Thursday, June 07, 2012

Marching Backwards

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.


Anonymous said...

Have you noticed how frequently Harper's men (and women) use the transition "moving forward"? I assume the widespread use of the phrase is not a coincidence, but is done to suggest the government constantly has its eyes on the future, which is just around the corner, and that there's not a moment to be wasted in getting there as quickly as possible.
Given the steps Harper's government has taken so far, it might be more becoming of their "honourable" positions if its honourable members opted for a more honest transitional expression. For starters, an understated "moving backwards" might do very nicely.

Owen Gray said...

I couldn't agree more, Anon. But the Harper propaganda machine has mastered all the Orwellian tricks of the trade.

In Harperland, War is Peace and Freedom is Slavery.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

We are defintely behind western Europe and China when it comes to developing future technologies to suppy energy. Countries can prosper taking this road. We only have to look at Germany which is the most prosperous European country and which so far supplies 20% of its electricity from renewable resources. They are also determined to get rid of the last of their nuclear power plants and eventually supply all their electical needs with new technologies.

We could easily move into this area at a greater rate. Cities should mandate that all taxes and government fleets of car be electic. Provincial and federal fleets of vehicles also. These would help develop the infrastucture to recharge private vehicles. All new roofs of house should have to be shingles that generate solar power. Remote native communities and mines should be required to develop wind and solar power. All the flat roofed industial building should have solar power panels. Some of this happened with the FIT program but not nearly enough and I am not sure we need to pay the high price for this electicity when it feeds back into the grid.

For those who complain about the visual pollution of wind farm we should think of the forever ugly transmission line corridors we have come to accept. I think wind farms are less of an eyesore.

All of these things I have mentioned can be done piecemeal with local amd provincial laws and bylaws and building codes without a National Energy Program, which seems to be beyond the imagination of the Federal Conservative government.

the salamander said...

Very very interesting.. I must look into Jeremy Rifkin as any insights into where this world is heading.. are crucial. Certainly Canada is being fracked currently by our current government and whatever corporate or imaginary friends are encouraging their dangerous agenda. The tar sands, the 'omnibus' bill, F35's, Electoral Fraud, secrecy, environment, evangelism, pensions, mineral leases, unemployment insurance, the arctic.. are all highly contentious issues.

Media and ordinary folk like myself hear completely conflicting 'facts' .. and few have to time to get to the truth. But.. the truth is there.. sitting quietly in plain sight.. and so is the lie. Like the two wolves.. we choose which one to feed.

I believe we have a runaway omnipotent government. I once worked with the emotionally disturbed as well as with criminal offenders.. so I use the term 'omnipotent' in its clinical sense.

There is a similar phenomena of runaway omnipotence, resource sellout and environmental attack well under way in Pennsylvania.. and of course that's just one state.. much as Alberta is just one province.. Note the relationship of Penn State University to big oil and government.. I suddenly flashed to University of Alberta, University of Calgary .. big oil and government. Note the similar issues of eminent domain, forced pooling and of mineral rights being severed from under the landowner.. and how resisting in any way brings the 'enemies of the state' accusations and actions.. Note the similar and fundamentally flawed attitude to poisoning of water, especially if its not the water that you have to drink.

Here's a link I came across.. I'll just paste it in below, hoping it will work. Its from and I'm now trying to match the scenarios the author and his article presents.. by seeing how they will apply or come to pass.. or already are and to what extent, in Canada. Quebec of course has passed a moratorium against any fracking if I'm not mistaken. BC is plunging ahead.. Ultimately its all about oil.. energy .. profit .. power .. lobbying

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, salamander. I was struck by part of one sentence:

"fracking threatens not only the environment in its aesthetic and recreational dimensions, but the very water, air and soil necessary to life, that it threatens a way of life—especially for rural and semi-rural Americans. . ."

It's not an overstatement to say that the people in charge threaten lives.

Just ask the Iraqis.

Owen Gray said...

The technology is there, Phillip. We're not talking about science fiction. We're talking about an industry -- and the courtiers who serve it -- shutting down any attempt to save a warming planet.

Anonymous said...

Careful everyone. You know how Stephen Harper feels about dissent and opposition to his policies. Readers might find this book banned and the author receiving a midnight knock on the door.

Anonymous said...

You are right Owen, the technology is out there for renewable energy. However, Harper's greed has got in the way. Harper has a $60 billion dollar merger with China. Seems the U.S. is now afraid for their country's security. China has hacked into other country's secret files. Buying electronic components from China, was a baaaad idea.

Can you imagine? There will be, RCMP anti-terrorist squads, protecting against Oliver's terrorist Canadians, who oppose the pipeline? There will also be a squad, protecting the actual tar sands site.

And, here are the people of BC, deathly afraid of the lethal chemicals and oil, bursting out of a pipe, or a massive tanker spill, into the sea. Oliver and Harper, are the true terrorists.

Owen Gray said...

Rifkin is an American, Anon. Harper's strategies are aimed at Canadians. Heaven forbid that he should offend the Americans.

Owen Gray said...

Harper has a rather novel definition of "terrorist," Anon.

Given his economic philosophy -- that economies grow by aiding businesses instead of consumers -- a terrorist is anyone who poses a threat to business.

e.a.f. said...

Harper is a threat but I hope to see the end of this threat in 4 yrs. Then we can get back to being "Canadian". What Harper espouses is not consitent with many others ideals. He is quick to throw around his "enemies of the state"--"terrorist" comments.

Harper is terrorizing Canadians by threatening their health care system, their pension system, & their enviornment.

The "fracking" is dangerous to the earth & animals who live on it. We use an incredible amount of water for this process. People might be better off thinking about the water. We can live without oil, but water not so much. without oil we can still have machinery work & hey we can all walk, but with out water, we die of thirst & dehydration. Or will we become like some African/Arab countries which no longer have clean water & must be purchased at great expense & have lost their ability to grow their own food due to a lack of water.

Owen Gray said...

While most of us will give Harper credit for political shrewdness -- to the point of stealing an election, e.a.f.-- I don't think we'd give him credit for either broad or deep thought.

While he would like to transform Canada in his own image, he's not the kind of person to consider the "collateral damage" such a transformation would have, not only on his own country, but also on the rest of the planet.