A subsidized option

This is a blog that might not go over so well where I live.

Oil is always a topic that gets heated because it is something that has created a lot of opportunities in Canada, especially in Alberta.

But is it really something we should be focusing all of our energy and attention on?

The issue is one that many see as black or white. Oil good, oil bad; invest, invest, invest, stop, stop, stop.

But despite these simplistic views it’s important to understand the complex aspects of it, and some of the facts, on either side of the issue, can not be ignored.

Oil is something that has made a lot possible for our country, and there was a time when that was all we needed. However, a lot has changed since then and we have learned many things about oil, including its impact on the environment, the amount that is available, and that we can do a lot without it.

Currently, we are seeing and hearing a lot about pipelines, whether it be in Canada or the US.

People are fighting against them due to the dangers they can pose, 2 US states have declared states of emergency due to leaks, while others fight for them, desperate to find ways to relieve the economic hardships that face this country as areas see unemployment soar.

The truth is when it comes to oil no one will be happy as it is very much a double-edged sword, and there will always be risks with its production and delivery.

Trains, for example, are another means of transportation but as pipelines became more publically desired the reports of spills along railways increased, possibly just more publically reported, and concern about the method became an argument for a switch. The same thing will likely happen now with pipelines, but truly anytime there is a spill attention should be given to it, no matter the mode, as the ramifications are huge.

I recently saw a Facebook post touting the fact the Canada makes up a small percentage of the carbon emissions in our atmosphere and that if we decreased that amount it would not make much of a difference in the big picture. But to me this idea is ridiculous.

Since when does the idea of self-improvement rely so heavily on the actions of others? Do we not want to do our part to protect our environment? One of the things that makes Canada so iconic around the world.

Do we not look at fighting for things such as women’s rights because there are countries around the world where women have it much worse? Or do we not look at preventing homelessness because other countries live in higher levels of poverty than us?

As a country we should always be looking at ways we can make ourselves better, that is what got us where we are today and it will take us into the future as long as we don’t stubbornly grip to our outdated past.

The aforementioned post was an argument made against the idea of a carbon tax, something that is intended to act as a way for everyday citizens and industry to become more aware of their carbon footprint and encourage them to alter it.

Albeit, this might not be the best time to introduce such measures, due to the already looming economic hardships, but financial penalties seem to be the only way people will actually react to environmental initiatives.

As they say, money talks.

Over the years oil production has come a long way and technology has made it better for the environment; better being a loose term as this does not mean it’s good in any way.

For a long time now oil companies have been receiving help from the government, in the form of subsidies, which has allowed them to increase profits, create more jobs, and produce more oil.

This has worked in favour of oil-reliant provinces such as Alberta, but things are changing and the volatility of the oil industry has become increasingly clear despite the fact that it has always been there.

We live in a country that has all its eggs in one shaky basket, and many people seem to be okay with that when times are good.

Over the years an egg has popped out here or there, maybe even two or three, but half a dozen or more have fallen and the hens are stressed because the global coop has gotten bigger and there isn’t enough demand for omelettes.

Now, I’m not saying we should give up on oil completely, after all, humans are stubborn and there are things we likely won’t give up that are reliant on it. However, I do believe it’s time we seriously look at diversifying our portfolio in a meaningful way.

Oil is here to stay and the truth is we will still need it once we are ready to start transitioning over to more sustainable ways to produce the material items we know and love.

I view it in much the same way as building a new bridge. You don’t tear down the old one prior to completing the new, but rather use it until the project is completed and then look at whether there are new less strenuous ways old infrastructure can be used. Only when all options have been looked at and its use is no longer viable or responsible should its end come, and for oil that is a very long time from now.

Prior to the downturn we are now experiencing, I often questioned why oil companies themselves weren’t looking at “new” forms of energy (ie. wind, solar, etc). Surely there was money they could have invested into research and development so that when oil was in a lull there would be some sort of possible stability or even just another market they could take advantage of.

But alas they did not, and now you see companies facing dire times, some even shutting down because they chose to gamble solely on an industry that was out of their control.

All around the world, other countries are waking up to the fact that the global oil dependence is something that needs to change, and it is these countries, companies, and people that are going to benefit once the transition is finally made.

Where will Canada be when that day finally comes? Will we continue to focus on pipelines and patches, or will we accept the inevitable and embrace change?

No one can say that oil will one day be obsolete, that would just be naïve, but hopefully one day oil will simply be just another option.


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