Stephen Harper has always suffered from delusions of grandeur. Linda McQuaig writes:
Relatively little has been said about his grandiosity. Only months after becoming prime minister in 2006, he showed it off in an overseas speech that attracted surprisingly little attention in Canada.
Outlining his plan to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” he told the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in London that developing the “ocean of oil-soaked sand” in northern Alberta would be “an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the Pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.”
His is, indeed, an epic vision. But it is an epic vision with satanic undertones:
Harper’s struggle is epic, although not in the way he meant. It’s epic in that it pits him and a group of largely foreign investors against those willing to act to preserve the planet for human habitation — a group which now includes the U.S. government.
The simple reality is that much of the oil in the tarsands will have to remain in the ground if there is to be any hope of curbing the out-of-control growth of greenhouse gas emissions, currently on track to drive up the world’s temperature by six degrees Celsius within a few decades — a scenario considered semi-catastrophic by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization created by the leading Western nations.
There is another option:
Due to the marvels of modern technology, the world now has the technical capacity to move to a post-carbon age. The International Energy Agency is clear about this. In a report last month, the agency — which is the energy equivalent of the OECD or the IMF — pointed out that it is possible for the world to “decarbonise almost all power generation by 2050.”
Sure, but we’d all be back in the Stone Age, right? Employment would be confined to shovel-ready pyramids.
Actually, no. The IEA estimated the global cost of moving to a post-carbon world at $44 trillion — which sounds like a deal-breaker until you read on and discover that this massive cost would be more than offset by $115 trillion in fuel savings, resulting in a net saving of $71 trillion.
Does that mean the transition would be costless?
Overall, yes. Huge numbers of new jobs would be created as we redesigned our entire economy for a green technology age, just as happened years ago when we moved to the age of the railway and combustion engine.
But Mr. Harper sold his soul to Big Oil long ago. He has become one of those beasts whose demise created the oil industry. He is one of the last living, breathing dinosaurs.