(SNN) - Every day, in front of the White House, people gather to protest this and that. These protests are largely ineffective and almost universally ignored. Eventually, the people return to their mini-vans with their little signs and go home; safe in the knowledge they did their bit. The dynamic only changes when: a) a celebrity is marching with the protest sign and b) the celebrity stops marching and remains in the same stretch of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for over an hour. If you want to play the White House, you have to keep moving. If you don’t, you’ll be arrested and carted away to face what will probably be a modest fine and/or time served. Of course some protesters, especially those of the celebrity variety, prefer the arrest option. The fine is paltry but the publicity is, as they say; priceless for both the cause and the spokesman.
Such was the case when actress, Daryl Hannah, chose to publicize her personal distaste for Alberta’s “dirty oil” and the Keystone Pipeline. The new pipeline, currently in the approval process is designed to send both Alberta bitumen and Canadian jobs south to US refineries. Although losing jobs from our own employment pool is usually bad news, perhaps helping our neighbours while they are struggling might be wise for our own economic self interest.
Ms. Hannah, apparently believing that creating employment and ensuring supplies of an essential resource is a bad thing, broke the law regarding keeping the protest moving. It was an obvious publicity stunt to draw attention to her personal views (not to mention her latest movie projects). She said basically that oil, especially tar sand oil, is bad and they should put a stop to importing oil and use more green energy initiatives. Too bad the problem isn’t as simple as the mind that produced this solution. Unfortunately, finding alternative energy sources has been like straightening a bent nail. Get the kinks out over here but inevitably, you create a kink over there. When the US government, who was already subsidizing corn producers, provided incentives to create ethanol as a substitute for gasoline, it sent food prices leaping upward worldwide, affecting the poorest nations the most. Apparently using a food source for fuel isn’t such a great idea after all.
You can forget wind-energy, too. Maybe someday it will be powering whatever lies ahead for the Chevy Volt but for now, wind generation has been an expensive and underwhelming experiment. Worse yet, even “environmentally sensitive” power generation projects aren’t without their own anti-nature footprint. Wind farms kill birds with impunity that Syncrude can only dream of. Worse yet, people have come forward complaining that living near wind farms affects their bodies to the point of driving them from their homes. They report similar symptoms as people living too close to other strong electro-magnetic sources; headache, nausea, nervousness, uneasiness... ailments only relieved when the wind farms’ acres of spinning propellers experience the occasional shut-downs.
Solar power, too, is not as rosy a picture as it might seem to be, either. It ‘s expensive to set up and maintain and the return on the investment takes a long time. George W. Bush hit the nail on the head when he blurted out that Americans were “addicted to oil” and that the US government must do whatever it takes to ensure availability of supply. To fail to do so would cripple the economy worse than anything they’ve ever seen.
We supply the US with 20% of their oil requirements. The rest they have to buy elsewhere, often from murderous madmen and oppressive dictators which only serves to strengthen their despotic regimes. These oil producing nations are susceptible to supply interruptions due to war (Iraq and Libya spring to mind) as well as through political strife such as with Chavez’s death in Venezuela. Canadian oil is constant, steady and close. Yes, there are occasional oil spills; even horribly destructive ones. Oil is a dirty business and there are always risks no matter how it’s transported. Cleaning up an oil spill from a leaky pipe, however, is much less damaging and easier to contain and restore than a marine habitat.
In some ways I agree with Ms. Hannah. I, too, as would like my country, and myself, to be freed of the yoke of our dependence on oil. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Hoping for technology to spare us from an economic crisis that would make the last recession look like a dip in the market is a sketchy plan at best. It’s not like the world isn’t clamouring for the technology already. There would be a ton of money for anyone creating a truly green, renewable, cost-effective energy source. Turning off the oil taps won’t create that technology, however.
So keep protesting against our dirty oil. Get your nice, clean oil from the ecologically sensitive coastal waters. Get it from thugs and thieves. We don’t need to sell it to you. There isn’t a drop of oil that is produced that hasn’t already been bought three months previous. If you haven’t noticed, Ms. Hannah; there is a huge worldwide demand for the stuff. Everyone else knows it, including your government. This is why the pipeline will be approved, despite the spirited performance by the environmentally passionate celebrity, or any of her ilk. People who really understand the situation know secure oil supplies are more important than the misguided wishes of a Hollywood celebrity.
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