2.6.09

Canada's Energy Problem: Part 2 - It's not just the Economy, Stupid

It's actually a bit odd in Toronto as of late. At least in the malls...not because they are empty due to recession woes, but because they're absolutely packed. I've seen and heard of the hordes of people clamoring for parking spots (this is why public transit is so wonderful, no parking!) and waiting in long lines at the Food Court at Vaughan Mills, Yorkdale and Eaton Centre. I sometimes wonder whether the recession affected Toronto at all...and then I hear from my friends in quiet conversations that their parents have been laid off and run out of employment insurance. They wonder aloud to me if they should take a year off school to try and help with the family finances. Some are actually working full-time, frantically trying to budget and scrimp to pay their tuition and travel costs for the next school year. The majority of their parents work in the manufacturing sector. It's either they've been laid off, their hours have been reduced or there is a strange "two weeks laid off with EI one week work" sort of deal. Their parents are not even employed by GM or Chrysler, they're employed by the parts suppliers (as far as I'm aware, none of their parents belong to unions, in case you wanted to know). This was before GM filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday of course. This was also before Magna decided to have a hand in the European Opel-Vauxhall deal (anyone want to enlighten me how this is going to turn out for my friend's parents?). 

Now I'm not so sure how my friends and their families will do. Line of credit to tide them over? I guess...but if you're homeless because the bank foreclosed on the family home when your parents ran out of EI and emergency funds, I wonder how you'll convince the bank you're a good loan candidate.

To be honest, as an environmentalist that raves about public transportation and biking, I should probably clamor for these outdated car companies to go the way of the dodo. When I look at my friends however...I cannot bring myself to say it, although I would love to join the throngs of people who seem to relish in the demise of these automotive giants. A much more helpful alternative was proposed by Michael Moore, the ever controversial filmmaker. An article he posted on his website yesterday detailed a specific plan to repurpose the manufacturing plants and various car dealerships to be shutdown due to Chrysler and GM's financial woes. However, despite his great suggestions I don't think it's just the economy and failing automotive giants that we should be worried about. I think many, like Moore, are overlooking something very important during this recession.

"It's peak oil, stupid!"

While I can appreciate how it supports the alternative transportations, I feel it overlooks what exactly will power all these shiny new theoretical vehicles. Producing electric batteries requires energy, producing all these light-rail systems requires energy, just getting these workers to work requires energy...where is it all going to come from if, as Moore says, we must fight "in this war being waged by the oil companies against you and me." He continues,

They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

(P.S. You can see this article from Jeff describing a similar situation as detailed at the end of the quote.) I'm sure we can switch all our manufacturing industries into producing modes of transportation that use alternative fuels, but if we're truly past peak oil and energy prices skyrocket, what will we do when we can't power the machines to make these shiny green vehicles? I'm not saying we shouldn't go this route, but we must look for a solution for the upcoming energy crisis while we're busy trying to make all these alternative energies more reliable and cost-effective.

2 comments:

sampartington said...

I'm sure there are always things we can do to stay on top of the energy issues to minimize the impact it has both on us and our future generations.

Even if it's as simple as signing a petition... www.pickcandu.ca(If the government decides to go with CANDU nuclear reactors as a power source, it will directly affect "future jobs, economic benefits and energy security for Ontario.")

skyler said...

i think that we have a chance to let eco-inspired living actually get us out of this recession. i don't know if the new Green Energy Act is the way to do it. what we should be doing is growing the renewables and nuclear industry inside the province not importing technology and growing jobs elsewhere. thanks for the petition link ill check it out!