In terms of social and environmental policy, the Harper government has been determined, from the first day it took office, to lead Canada back to the 19th century. But now American energy consultant Jeremy Rifkin maintains that, economically, Canada is also marching backwards. In an interview two days ago with The Globe and Mail, Rifkin said:
Focusing on the oil sands “is putting [Canada] back in the 20th century, when Europe and Asia are absolutely moving into the 21st century.” Because other economies are shifting dramatically to renewable energy, he said, “this is a really, really historic mistake for Canada.....[It] could potentially become a second tier country.”
That cannot please Stephen Harper, who once called Canada a "second tier socialist country." But Rifkin's argument that the government's focus on the oil sands is short sighted makes a lot of sense:
He said the oil industry will never be able to remove itself from a growth-collapse cycle that is created by gyrating oil prices, and so it needs to be phased out. While the industry will have to be kept on “life support” during the transition to renewables, over time new technologies will generate a far superior return on investment.
It is a “curse” to be one-resource economy, Mr. Rifkin said. At the same time, “Canada is [now] the bad guy” because of the negative reputation of the oil sands and its contribution to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Rifkin's criticism will not be well received by a government which has been bought and paid for by the oil industry. And that is why Harper can't see that there is what Rifkin calls "a third industrial revolution" underway:
It includes a sharp shift to renewable energy, which will be collected mainly through massive numbers of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass generators distributed broadly – and often attached to buildings. Hydrogen and other storage technologies will ensure the power is available when it is needed, and Internet-like technology will control the complex distribution of power. Electric and fuel cell cars will draw power from that grid.The shift to this kind of distributed, clean power is absolutely crucial to prevent a devastating increase in the planet’s temperature, and a mass extinction of human beings, Mr. Rifkin argued at a Toronto hydrogen conference on Tuesday. “We have to be off carbon in 30 years,” he said.
Harper has never had a very good sense of history. But he is, nonetheless, fixated on the past. And that fixation will cost Canada dearly.
This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.