offshore oil spills and the destruction of the aquatic ecosystems.  Again, not sustainable.  (And, by the way, there are plans to drill in the Gulf of St-Lawrence.)

But most importantly, the combustion of petroleum and other fossil fuels is the root cause of global warming and the changing of our climate.  And as this summer has shown, climate change puts at risk our health, our agriculture and our fisheries.  Even PEI coasts are at risk as erosion rates accelerate.  The more petroleum we extract and burn, the worse the climate will become.  That is absolutely not sustainable.

PEI (and all of Canada) needs an energy strategy that is based on renewable sources of energy – wind, solar, tidal, geothermal – with the goal of getting us off of fossil fuels as soon as possible.  Anything less puts the wellbeing of Islanders at risk.

Anything less is not sustainable.

Jocelyn Plourde

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/08/02 5:09 am

    Good post and nicely explained. What would also help would be if people consumed less. Not just in terms of direct energy but also not endlessly buying new, new, new. There is no need for such rampant consumerism displayed by the western world.

    • 2012/08/02 5:14 am

      Thank you for the comment (and the “like”). I completely agree with your argument about consumerism. Controlling our rate of consumption would help a great number of environmental issues. It is sad that it would also have a horrible impact on our global economy.
      You know your system is broken when…

  2. Martin Lack permalink
    2012/08/06 6:29 am

    Very well explained JP. Although nowhere near as mad as your Government, in the UK, ours is also lying to itself and to all those it governs (as indeed James Hansen suggests all governments are doing in Storms of our Grandchildren)…
    http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/a-very-unsustainable-energy-bill/

  3. 2013/02/27 6:59 pm

    Very Nice post JP it’s very well explained.
    P.S It Matthew

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