Alberta’s oil patch regulator made history of a sort last week by saying the word no. The reasons it did pitted a crusty cowboy against a wealthy ballet aficionado, and exposed a gambit by one of the world’s oil giants to offload its responsibilities in a way, the ruling said, that would have defied provincial law.
The coronavirus may not, in retrospect, prove to be the tipping point that upends human civilization as we know it, but it should serve as a warning that we will experience ever more such events in the future as the world heats up.
The problem isn’t humans, it’s the type of fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure that many societies have created. If we could shift that infrastructure, we could have clear skies and clean water more of the time, in more places—without shuttered businesses and schools.
Tensions have been high in the area since a Dec. 31 B.C. Supreme Court decision that granted Coastal GasLink an injunction barring land defenders from blocking access to the pipeline work sites.
The revelation Monday that a blowout last year at an Ohio natural gas well owned by an ExxonMobil subsidiary was one of the country’s largest-ever leaks of the potent greenhouse gas methane provoked impassioned calls for a rapid, just transition to 100% renewable energy nationwide.
More than 40 per cent of the oil and gas wells in the province are not pumping hydrocarbons or generating revenue. Many are leaking methane, CO2, radon or hydrogen sulphide into the air, ground or water table.
The cost of cleaning up the sites and decommissioning the wells can range from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands, depending on their age and type.
However, despite the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, oil companies exploiting irreplaceable resources in the Niger Delta are callously flouting fundamental human rights. That is the conclusion I have been forced to draw from my work as chair of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC).
Put another way, those who made their money peddling fossil fuels—the executives and shareholders holding funds—owe something to those who got hurt. It’s not, in the bigger picture, all that different from the demand for reparations by African American descendants of slaves—claims that in recent months more than a few institutions have begun to pay, among a growing number of faith denominations, universities and politicians, including presidential candidates, have begun to publicly endorse.
A plume from the Texas Petroleum Chemical (TPC) plant hung over Port Neches, Texas on Thanksgiving as emergency workers continued to fight the fire following explosions at the plant on November 27. A mandatory evacuation that called for 60,000 people within a four-mile radius from the plant to leave their homes the day before the holiday was lifted yesterday.
New Mexico and other states that depend on fossil fuels need to wake up from the somnolence that oil wealth is bringing. The boom-and-bust cycle will continue, at least partly because the world is finally transitioning to renewable energy, though the more familiar fluctuation of global markets is also a factor.
So I present an unpopular but fact-based argument in the form of two “Am I wrong?” queries. If you accept my facts, you will see the massive challenge we face in transforming human assumptions and ways of living on Earth.
I welcome being told what crucial facts I might be missing. Even a realist — perhaps especially a realist in present circumstances — occasionally wants to be proved incorrect.
Greta Thunberg’s tour of North America continues this week with a visit to Los Angeles to participate in the Youth Climate Los Angeles event at City Hall on Friday, Nov. 1. If you’re wondering why her attention has come to California, which has an image as being one of the most progressive and greenest states in the US, you might be surprised to learn that Los Angeles actually has the largest urban oil field in the nation.