David Roberts called for activism in the Keystone XL fight. An Alberta-based reader responds with some local perspective:
Your David Roberts quote (Fuck you. Watch me) reminded me again that Americans know so very little about Canada and Canadians and what the tar sands represent to the people of Alberta. I live in Alberta outside Edmonton. You’d have to look long and hard to find anyone from here to the far north whose life isn’t touched to one, or many degrees, by the oil industry. By and large, we’ve ridden out the current recession thanks to the tar sands and aside from a small (compared to the overall population) number of activist groups, everyone here knows we have the tar sands to thank for our standard of living.
Without a pipeline, the bitumen will flow by just rail, where the likelihood of derailment makes a spill more likely than shipping by pipeline, and Albertans will support any means to ship bitumen because they know it is the source of the province’s economic well-being. In fact, the common response to activists around here (especially American ones) is a snarling “fuck off”. No one here is willing to downgrade their standard of living so Americans can feel better about not actually giving up their first world lifestyle, which makes development of the tar sands profitable in the first place.
Rebecca Penty reports, the company behind Keystone XL is already looking at other modes of moving oil from the tar sands to the coast. Another reader thinks the activist attitude is counterproductive:
[T]he dark side to activist logic is the valuing of emotion and symbolism over practical needs. Looking at the oil sands, sure, it’s awful for the environment. But you know what’s worse? Coal. Without the oil sands, humanity will carry on consuming 148 terawatt hours of energy a year, we’ll just do it in a haze of coal smog.
I look forward to the day when we reduce energy consumption and produce enough renewable energy to stop using fossil fuels altogether, but until that wondrous day comes, the environmental movement needs to recognize a lesser evil when it sees it.