What’s the dramatic urgency for more conventional, riskier and dirtier fossil fuels?

In the class I teach this year at NYU entitled the “Global Politics of Green Growth” we have been focusing on how the reality of climate change has opened up new green growth opportunities in RES, new tech, R&D, energy efficiency, transportation etc. We have seen different approaches to transition to low carbon economy which involve both private investment, and government regulations (directives, incentives, taxation, cap and trade.)

The international community does not deny the science showing that the climate is being altered by man and nations across the globe are preparing for a changing world where action is needed, growth is needed and mitigation of climate change effects will inevitably be required.

On an international level, there is an understanding and a push to incorporate sustainable development principles in the way we move forward. In the US, on the other hand, there is an organized push to create doubt, to make the  issue of climate change less urgent,  a low priority while conservation and energy efficiency are discussed almost in passing and are definitely on the back burner.

The need for more and more energy, American energy, energy we can buy from friends and not foes has become an issue of pressing urgency in the past year. It is heralded as Energy Security and Independence.

Enter, the pressure to introduce fracking to 38 states in the United States and for Canada to fully develop the tar sands industry via the construction of a pipeline in the US.

The logic goes: “We Americans need energy. We need independence from the Middle East and we need jobs for Americans.”

And the logic continues, “you can’t be against new energy sources, you consume don’t you.”

Activists are scrambling to protest right and left. The public is dumbfounded by all the conflicting information and the continuing recession leaves citizens little time to worry about anything except the daily struggle to pay the bills and take care of their families.

People are distracted. The issues are too big, too complex. They feel helpless and the time constraints to block these disastrous projects is so tight that you can barely keep up with events even if you would like to take a stand. “ Do we really run a risk of destroying our drinking water by fracking?” people wonder. Where are the tar sands located and why are they so bad? Does it matter if we chop down more trees we’ve been doing it forever?

But what is tragic is that once New York’s drinking water supply is compromised which it will inevitably be because fracking is not safe, we will never again be able to drink the clean water that is priceless and without which we cannot live.

And if we hasten to fully develop the tar sands we just add to the climate change problem today, when we need to be helping solve it. There is no dire urgency to expand production there at the moment. It can remain a reserve for desperate times if need be and I hope that the time never arrives. Once the project is developed nothing will ever grow there again. The land will be a toxic wasteland destroying adjoining places upstream and downstream.

Nothing has changed so drastically to make us think that we will not be able to have the energy we need to continue our lives comfortably in the United States.

There is a false urgency being developed here over access to extreme fossil fuels. The only urgency is stopping the exorbitant rise of carbon emissions, stopping climate change before we wake up one day and we hear Earth roar because we have past the tipping point.

Activists are trying to stop the projects and rightly so. Citizens should tell the government and the fossil fuel industry to stop pressuring us on all fronts with options that are unnecessary and detrimental to saving the earth we live on. They will not enhance our life, reduce our energy bill nor stimulate the economy in the ways that they falsely proclaim.

And as for jobs, an issue I can completely understand, the calculations are not only vastly exaggerated but  jobs can be created in other areas. It just depends on where we want to place our emphasis and invest our hard earned money we give government via taxes. 

There is no dilemma between jobs and earth, or between energy and a lack there of. It is the one time we need to ask for a “continuance” so that we can decide which road to take having weighed the pros and cons and not be falling all over ourselves trying to figure out what’s right and wrong.

We deserve the time to level the playing field and make the wisest, most efficient decision in the national interest of all American families.


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