What If We Stopped the Tar Sands Tomorrow?

It all started when I saw the headline: “First Nations Flex Their Muscles”. What if….

Imagine opening your eyes tomorrow morning, signing into social media and being bombarded with the good news: “WE DID IT! First Nations in Canada Successfully Shut Down Tar Sands!”. People are joyously celebrating, laughing, texting, calling, driving over to visit loved ones. We have faced a major battle to protect mother earth and won so we would want to celebrate. Or would we? The tar sands are a big part of Energy development in Canada, and in order to do all of those things (other than laughing) we require energy of some sort. What is  our alternative to energy, if the tar sands shut down tomorrow? Check out the below graph and see world energy consumption in 2012 – 1/3 alone is oil. Add in natural gas and coal, that means 87% of energy consumed last year was brought to us courtesy of extractive industries, what many of us consider raping mother earth. How can we reconcile our detest for this extraction, and factor in a realistic alternative?

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A Life Without Oil

I’m not sure that everyone that is protesting against the Oil Sands understands exactly how much them and their lives benefit from the stuff. I did a bit of digging online, and the first thing I wanted to answer was this: if we benefit from oil so much, what exactly are we using it for? The main thing about oil is energy, and I think of how frequently I hear from government and media about how important it is to become an Energy Super Power in Canada. Its interesting though, because it seems like First Nations are poised to put a significant halt to energy development projects. If we stopped the tar sands tomorrow, we would essentially be committing ourselves to living a life with oil. So, here are the 2 major uses of oil:

The two major uses of oil are: (i) to produce fuels for transporting people and goods, and (ii) as the raw material needed to manufacture a huge variety of modern materials. Oil may need to be replaced because the supplies of oil are limited and there are concerns that it will run out. Additionally, burning oil products as fuel produces carbon dioxide and so contributes to anthropogenic (‘human-made’) global warming.

I found the answer on this website called http://www.open.edu, it has curriculums, and helpful links about a crap ton of topics. So I kept on digging. I also wanted to know, what exactly do we use oil specifically for? The answer though scared the crap out of me.  It was harder to find statistics on Canada…but I found this interesting stat on United States oil consumption:

Today, the oil consumption in US by sector is as follows:
Transportation: 66%
Industrial: 25%
Residential: 4%
Commercial: 2%
Electric power: 3%

Majority of the oil, you can imagine it would be similair in Canada, is utilized for simple transportation. That means oil is used for gasoline that powers planes and cars. Imagine waking up tomorrow and all of a sudden no more gasoline for cars. All these deserted cars would be sitting around deserted and abandoned. Planes would just be left there,  becoming ornaments. Both vehicles would become articles of the past. We would no longer be able to take that plane trip to a warm place, or over to visit a relative. Think of the emergency situations, without being able to transport someone in need to a an emergency room? Or airlift packages in or out of flooded or isolated communities. Also think about plastic! We use oil for plastics, so we would not be able to produce any more plastic than currently exists on earth. How would we approach recycling in a post-tar sands Canada? What would your life be like? Can we make any changes today to prepare us for tomorrow? Just a few questions to ponder! The only answers that have been proposed that sound logical to me are these

  • commit to a TRANSITION TOWN model, there is a chapter started in Winnipeg, and even here in the North End. This means weaning ourselves off of our oil addicted lifestyles today!
  • develop a way to store renewable energy sources – from what I understand in most renewable energy situations the energy needs to be used immediately as it is generated, storage is not possible.(source: personal conversation)
  • create a method of mass distribution of appropriate supplies so people can create their own energy from a renewable (wind or solar or other) source – I am talking Nikola Tesla style

The End

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