Every now and then the Wall Street Journal provides some proverbial food for thought that exceeds its mandate of invisible hand ideology.
In a recent piece – Oils Hits $100, Jolting Markets, the authors provide some insight into the current power dynamics of big oil and international markets.
Beyond highlighting downstream impacts to big oil’s commercial customer base and the economies of various nation states, the article mentions how peaking oil prices have been driving a massive investment in unconventional and dirty oil sources such as the Alberta tar sands. For those unaware of this juggernaut, the tar sands are the number one source of US oil imports today, the largest untapped oil reserves in the world, as well as the most greenhouse gas intensive source of crude oil currently in use.
Stephen Harper’s boys had good reason to stand firmly behind their liege lords at the Bali climate change negotiations. With every major western oil and gas company now engaged in the Alberta oil rush, over 100 billion USD is expected to be invested in tar sands oil extraction over the next couple of decades.
What the article fails to mention however, is the very direct and negative impact this trend is having on the Canadian economy and peoples as well as many downstream communities in the US .
Whether it’s indigenous communities in Alberta dealing with the destruction of their traditional lands and health – at the source of extraction, Canadian workers dealing with the economic fallout of “Dutch disease” syndrome, or US communities impacted by new pipelines and increased refinery emissions, peaking oil prices appear to leave no room for the development of clean energy markets.
Contrary to the WSJ authors’ notion of big oil’s dwindling political influence and market share, the oiligopoly’s determination and ability to stand in the way of renewable energy innovation and climate change mitigation is underscored by their relentless pursuit of the last drops of dirty crude.
The big question for us wide-eyed activists at the start of 2008 remains: can we stop them in time?