In the long ago late 1970s, when global warming was a gleam in some radical climatologist / doomsayer’s eye, when a jacked-up, tricked out 1973 Monte Carlo was high automotive art amongst my suburban Ontario pals, I read Bored of the Rings. Hilarious stuff, to a lover of the Tolkien trilogy…Dildo and Frito Bugger, high and mighty satire. When these fantasy Harvard Lampoon heroes were rescued, it was not the mighty eagles that returned them to the safety of Minas Tirith from enemies that lurked near Mount Doom, but an aircraft dispatched from ‘Deus Ex Machina Airlines’.
A weird but inescapable segue to last week’s doings in Toronto. Al Gore, God’s own climate change emissary, descended from the celestial heights to extend his beauteous index finger to touch Canada, and wax poetic about all the evils of Alberta oil soon to be foisted on innocent America via the Keystone. Big Al looks down his now patrician nose at arguments such as those advanced previously in this space, that maybe the ‘ethical’ oil pumped out for American consumption from north of the 49th might be marginally more acceptable than that shipped across oceans, from less than savory autocrats, in GHG-emitting tankers to eager USA consumers. Dead wrong, sayeth Al, “There is only dirty and dirtier oil.” End of discussion. Back on the big jet, and off to hose down more of the great global unwashed.
In its strict historical sense, deus ex machina was a plot device much beloved by Greek playwrights. When their hero was seemingly trumped by Fate, or doomed to any bad end, the gods intervened – usually lowered by a crane to the stage, with wonderment and a happy ending for all. Al Gore is the 21st century environmentalist equivalent. ‘Thou shalt not build Keystone’, we must embrace the renewable energy reality, or die! A unilateralist, almost sneeringly so, his otherwise sound message delivered with an intellectual snottiness that does neither him, nor his constituency any credit. Because….what has the US actually achieved in this realm? The statistics are not persuasive – as the world’s leading economy, arguably best positioned to push change – that Utopia looms for God’s anointed in the Great Republic.
No thinking human being can argue that the big picture the Great Man® endorses is wrong – continued reliance on non-renewables will choke us unless action is taken. Agreed, and agreed again. But the current transition from bad to good? Does the US still get a huge whack of its energy derived from the best-known global warming villains, after years of the Gore Doctrine, preached from on high? Reversion again to the late 1970s Ontario of my youth – does the Pope wear little red boots? Here is the current list, accurate to May 2013…courtesy of the US Energy Information Administration:
Coal 37%…Natural Gas 30%…Nuclear 19%…Hydropower 7%…Other Renewables 5% (Wind the biggest, at 3.5%)…Petroleum 1%. Hmmm….not so pretty. Al Gore may be a presumptive citizen of the world, climate change apostle, and all that, but to me? The ultimate American know it all, living in a decidedly crystal house, throwing boulders from a catapult within. I am not alone.
Understood that Keystone XL will transport a dubious product, and oil converted to gasoline in the Gulf refineries prompts its own questions – so does fracking, now so well-beloved by American energy self-sufficiency strategists and the Obama administration. In a perfect world, every non-renewable, carbon-based substance is blasted from our consciousness, right now – deus ex machina – and the world appreciably brightens.
Al Gore, call me anytime. We will get along well, because we agree that this oil business must end. But it will not end today, or tomorrow, or 10 years from now. Take my idea, and proclaim it as your own – oil is outlawed after 2050, and every nation on earth commits to yearly, incremental increases in renewable energy to push the petroleum industry to well-deserved extinction, or they are shunned, Amish style, from the global economic community. Build Keystone, and close it at its appointed time, when those renewables are on line, on target, and on budget. Like the Cheshire Cat, all is left is the smile. Call me…