fresh voices from the front lines of change







As a good liberal returning today from a vacation in Canada, I’m supposed to report back on the awesomeness of Canada for its health care. But I will not.

Instead, I report to you about Canada’s perverse attitude about Arctic oil drilling.

As The Globe and Mail reporter Paul Koring explained on Tuesday, the burning of fossil fuels is feeding global warming, which is melting the polar ice caps, which is … making it easier to drill for more oil in the Arctic.

Which is making short-sighted countries with proximity to Arctic lose their minds, particularly Canada and Russia.

Koring reports:

The “rapid melting of the polar icecaps,” says a European Union report, will allow the “accessibility of the enormous hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic region,” and is “changing the geo-strategic dynamics of the region.”

No surprise, then, that Russia is conducting naval exercises in the Arctic. Canada had soldiers stamping about in the North this spring, and some analysts fear power projection, not talks at the UN, will decide who controls the Arctic.

Talk about addicted to oil.

The black stuff is on the verge of destroying the Arctic as we know it, and all Canada and Russia can think about is how its destruction can deliver another fix.

(And no, conservatives, this is not evidence that global warming has it’s good points, providing us with a bounty of oil that will lower gas prices. The Wall Street Journal, reporting on a new US Geological Survey about Arctic oil, “scientists cautioned that it will take decades to develop,” and The Globe and Mail quotes the report’s lead author saying the Arctic is “no El Dorado.”)

Doesn’t sound like Canada to you?

Well, the American-born environmentally aware guide I met on an orca watching tour this week informed me that Canada does a worse job on environmental protection than America. As a smaller country that consumes less energy, Canada seemingly is less aware and concerned about the supply of natural resources.

I do not share this to reflexively Canada-bash or to make us Americans feel sanguine about the state of our energy policy.

I share it to emphasize that a clean energy economy will not happen, unless we lead.

Do not expect other nations to step up and substantially invest in making clean energy technology widely accessible and affordable. Even countries that support gay marriage and universal health care can be willfully ignorant of long-term pain when they have a chance to make a quick buck.

America is the nation that can and does lead the world. Bush led, just in the wrong direction. And now we’re stuck paying $4 a gallon.

We can lead now, or keep paying more in the future, while even more nations fight over control of what puddles of oil remain under the earth.

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