My rant on living in “oil county”.

I’m Canadian. I live in Alberta (the province that produces tar sands oil). I was employed by the oil industry for many years. In fact between my summer job and help from my mom, almost my entire education was funded by oil. I drive a gas-powered car, albeit a very small one. I live in a tiny house, yes heated by natural gas and obviously I use electricity most likely derived from the burning of fossil fuels. I eat food that requires energy to be planted, harvested and transported, yet I choose organic so as to use the least fossil fuels possible. Yet does using fossil fuels mean I have no right to speak out about the oil industry? Does it make me a hypocrite to not want another pipeline yet still drive a car? No. It doesn’t and I’ll tell you why. 

People love to use these arguments. I hear them all the time. Anytime someone speaks out about the dangers, health or environmental, of the oilsands the people who work in the industry get outraged and look to discredit anything that person has to say. I lived in Fort McMurray for many years after moving there with my mom from Nova Scotia. I remember when a group of Greenpeace activists chained themselves to a 797 heavy hauler and all anyone could talk about in town was how they had got there. That’s right, they had driven to Fort McMurray. In vehicles. Therefore they could be criticized for lacking any environmental credibility and made out to be hypocrites. All I could think at the time was really? Are you serious? These people were so passionate about preserving the earth that they chained themselves to a machine and got arrested for it all to spread awareness and all you can say is “Yeah I heard they drove up here in a truck.”

The problem with this argument is that there is no other alternative available. Therefore these people are not hypocrites. Do you really think that if we had better options for vehicles, electricity, sources for heat and fuel that these environmentalists would still be using fossil fuels? Even if you have a hybrid or electric car, unless you have your own solar or wind energy source to recharge it you are still using either hydro or fossil fuel powered energy. The fact is everyone is forced to be dependent on fossil fuels. It’s inevitable. Unless you are a millionaire and can afford a self-sustaining home, or you want to live in a cabin in the woods, away from society it is just not possible to avoid fossil fuels. The fact that there is no other choice is exactly what environmentalists are trying to change. We wish there were other options. We want the government to invest in developing new technologies for harnessing wind and solar energy. To create better systems for composting and recycling. To eliminate the use of plastic where possible. To put limits on pollution and increase regulation of industries that pollute the air and the water.

Another argument I usually hear when talking to Albertans about this issue is “well that technology is just too expensive”. Here’s the thing, as soon as you start investing into a technology and further developing it the cheaper it gets. Instead of subsidizing the oil sands we could invest that money into new technologies.

Or I hear “well it’s easy for you to say, you live in the wealthy province with lots of jobs and opportunities.” What people don’t realize though is that developing sustainable energy sources won’t eliminate their jobs. It will just relocate them to a different industry. If the government were to actually invest in green alternatives there would be so many jobs created! Canada could become known for it’s advanced development of sustainable energy instead of gaining notoriety from pipeline spills carrying our tar sands oil.    

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this practice of denouncing environmentalists as hypocrites needs to stop. It just doesn’t make any sense. Just because these people do more in their day to day lives to help the environment and that makes you feel defensive of your job you do not need to attack/discredit them. I, for one, do not condemn anyone for working the in oil industry. I realize that in Alberta, that is the industry that provides jobs.  Just like if I lived in BC I would not condemn someone for working in the forestry industry. So don’t condemn me for caring enough to speak out against it and wanting change. I’m not a hypocrite I’m doing the best I can.

Just wanted to add this rant was spurred by reading this article on TreeHugger.com:

http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/exxon-wont-pay-cleanup-fund-because-arkansas-oil-spill-isnt-oil.html

As if there weren’t already enough reasons to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.. It seems nature has found a way to prove it’s point, oil is not the way to go. Also, due to a legal loophole Exxon will not be held liable and will not pay for the cleanup since it’s not “convention oil”. Unbelievable.  

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2 responses to “My rant on living in “oil county”.

  1. I love this Sara! This sentences really stuck out to me, “The problem with this argument is that there is no other alternative available.” So true and it is hard to argue with people here since they always come up with those arguments.
    I think that all people can do here is the best they can. Hopefully that slowly affects change.

    • I agree! Small changes can make such a difference! Like plastic bags being banned in Fort McMurray. It’s such a small change, on the scale of things, yet still eliminates so much plastic! Also, I read your blogs about your trip to Asia! Looked amazing!

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