If Tar Sands Happens: Game Over for the Climate
Here's an informative debate on the Alberta tar sands issue between lead environmental activist Bill McKibbon and some clone from the Randroid Manhattan Institute:
JEFFREY BROWN: Bill McKibben, why these protests? What are -- what's the key problems you see with this project?
BILL MCKIBBEN,environmental activist/writer: You know, this has turned into the biggest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement in a generation.
And the reason is that this is -- this tar sands in Alberta is a big deal. It's the second largest pool of carbon on Earth, after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Jim Hansen of NASA, who was arrested today, really the world's foremost climate scientist, said -- as he was speaking this morning, said, if we go ahead and begin tapping these unconventional energy sources, of which the tar sands are the biggest example, it is -- and here I quote - "essentially game over for the climate."
Since, for once, Obama can stop a project without having Congress in the way, this has become the focal point. And these arrests have -- actually now over 500 people. The numbers are just growing and growing day after day.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will go into some of the details. But, first, as a general proposition you support this.
ROBERT BRYCE, Manhattan Institute: Sure. I do.
Well, Jeff, I appreciate Bill McKibben's passion on the issue. I understand his position. But my position is very simple. I'm for cheap, abundant, reliable energy, particularly now in the U.S., when we have over 45 million Americans on food stamps, we have more than nine million unemployed. The actually unemployed or underemployed is probably twice that number.
We need cheap, abundant, reliable energy. And this project will in particular provide abundant and reliable energy. The tar -- the oil sands in Canada have over 100 billion barrels of oil in them. And we need it no, given -- particularly because we want North American energy production. Better off if it's domestic. But we have been relying on Mexico and Canada for many years.
Over the last decade, Mexico's oil production has fallen by 600,000 barrels and Canada's has risen by more than 600,000 barrels. I would like that -- we need that reliable energy production as close to home as we can. And if we can buy it from friends and allies, that's even better.
First of all, it would be really awesome if members of the Manhattan Institute ever gave a damn about unemployment any time they weren't using it as an excuse to sell some heinous policy. It's like the anti-abortion people who pretend to care about women's mental health as they're forcing them to have children against their will. But that's beside the point. The real issue here is whether these tar sands are going to give the world the excuse to keep burning oil and destroy the planet. The Manhattan Institute seems to think we should burn as much of it as we can, as quickly as possible. And if they have to maintain the fiction that oil isn't a world market, they'll do it.
I suspect that if McKibben could somehow tap into the only concern conservatives ever have about the future --- debt --- he might get some place. But other than deficit projections for forty years from now, these are the most "live in the now", "love the one you're with", "party like it's 1999" group of short term thinkers on the planet. And that includes teen-agers, who believe they can never die. These gluttons just don't care about anything but how much money they can make or spend right this minute.
The question, of course, is whether or not the administration is going to join them and continue to hypocritically rend its garments over future deficits while ignoring the death of the planet.
As McKibben rightly pointed out, this problem is upon us:
BILL MCKIBBEN: You know, there's got to be a better way to deal with our food stamp problem, especially when, as we're now beginning to see, after a year of the most violent and extreme weather we have ever recorded around the planet, after the price of food has gone up around the world 80 percent because we're missing harvest after harvest with drought and with flood.
We have got to take global warming completely seriously. I understand the realism that Robert brings to this, but there is a deeper realism at work here. And if we do not get to work on climate change now -- and this has become the proxy fight for climate change in the Obama administration.
This is a guy who when he -- the night he was nominated said, in my presidency, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal.
Congress has kept him from keeping many of those promises, but, this time, he can.
It's not looking promising, but the deed's not done, so anything can still happen.