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Conversations About Energy Sources, Energy Policy and Climate on “Up With Chris Hayes”

2012/12/09

Yesterday, I watched an episode of the TV show Up With Chris Hayes that I believe many of you would find interesting.

The host of the show, Chris Hayes, is one of the few political pundits on television who regularly talks about climate change.  And yesterday, (Saturday, December 8th) the entire show was dedicated to the energy situation in the USA.

The show went through a long list of issues including the contest between coal and natural gas, the regulations surrounding hydraulic fracturing, the current energy production boom in the US and how it may affect politics in the States, the problem with the USA’s relatively low energy prices, carbon pricing, renewable energy sources, energy subsidies and green energy in the American military.  (Keep in mind that Up With Chris Hayes is a two hour program).  Carbon emissions and climate change also came up throughout.

Midway through the show, Mr. Hayes did a short monologue titled “Saudi America” during which he described the USA’s current fossil fuel boom.  I found that his analysis of the risks associated with that extraction boom very much applies to our current situation here in Canada.  And I think it is worth sharing that analysis with you:

Delighting in our carbon extraction boom is staggeringly, almost psychopathically perverse because, well, it is exactly that carbon extraction that is hurling the world toward a distopic future, a possible 4 degrees Celsius global temperature rise, droughts, floods, storms, disease, death, crop failures, and on and on.  In other words, you cannot separate energy policy form climate policy.  They are one and the same.  And based on calculations by Bill McKibben and the rest of the folks at 350.org, only one fifth of the current proven fossil fuel reserves, that includes oil, gas, everything, can be taken out of the ground and used without our planet passing the critical 2 degree increase threshold.  In other words, 80% of the fossil fuels that we at this very moment know we can take out have to stay in the ground.  But, there’s another related threat posed by the ramping up of our fossil fuel extraction.  And that is, as America begins to ape Saudi Arabia’s productive capacity, it also begins to more closely resemble its politics.  Economists have long talked about the “Resource Curse” and the fact that countries with massive, lucrative natural resources bounties tend to be developmental and governance basket cases.  Ruled over by a feckless, ruthless, entrenched set of extraction oligarchs.  And if you think that sounds foreign, go take a look at the politics in places like West Texas and West Virginia.  The promise of energy independence is a kind of liberation.  But it is a false promise.  If history or a look across the globe tells us anything, it’s that the extremely lucrative industry of extracting and selling carbon fuel offers all the actual freedom of the devil’s handshake.  How we escape it after this.

I’d argue that Canada is suffering from that “Resource Curse”.

If you’d like to watch the show, simply click here, or head over to the Up With Chris Hayes website and look for the videos for December 8, 2012

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