Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Economic Short-Sightedness & The Environment: Canadian Tar Sands Oil

Leave a comment

Among other energy-related news, Canadian tar sands oil has maintained a relatively low profile, even in American environmental circles.  That’s dangerously short-sighted.  As I’ve argued against overt climate change denialism, it seems some groups closer to my worldview need some education and encouragement to do the correct thing.

The U.S. State Department apparently has been working to alleviate concerns of parties in Canada interested in transporting tar sands oil from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.  This wouldn’t change the balance of what gets processed in the U.S. very much, but one of the arguments for doing this would be to decrease the amount of oil processed from unstable regions (i.e. the Middle East).  The U.S. State Department, in 2009, helped work on this and other messaging for pro-dirty energy interests.  That would be the Obama State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton.  Obama has taken some actions which can be characterized as good in dealing with the threat of climate change.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the only action he’s taken which can be characterized as bad.

Additional parties deserve to be called out:

Yet pressure to approve the Keystone XL addition is high. Its supporters in Congress and industry — it also has the support of the AFL-CIO and Teamsters union — estimate that it would create more than 300,000 American jobs, reduce dependence on crude oil from unstable or hostile governments and push down gasoline prices.

This economically-based short-sightedness is appalling.  I’ll ask the AFL-CIO and Teamsters (groups I generally support, by the way) the same question I’ve asked climate change deniers: when global ecosystems collapse as a result of our heat-trapping pollution, do they really think they’re going to be worried about job availability?  Our societies and civilization are at stake – the foundations upon which jobs exist.  Without those, jobs, either union or not, won’t matter.  We’ll be far more concerned with simple day-to-day survival problems such as locating fresh water and having enough food to eat.

I understand the desire to push for good jobs.  People today live in the societies of today, and ours isn’t one that is inclined to share power with the lower and middle classes.  However, the unions themselves deserve additional examination of what candidates they supported in the past that were all to willing to undercut their interests once in office, much as Obama has done.

If the tar sands oil, which requires burning natural gas to drill for, by the way, is burned, CO2 concentrations will jump from today’s 390ppm to over 600ppm.  That doesn’t include any other source of heat-trapping pollution – that’s only considering tar sands oil.  600ppm will produce a world which is unlivable by a majority of today’s species, mostly because of the time-scale over which we jump to 600ppm (see my recent blog post about CO2 concentrations and the PETM).  The thought that pro-worker groups would be willing to trade 300,000 jobs in the next handful of years that would help contribute to an unlivable planet in the next few centuries makes my stomach turn.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s