Keystone pipeline debates are not just about probable oil spills and toxic waste but also about the inane, short-sighted debate relating to the continued pursuit of more fossil fuel sources in preference to investing in sustainable forms of energy. Searching for new sources of fossil fuels is becoming increasingly expensive and dangerous as demonstrated by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the many disasters resulting from the alleged silver bullet, horizontal fracking
Here's a thought. Instead of investing in wars to guarantee energy security, we experience an epiphany and decide to build a sustainable energy infrastructure. Is it practical and what is the cost/benefit analysis, I ask, tongue in cheek? The cost of not acting on our epiphany is literally the destruction of the planet.
Apart from the tragic consequence of destroying life on earth as we know it, there are current costs. For example, in order to gain control of known oil reserves from around the world, including Iraq, Caspian Basin, Libya, Somalia and Northern Uganda, Obama is prepared to use whatever military force is necessary to assure energy security.
Consider the cost of struggling to gain secure access just from Iraqi oil. From the 1991 bombing of civilian targets in which 300,000 people died and many others suffered diseases from the lack of clean water and depleted uranium weapons; to the genocidal sanctions during which it has been documented that 1.5 million people died including 500,000 children; to the 2003 invasion and occupation of a country virtually reduced to a condition reminiscent of the preindustrial age; American taxpayers forked over three trillion dollars to the pentagon and other agencies involved in filling the coffers of the oil companies and defense industry.
On the other hand, greenhouse gases threaten to increase the concentration of CO2 to above 400 parts per million where it is currently hovering. CO2 is currently on a trajectory to rise to a concentration of over 600 parts per million which will render the planet uninhabitable for human life.
Changing the trajectory requires a radical shift in our way of thinking. Unfortunately such transformations take time and the clock will not stop while we scratch our heads and decide when and if to take some action.
Here is whether my thought comes into play. Now consider an alternative to destroying nations for energy security and spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Consider the wars and sanctions in Iraq. The war in Iraq costing approximately three billion dollars begs the question as to how much alternative energy does three trillion dollars buy?
According to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a carbon-free, completely sustainable and non-nuclear energy system by the year 2050 would cost $689 billion. (Arjun Makhijani, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, July 2007)
Now $689 billion is an astronomical sum to invest in clean energy but it represents only 23% of the amount we wasted in one erstwhile progressive country which we victimized the Iraqi people in the pursuit of our master energy plan of controlling the world's oil resources.
Now if you really want to engage in a cost comparison, you may want to include the cost of the damage to Iraq which is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and the cost of the lost lives and injuries sustained during the execution of our master plan. Of course, these are not quantifiable.
If we really want to be utopian, we could consider the treasure saved by not maintaining so many military bases in the Middle East and other oil-producing regions and at the same time, developing, building and deploying so many sophisticated weapons systems. Then there is the huge sums invested in extracting hard-to-reach oil from the tar sands and from deep waters
It would seem that any sane, rational person with any half-decent set of principals would opt for the alternative energy. Unfortunately, the people who decide these questions have no abundance of the fore-mentioned qualities and on the surface, at least, don't seem to care about what happens to their grandchildren. Maybe they are in such deep denial or are sublimating their cognitive dissonance so that the consequences to future generations are not in their box. Maybe there is no room in their box because it is so full of oil and defence contractor blood money.