Neil Young and his fellow oil sands critics have yet to propose a single credible alternative – by Michael Den Tandt (National Post – January 20, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Neil Young is probably no more, and no less, a moral coward than the next person. But he is a moral coward.

That’s because — like most of the rest of us — he declines to face the logical consequences of his beliefs. He fails to extend. The failure to extend is endemic in the broadening debate about sources of energy, their cost and follow-on effects. It reduces this debate, for the most part, to hyperbolic babble, in which combatants trade volleys like medieval theologians arguing whether angels have mass.

Does Young have the right to use his celebrity to stick it to Big Oil? Clearly he does. As Stephen Maher of Postmedia News has pointed out, this is a poet’s classic role — to act as goad, inciter and rabble-rouser. Artists are like Shakespearean court jesters. They get away with saying things no one else will or can, and they should. But let us, for a moment, talk turkey about the politics of oil, and energy, and the related moral choices that we each make.

As many have noted previously, fossil fuels are not going away, in our lifetime. The International Energy Agency predicted in its World Energy Outlook 2013 that global energy demand will grow by a third between now and 2035, with emerging economies accounting for 90% of net new demand.

China, India, Brazil and the Middle East are expected to be the loci of this growth. Though fossil fuels are projected to over time comprise a lessening share of the world’s total energy supply — from more than 80% to about 75% by 2035 — they will remain dominant in the mix. And this assumes rapid growth in electricity generation from renewables.

Of course, demand for energy is a function of economic growth. We know from experience — 2009, 2001, 1991, 1987 — that economic forecasting is a dark art, not a science. That being said, we can accept, via educated guesswork and the record of history, that the 173 billion barrels of oil embedded in the oil sands will be extracted. We can also accept that such extraction is on balance, despite environmental negatives that must be mitigated, a social good.

That’s because, to perhaps state the obvious, energy and the work it allows us to do underpin our standard of living — not just in Canada but everywhere. More concretely, the oil sands create demand for labour and skills, which fuels private prosperity and funds public services.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/01/19/michael-den-tandt-neil-young-and-his-fellow-oil-sands-critics-have-yet-to-propose-a-single-credible-alternative/

 

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