Oil and Ice Tour: Are we giving up ice for oil?

[Just got word of this speaking tour that will be travelling Canada from Coast to Coast this month.]

Join two of Canada's leading authors for a discussion about the choices that will determine the future of Canada's Arctic, and what we can learn from the tar sands.

WWF-Canada is proud to host the cross-Canada speaking tour of award-winning authors Andrew Nikiforuk (Tar Sands) and Ed Struzik (The Big Thaw). Join them this fall as they discuss how the melting of Arctic sea ice and the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands are connected, and how they are shaping Canada's future. WWF aims to stimulate debate among Canadians about the choices and consequences – political, cultural, economic and environmental – involved in how we develop the tar sands and respond to a changing Arctic.

Join us in a city near you between November 4-20, 2009. See here for more information about dates and locations.


7 Responses to "Oil and Ice Tour: Are we giving up ice for oil?"

Toby said... 6 November 2009 at 14:52

check out Jim Rogers on commodities

Alex Aylett said... 6 November 2009 at 20:34

Hi Toby,
other than a terrible bow-tie and the host's very unfortunate microphone placement I'm not exactly sure what you were pointing to in the Rogers video.

His main point on oil was: we are running out and prices are going to go much higher. Peak Oil. Yes. News? No.

Some people use that fact to justify arguments for the inevitability of the development of the tar sands. Maybe that's your point. But I just don't think that holds, here's why:

1) Carbon Liability. If the world comes anywhere even close to establishing a price for carbon, oil derived from the tar sands while have an hefty surcharge applied to it to reflect the fact that it is the most carbon intensive source of fossil fuels that exists.

2) Fuel switching. As the price of fossil fuels rises, alternatives will become increasingly attractive. The markets for electric powered mobility (for example) will expand dramatically in step with the escalating price of oil. Wherever we can use suitable alternatives for fossil fuels we will, and we will reduce our activities in areas where we can't (i.e. leisure flights) once costs in those areas reflect the new costs of oil.

There are two real questions, in the Canadian context.

First, do we want our economy to become increasingly dependent on oil revenue from the Tar Sands? Or do we want to enact the types of environmental policies that will position us to become a green-technology powerhouse? I don't think we can do both, policies that protect the sands block some of the most effective incentives for supporting cutting edge green technology firms. (A price on carbon foremost among them).

Second, oil isn't the only commodity in Canada. Are we willing to assume the economic impacts that come from not tightly regulating GHG emissions? Agricultural yields throughout the prairies, for example, are projected to decline by as much as 40% by the last quarter of this century. Similar things can be said for fisheries, and Pine Beetle in BC has shown us the risks to forestry.

By blocking effective international climate regulations, we are locking ourselves into that future. Is promoting the development of the tar sands, and the political position that results from it, worth that sacrifice?

It's not. The tar sands are an albatross around the neck of the Canadian economy, one that contributes directly to undercutting other key sectors in Canada's economy.

But maybe you just wanted to say that you thought his tie was cool.

Toby said... 7 November 2009 at 10:24

Wait, you're saying you didn't like his bow tie?

I thought it was interesting that, as a leading investor, the idea that we would not find, extract, sell, and presumably burn, every last drop of oil on the planet, wasn't even part of the discussion.

He made no mention (clearly a purposeful omission, he's not an idiot) of "the world com[ing] anywhere even close to establishing a price for carbon" / "effective international climate regulations".

So, it's not that it's not on powers like Rogers' mind (I think Buffett just bought the whole BNSF), but there was certainly no spotlight on alternatives in that very poorly lit little video.

Alex Aylett said... 8 November 2009 at 15:03

Buffet is not the best example, given that BNSF is used almost entirely to transport coal (see link below).

If you want to play "Battle of the Financial Titans", I'd say George Soros had it right (and a much better suit on) last year when he said:
"You see, for the last 25 years the world economy, the motor of the world economy that has been driving it was consumption by the American consumer... So that motor is now switched off. It’s finished. ... You need a new motor. And we have a big problem. Global warming. It requires big investment. And that could be the motor of the world economy in the years to come."
(Link below.)
[As a tangent: It's interesting that a year later Soros is also focusing on farmland (especially sub-Saharan farmland, link below). Farmland and Climate Change are closely linked. African farmland in particular is massively depleted. Restoring soil fertility with carefully managed biochar systems (link below), could sequester a phenomenal amount of CO2]

BNSF -----

Soros ----- http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/george-soros-on-the-green-energy-economy/?scp=20&sq=green%20infrastructure%20october%202008&st=cse

Farmland ----

Biochar ----

Toby said... 8 November 2009 at 15:17

Let me be more clear, Rogers is ignoring issues that fundamentally challenges his oil fundamentals. Yes there are other leading investors who do not omit the "big problem", like Soros. Buffett, as you point out, has made a bet on US energy strategy, unfortunately he thinks it's not going to turn out the way we hope.
I was curious why Rogers, in a relatively reputable news source, might be allowed to seem to ignore these questions altogether.

Alex Aylett said... 8 November 2009 at 15:35

And that is a very good question. I would have loved to see what his reply would have been if he'd been asked about climate change.

Don Knapp said... 11 November 2009 at 01:28

Hi Alex,

This is Don from ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. I'd like to get in touch with you about a sustainability project we're working on that will interest you, but I don't have your e-mail address. Can you contact me at don.knapp [at] iclei [dot] org? Thanks.


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