Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How ethical is renewable energy?

As I tweet more, I blog less.

I've noticed this to be true of many of my friends who actively tweet and own blogs, especially those of the sporting and socio-political variety. I guess twitter is doing to blogging what facebook did to instant messaging. Not quite eliminating it (a la e-mail to letter-writing), but making it the second option.

I've also been tied up with the rigorous demands of drilling for oil in one of the largest reserves in the world - yes, I'm proud to be linked with the oil sands of Alberta, as "dirty" as some environmentalists claim it is. I guess no one has told these environmentalists that there is some good being done here - reclamation of settling ponds into veritable wildlife preserves, the carbon offsets companies here are involved in, the wind power and ethanol generation that some led by Suncor (shameless plug for my company) are engaged in, or how rigorous their safety standards are.
Or while we wait for the hydrogen-powered cars of the future, does no one think of the socio-political issues around drilling in the Middle East? Sure, you can suck up oil from the ground using a straw in those places, but at what cost to the people there? At what cost to generation X of the United States and its allies, who aren't fighting a war for world peace or to bring down a tyrant - as was the case in the first two world wars, respectively - but who are fighting instead so that the West can have oil at $70 per barrel?

See, the ethics behind the exploitation of any natural resource for energy will always be brought into question:

- Should corn be grown to fuel our over dependence on vehicular traffic or should it be grown to feed the hungry in Cambodia and Chad?
- Should nuclear power be developed, even though it could result in the sort of catastrophe we are witnessing in Japan at present?
- Should wind power be harnessed, despite the environmental noise issue and the growing evidence that offshore wind farms (which don't have the noise issue) are affecting wave patterns and create sonar disturbances below sea level?

Sure, there are cleaner forms of energy, but how many of them are actually renewable and can be brought within the buying power of the poorest of the poor in the world in the next hundred years? None! Is it ethical to deny the world's poor and needy access to energy like firewood and kerosene because it stains our conscience? I wager not!

It's easy for the bright-eyed liberal kids, fresh from getting their degrees in "Liberal Arts" (not to denigrate the program, but let's face it, most of those kids were known more for their weed smoking and "bohemian" lifestyles than any sort of academic inclination) to sit at Starbucks with their $5 lattes and moan about how the world is being destroyed and how "big business" is ruining things for the little guy. It's their prerogative to do that. It's also the prerogative of right-thinking individuals to use analytical thought and reasoning when making the cases for and against any technology or energy resource.

To me, energy sustainability should start with energy conservation and efficiency. Lights shouldn't run 24/7, cars shouldn't be left idling (which is when cars pollute the most because the energy isn't doing any work), our above-described liberal friends should stop taking so many airplane trips to "exotic" places, stop buying new cars every other year...and the list goes on.
Until the world is in a position to act decisively on energy matters - for the world, not just for the West - the focus should be on this and on responsibly developing our fossil fuel reserves. To me, the oil produced here in Alberta goes a farther way to accomplishing this goal than the "cheap" oil produced in the Middle East.

1 comment:

  1. there are two things i know: the fossil fuels we require to run the world will either run out in our lifetime, or our climate will be destroyed by the effects of green house gases. the fact that there are no scalable alternatives is solely down to the lack of political will in Washington that has existed for decades. If America had listened to Jimmy Carter in the 70s, after two oil shocks, we wouldn't be having this conversation.