Posts Tagged ‘oil’

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?
Josh Wise CIELAP Intern
June 17, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

People just want to go on doing what they’re doing. They want business as usual. They say, ‘Oh yes, there’s going to be a problem up ahead,’ but they don’t want to change anything”
– James Lovelock (Carbon Shift, 2009)

The disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has provided a stark reminder of the lengths our society will go in order to feed our addiction to oil. The destruction caused by this spill should provide a reminder of the true environmental and social costs of oil extraction. The age of inexpensive, easily accessible and (relatively) clean oil extraction has come and gone. In order to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy we have drilled into our oceans, mined virgin ecosystems, and shipped oil halfway around the world and back. This practice has countless ecological and societal implications, which are most often overlooked and externalized.

In spite of numerous calls for change over the past decades, society remains dependant on oil and fossil fuels for its material basis and primary energy source. We must begin to rid ourselves of this dependence and use this disaster as motivation to prepare for a future with less access to petroleum based oil.

The Hubbert Peak Oil Theory –that petroleum supply will decline due to resource depletion– is beginning to come to fruition as new oil discoveries dwindle and extraction increases. Conventionally sourced oil has already peaked in North America with all new discoveries coming in the forms of tar sands and deepwater extraction.

The environmental and social consequences of these extraction methods are being felt throughout the Gulf Coast and Northern Alberta. Both have created enormous regions of contaminated ecosystems and poisoned local indigenous and societal groups; all in the name of short-term economic gains.

Our dependence on this finite resource is changing our climate, initiating wars, and destroying ecosystems. The impacts are being felt at all stages of the resource’s lifecycle, from extraction to consumption. It is time to truly address the need for alternatives.

The search for alternatives has resulted in two major schools of thought: techno-centric ideas, like Green Chemistry, including measures such as oil extraction from Micro-Algae, and theories on low-energy living that aim to reform societal expectations of growth. While approaching the issue from very different perspectives, both schools look to bring greater balance to the ecological, social and economic bottom lines. Maintaining this balance would ensure the true costs of oil extraction are understood and reflected in the financial price to the consumer.

This is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Our petroleum dependence is ingrained in our current unsustainable lifestyle and like any other addiction it will be difficult to kick the habit. The sustainability movement looks to help free us of this addiction through balanced living. This will involve a combination of techno-centric solutions and societal reforms.

This issue can only be addressed through strong leadership in governance, transparency within industry and awareness in civil society. The responsibility must be shared in order for positive change to occur. The reduction of oil dependence is a major step towards sustainable living where all dimensions of the triple bottom line are equally addressed.

CIELAP looks to advance sustainability ideas in order to help initiate a positive future where the economic, social and environmental bottom lines are in harmony.

Links to recent articles/blogs approaching this subject:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2010/06/our-oil-addiction-has-always-been-messy/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/jeff-rubins-smaller-world/gulf-oil-disaster-doesnt-make-the-tar-sands-green/article1596265/

http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/environment/article/823162–gulf-oil-spill-wake-up-call-for-ontario-groups-warn-mcguinty

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/world/africa/17nigeria.html?ref=science

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/01/us/20100501-oil-spill-tracker.html

Should we drill in the Arctic?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Delay Arctic Drilling Hearings, Energy Board Urged

CBC, 4 May 2010

Melting Ice Feeds Warming Trend: Report

Montreal Gazette, 29 April 2010

According to an April 29 report published in the journal Nature, as more sea ice melts, more heat is released into the atmosphere, and climate warming is exacerbated. Alarmingly, arctic temperature increases in the last decade have been twice as high as the global average. The large amounts of thin ice covering the artic this year will likely melt quickly, leading to a large thaw. Additionally, a general trend of decreasing winter sea ice has been observed. This will dramatically impact arctic ecosystems, and threaten the lifestyles of those living in the region.

The fragility of the arctic ecosystem is underscored by oil extraction activity in the region. The recent explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico highlights the potentially doubly negative impact of arctic oil extraction. Not only are greenhouse gases emitted via the extraction and use of fossil fuels, but the technology used to extract these fuels may have catastrophic environmental impacts in the event of a malfunction. The National Energy Board is currently holding hearings on Beaufort Sea drilling. Despite being asked by oil companies to postpone these hearings, the long term result of the hearings may result in a policy that addresses the long-term safety and management of arctic drilling. Many environmental groups have argued that drilling in the arctic should not take place until sound policy regulating it has been implemented.

CIELAP has a strong interest in arctic environmental issues, and has partnered with the National Film Board to hold screenings of films related to arctic issues, among other topics. These films include Arctic Circle, This Land, The Great Adventure, Being Caribou, and Weather Report. The firms depict the unique vulnerability of the artic, and the environmental and social impacts of climate change in the region, and globally. They also present an imperative for policy that addresses the causes and impacts of arctic climate change.

Article 1 link: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2010/05/04/neb-beaufort-drilling.html

Article 2 link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Melting+feeds+warming+trend+report/2963542/story.html

Information about past and upcoming CIELAP events: http://cielap.org/events.php