Environmental progress? Forget Rio, Come to Fort Mac
June 22nd, 2012 | By: Jamie Ellerton
This week a staggering 50,000 delegates from 190 countries descended on Rio for yet another conference in the name of wanting to help improve the environment. It’s been 20 years since the original Rio summit first spawned the Global Warming conference industry and even activists consider the effort “a pathetic failure,” as the Financial Post points out. This summit has produced a declaration where “the language is fuzzy and the commitments vague to non-existent.”
As Bjorn Lomberg, wrote this week, there are countless environmental and humanitarian priorities that get sidelined while the Kyoto-diplomats obsess over their greenhouse gas calculations and declarations, from cleaner water to access to food. “Nowhere are the failed priorities better illustrated than in the United Nation’s official, colorful ‘Rio+20′ leaflet. In the document, the U.N. helpfully provides a layman’s explanation of the summit, along with examples of its envisioned ‘green economy, in action” — wind turbines and solar panels, Lomberg writes. “But seriously, why do well-meaning First Worlders think that the Third World should have energy technologies that are more expensive, feebler and less reliable than their own?”
Though such truths are banished at Rio + 20, fossil fuels remain the best hope right now for nations, developing and developed, to advance prosperity and health. And the cheaper, cleaner and more ethically we produce them, the better it will be for our environment, our health and for peace and human rights.
Far bigger strides on that than the meaningless gestures at Rio include the work being done by Laricina Energy and its partners in using electromagnetic ways to reduce the environmental impact of oil sands extraction, as the Sun reported this week. “A consortium of companies have field-tested the process that heats the oilsands electrically with radio waves, reducing the amount of steam and water needed to extract bitumen from sand,” it said. “But the new technology could be a way to not only reduce costs, but also environmental damage.” That means less energy required to get the oil out of the ground, and a cheaper way to do it.
Already oil sands producers have been making huge strides in reducing the impact of tailings ponds, developing processes that will speed up reclamation to a matter of weeks, using “dry tailings technologies.” That means more oil — which the world desperately needs — with less impact on wilderness.
And major producers have all teamed up to create COSIA — Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance — “focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation.” Together, they share advancements in reducing an already proud record on water conservation, mitigated land disturbances, and wildlife protection as well as cutting those greenhouse gases the Rio delegates are so preoccupied with. In fact, the emissions intensity of a barrel of oil sands oil has already shrunk by nearly a third since the first Rio summit. Not a lot of industries can claim that kind of success.
Canada’s oil sands are ethical because it gives us oil we need, but oil that isn’t produced using slavery or by regimes who oppress women, support terror, tyrannize their own people or seek conflict. But they’re also ethical because producers take their environmental responsibilities seriously — so seriously that they actually make improvements that help the environment every day, and don’t just draft ineffectual declarations about it.
If you want to see real concern for the environment, forget Rio and take a trip instead to Fort McMurray.