Saturday, July 21, 2012

NIMBY and Environmental action groups are destructive when carried into the extreme

A decade ago, I remember that the worst and ‘eviliest’ industry one could imagine were the banks who robbed everyone blind. Then there were the evil forestry companies and now, it seems, it is the oil industry – pipeline companies to be more precise.
Especially during bad economic times when one or two industries standing out in success, the public likes to vent their frustration on those industries. Strangely enough, we seem to want to destroy those matters that actually may help us to lead a better live. Maybe it is our frustration of being so dependent on these industries that make us vent our anger on them. Take the pipeline battle.
Really, it is essential for us (and I mean the entirety of Canada) to be able to export our oil and gas to the east and to international markets other than the big guy in the south. Imagine, if George Bush was still in power how we would shout if the public realized that the low oil prices forced on Canada’s oil industry subsidized the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to the rest of the U.S. economy. Because that is what is happening right now – we are subsidizing the U.S. economy BIG time.
Remember the revulsion of Western Canada with Pierre Trudeau because he wanted to force lower oil prices on western oil to subsidize the east?  Alberta felt that it was an abused colony of eastern Canada. And every election that was decided even before the polling booths in the West closed added insult to injury. Now, we have a similar situation with our southern brothers; even worse we cannot vote for their president but we have to take the price they offer for our natural gas and our oil because there is nowhere else we can sell it. Yes Canada is an energy and resources powerhouse but our resources are land locked and our hands are tied by the U.S. and other foreign interests who are more than happy to stoke our environmental action and NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) groups to stop us from exporting the stuff elsewhere.
To some degree the current attention the pipeline industry and oil industry receive these days is good. It forces the industry and regulators to improve their standards and reduce accidents. The same happened a number of years ago to the forestry industry which was forced to improve their practices. Our pipelines are in some places old and don’t meet today’s standards. In past decades when things were more cavalier, obsolete pipelines were shut-in while still full of oil; the consequences we experienced earlier this year. Yes, somebody needs a kick in the A… and work on improving industry practices. But this is more an industry that says: “Well it worked for the last 30 years so why would I change” rather than one of malice as many of its antagonists make it out to be. It is easy to call someone ‘the Keystone Corps’ from the sidelines – besides it makes great politics and helps to keep those dumb Canadians away from the world markets!  It is not for nothing that the U.S. does so well with low oil prices. Look how it did in the last 20 years of the 20th century when it won the cold war and became the world's only superpower.
But… when they cut off their own nose to spite the opposition then the NIMBYs and environmental activitists have gone too far. Those same people move around using the oil and gas they complain about so loudly. In winter they use the gas and maybe even oil (how quaint and wasteful) to heat their meeting halls, power their lights and their LCD PowerPoint presentations not to speak of their homes. What is the source of B.C.’s economic prosperity and personal welfare? Where does the money for their social services come from? How do the people that live in B.C.s interior make their money if not from forestry, mining and energy? Yes, I bet the native people would love to return to living from the land; to return to times when their population was a fraction of the size that it is today.
Most provinces in the east are now receiving job orders from the west. Ironically, their own auto industry requires gasoline and power to function and they need the federal royalties and other taxes from the resource industries to fund their life style.  Whether they want to acknowledge it or not; we need to have these viable industries. If you hate Alberta and you don’t think energy is important for Canada, then ask the B.C. government which is cowering under the wrath of the foreign funded activists in a province where the bulk of the revenue comes from resources. Especially if you do not wish to include the land transfer taxes from Asian funded transactions that makes Vancouver’s real estate unaffordable for the average Vancouverite. Then ask the Saskatchewan government where their reinvigorated economic growth is coming from; ask Newfoundlanders what the source is of their newly found wealth?
Quebec is in my mind the province that is most skilled at cutting of its own nose to spite those that it resents. Look at their language laws; look at their self-imposed handicaps and their proportionally shrinking population. They will protect and protest themselves into oblivion. The latest fiasco is their moratorium on the gas industry. I admire Quebec’s culture and it is truly a ‘Belle Provence’; it also has the same faults as its French cousins: its self-righteousness and its cultural arrogance.
So, is there anyone whom I haven’t upset yet? Ladies and Gentlemen, life is about balance and I fear that the current focus of the NIMBYs and Environment Activism is out of balance. Just like we were a few years ago out of balance on ‘Global Warming’, Canada's Human Rights tribunals, plain old ‘Communism’ and before that on “Capitalism’ and on…  Something that may be quite beneficial but that in overdose becomes fatal.
Right now, the oversensitivity regarding our pipelines, and the oil industry in general, as displayed by the NIMBY's and the environmental activists is threatening Canada's chance of continued prosperity. No duck can die, no fish can be found deformed by simple decay, and no barrel of oil can be spilled without hysterical screams of indignation, sincere and false, coming out of the mouthpieces of these groups which in turn are amplified by our sensationalizing media. We are rapidly approaching the point where NIMBY and environmental action groups are becoming a force of destruction rather than preservation.

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