I must disclose that I have been a Greenpeace member for most of my life. I am an environmentalist and regularly write on this topic. Free enterprise and a good environmental policy are not antonyms, they are in fact two pillars of a modern sustainable culture. The reason I believe this is that there has been a major shift in how people buy in BC. Many of us buy local, we buy hybrids and we buy organic foods even though they all cost more. We support our neighbours and farmers, the small produce suppliers and our blossoming wine industry because we know it is better for the economy and the environment. We also know we cannot put people into poverty en masse.
Wednesday night I received a call from Greenpeace that disturbed me somewhat. One of the three reasons they were calling me was to raise awareness of the importance of climate change and that we should “vote for the climate”. When I asked what that meant, the response was “vote for the party that will keep the tar sands from happening”. He then reported to me in another sentence that “the NDP opposes the pipeline”. The implication being I should vote for the NDP. What does “oppose the pipeline mean”? I have a suspicion that no matter what any party says (perhaps with the exception of the Green Party), that the pipeline will be build. The rational? It is simply the most environmentally friendly way to move the product.
Greenpeace is supposed to be non-partisan. I found it very interesting that the person on the phone did not mention the Green party but rather the NDP. I am not sure why a Greenpeace phone volunteer is spending the money we donate to Greenpeace every month to call me and tell me about our political situation but that is for Elections BC to figure out.
The question that I had to ask when he stated we must oppose the pipeline is “what do you propose will be done in the alternative to move the oil“? There was stunned silence before a reply to the lines of “well we oppose everything about the Alberta Tar sands. If we do not build the pipeline we will cripple that operation“. I had to think about this for a while longer. This was a person who actually believes that if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not built, the entire oil sands will cease production. Better yet, if we elect the NDP who formally “oppose” the pipeline, we can shut down Alberta’s Tar sands. I am sorry but this is simply not true. If the pipeline if not built, the alternative is trucks and rail. We do not have the rights to restrict traffic on national railroads and highways based on hatred of a particular industry. Those are national resources to which we all have equal rights to use.
If we had that power, I will aver that this is a very slippery slope. For the record, I wish we all lived in a utopian society that did not require fossil fuels, but the reality is we do not and change takes time. There is also an important concept of self government. I do not support BC being able to tell Alberta that they cannot develop their natural resources any more that I would support Saskatchewan being able to unilaterally shut down the BC movie industry based on a belief that they are polluting and films are not necessary. What about fishing? If Ontario could shut down our technology industry over concerns about computers containing dangerous substances, it would put many people out of work. What if someone in New Brunswick stopped UBC building condominiums on un-ceded native territory. This is a very dangerous slope to slide down. I understand the dangers of the Tar Sands project and know we have to change. At the same time, I do not believe our students should graduate with $100,000 of debt. We need balance in all policies.
So how does one stop the Tar Sands? Simple. Refuse to buy anything made with energy that comes from the Tar sands. Stop buying cosmetics, cars, tires, bicycles, electronics, clothes and anything plastic made with Alberta crude. Stop buying New Zealand apples and don’t buy green smoothies from Happy Planet, shipped in plastic bottles. If no one wants to buy those products, the market for that product will dry up very quickly as no manufacturer would allow it in their products. This would cause a slump in demand and a reversal of the trend. While sounding easy though, this equation is not so simple. What if companies like Enbridge actually used the profits from the tar sands to invest into renewable energy sources to prepare the world for a better future? Well guess what? They do this.
Enbridge now generates over 1,365 MW of clean and renewable energy. Do not believe me, read the website page at http://www.enbridge.com/DeliveringEnergy/RenewableEnergy.aspx. By contrast, the BC Carbon Tax has invested zero dollars and produced not one single MW of clean energy. That tax is revenue neutral and only shuffles money around. It also does not stop GHG emissions (read the increased amounts of GHG’s going into the environment on page 66 of the BC Provincial Budget).
So who are the bad guys and who are the good guys? There is no right answer to this question. My only hope is that I can invite anyone reading this to widen their thoughts and be a little more open minded. We all need to work together on this. No matter who wins the Provincial election May 14, we all have a deep responsibility to move forward to clean energy. If you are a protestor, keep protesting to raise awareness. If you have an idea to move to renewable energy, help Enbridge and others use the proceeds of the tar sands to invest into clean energy. They are an energy company. Oil is only one currency in that market. If they invest all their money into oil, they will due as a company when the oil runs out. The people I know at Enbridge told me that they know they need to move off oil to be successful in the future. Some top environmentalists have noted this and are helping them with this change.
We all know oil is running out. We have to reduce GHG’s. I have a plan to use Geothermal energy to both produce clean and renewable energy for British Columbians. We can do this. It is not that complicated but it requires educating people on how this will work.
Conservatives (and anyone else with a sane brain) do not want our planet ruined. We are entrenched to fight against this and restore BC as an economic leader. In the meantime, some have advocated raising taxes on gasoline to cut back on people using cars. Fine, I can personally afford $20/litre gas yet I found even the most hardened environmentalists are stating that this is not going to work for them. “My life will be hell and my food and transportation bill will be through the roof” they claim. True I replied, but we will achieve the goal of reducing your contributing to GHG emissions. Most of them did not realize this was purely a rhetorical statement and got angry with me thinking it was an attack on their ability to exist. When I pointed out that this is the same logic they are using on others, many then thanked me for helping to raise their awareness.
I am a friend of both clean energy and environmental causes. I will not favor one at the expense of the others though. We all need to work together on this.
We have an answer to meet the GHG targets for 2020 but also know that we have to measure them in a way that is fair and realistic. Simply outsourcing the GHG’s used in manufacturing to China is not the answer. After all, this is global warming, not BC warming.
Please give this some thought.