There's an awful lot of talk these days about renewable energy, isn't there? It comes down, in many instances, to "tree huggers" vs "oil barons". But, the massive elephant in the same ring as that battle is a fella called Climate Change.
I'm not going to make this an excruciatingly long post preaching about everything that's wrong with carbon pollution in this day and age, because everyone knows pollution of any kind is outright wrong. The challenge is embracing the extinguishing of it, namely in the face of greed and profit. Imagine a world where the energy we need is produced right where you live. You don't need help from overseas or across any borders, or dealings from unsavoury dictators to get that what you need to sustain yourselves. That age is upon us right now. Do you really want it? A growing, tidal wave of supporters doesn't just want it, they're demanding it.
I'm fresh into my 50's now, and what I see largely is a movement of young people who have become increasingly aware of what their future may look like, should the 'old guard' not loosen its grip on the reigns of the current political realm. Change has to happen, and it has to happen right now. Results can not happen overnight, mind you, but plans can be made to assure that we don't veer onto the wrong path. We need entities in politics that are forward thinking who will grab hold of that elusive brass ring and not let go, and assure not only that our future generations, but indeed humanity, have a chance not just to thrive, but to survive at all.
But here's the thing... the present requires us to make funeral arrangements for big oil, but not push it into the grave just yet, as it's still alive and still sustaining us as a species. That's the cold, hard reality for Tree Huggers like myself. Electric cars are fast approaching the horizon, and provide us all with the promise of clean air and deteriorating greenhouse gases to give us hope. Likewise can be said with cheaper, more efficient means of renewable energy, which is making advancements every day, it seems. The death of the oil industry is unavoidable and imminent. Fort McMurray and Hibernia can beat their chests all they want about Canadian home-grown energy, but the fact is, sooner than later, no country will need energy from anyone else. This means quite potentially that a golden age of peace is possible, where greenhouse gases fade, clean air thrives, and energy is plentiful for everyone everywhere, without the reliance of supply from grossly rich leaders, largely in the middle east. Imagine a world where we don't have to feed money to those who have a stranglehold on our very sustainability. We could tell places like Saudi Arabia that, "no, you can't have our armoured vehicles or tanks, because your oil doesn't hold us hostage anymore."
Still, we actually need oil for the short term, don't we? You and I still have cars and homes that need it to run. I know some of us have electric cars and heat pumps, but not all of us. It's not necessarily affordable to everyone. In fact, it isn't, or I'd have both of those myself right now. So, I have to bitch and whine about oil and gas while actually needing it. The goal is to not need it for much longer.
So, there's the tar sands in Fort McMurray. It's an oil haven, rich with black gold, albeit the dirtiest stuff on planet earth. What oil barons want is to build several pipelines to move raw bitumen, in its thickest, hottest, dirtiest form, through pipelines across our country and across the United States to refineries to be processed and, head-scratchingly, be moved across the oceans to places that will buy the stuff. Some of it will be used here. It doesn't matter, where the finished product winds up is not the point I'm trying to make.
Our federal government, not so loudly, has come to the realisation that the oil beds are on their deathbeds, with a life expectancy of not a lot more than another 15 years. Consider that for a moment. Hundreds of kilometres, or miles if that's your thing, of pipelines hogging considerable space on our countries' lands, and bearing down with the inevitable threats to the ecosystem when there are ruptures. And there will be, make no mistake. Pipelines this long have never proven to be safe over those lengths of space, and if the pipelines do go forward, they most certainly will be hastily built. Argue against that all you want. They will insist, ad nauseum, that they are safe. And they most certainly are safe.... until they aren't.
"But Mike," you no doubt are saying to me in your heads, "railway accidents with oil trains are happening all the time. Pipelines are far safer and more efficent". Really? Okay.... when those pipelines are obsolete in 15 years, and you and I know that's not a hell of a long time, who's going to disassemble them and clean them all up? I'll tell you who: Nobody. They will be left to deteriorate and ugly-fy the lands they occupy, and pose even more hazards long after the hot, thick black goo has been
So, then, there are no alternatives. Grin and bear it. We're not long for this world anyway, right?
Here's what needs to be done, in my own humble opinion:
Why do accident like those in Lac Magentic happen, anyway? Braking systems on the trains? Bad railway systems? Here in Canada, under the Harper Conservatives, deregulations occurred all over the map, making our ecosystems fair prey for those who want to harm them. Canada's lakes and rivers were left completely vulnerable and unprotected in the name of Big Oil. Indian reserves were threatened. Cities and towns were left to watch our leaders roll the dice on our safety, which they didn't give a damn about anyway, as oil freight rolled through our lands without anyone imposing rules and regulations on the trains or the tracks they ran on. Maybe you see where I'm going, here.
Railway systems are the problem that needs to be addressed, not the creation of pointless pipelines. Our tracks and many of our trains are in dire need of an upgrade. The need for them is not going to go away, but in fact, like the sources of the energy that sustains us, they must evolve to be safer, more efficient and better-serving. When oil goes bust in 15 years, the tracks that are still there are still going to be abundantly useful. It's a chance to advance the train industry and accelerate the means of transit for people, potentially taking even more cars off the road, whether they're electric or not.
But there are so many tracks! Well then, you prioritise some tracks in the beginning, like the ones most frequented by oil freight, naturally, and let the rest develop as it will. This is a win-win scenario. Oil lives out its final few years in a safer manner, while green energy's tentacles grow throughout the land, while the economy thrives on the jobs that it creates during its transition. Energy steadily becomes cheaper and cheaper, putting more money in the common person's pockets, and everyone is left happy and thriving. Before you know it, no one needs oil anymore, and terrorism wanes because the funding for it has dissipated into almost nothing.
Doesn't that sound like a world you want to leave for your kids? I know it's one that I'd like to see my daughter and (hopefully) my grandkids have.
And I believe it can happen.