Fossil fuel industry gives us cause to be skeptical

The priority for people who run oil companies is to maximize profits.

We know their words and actions are largely guided by a commitment to shareholders, and so we consider them in that context. Politicians, on the other hand, are supposed to represent the public interest.

Supporting industry can be good for citizens, but when elected officials devote more effort to creating opportunities for industry than for the people who elect them, they lose our trust — especially when industrial growth comes at a cost to the public interest.

Given the fossil fuel industry’s record of misleading the public and endangering the environment, its support from political leaders should give us pause.

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago when BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and spewing oil into the Gulf, was a wake-up call, but it already seems to be fading from memory.

We shouldn’t forget this disaster, and not only because some of the millions of barrels of oil is still wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Last year’s crisis was the result of a blow-out preventer failure, but the Gulf is still dotted with drilling rigs with similar devices, and most have not been properly inspected or maintained. With the Deepwater Horizon rig, owners were permitted to fill out their own inspection reports, which were then submitted by U.S. government regulatory agencies as being accurate.

The Gulf is also home to 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells and 3,500 “temporarily abandoned” wells. The Associated Press reports that no one is regulating these well enough to ensure they are secure and safe. Of course, cleaning up can be costly.

Even though the fossil fuel industry is the most profitable in history, and even though it continues to receive massive taxpayer-funded subsidies in Canada, the U.S., and other countries, its executives are reluctant to spend money if they don’t have to. That would cut into profits.

Meanwhile, the governments of Canada and Alberta have been waging a taxpayer-funded campaign against the European Union’s science-based proposal to label tar sands oil as a “high-carbon fuel.”

And both governments have only recently admitted the tar sands are having a negative impact on the Athabasca River. Even in the face of scientific studies showing otherwise, politicians and industrialists were insisting the tar sands were not affecting the Athabasca and that any contamination found was “naturally occurring.”

Our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels has also led to concerns over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” whereby great amounts of water, sand and chemicals are blasted into wells to fracture the underground shale and release natural gas. Leaks, blow-outs, water contamination, increased ozone in the atmosphere, and emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are just some of the possible consequences of this procedure.

What this tells us, along with facts about pollution and climate change, is that we need to take a hard look at our energy use and sources.

We can’t expect to get reliable information from the industry; after all, its priority is to promote its own interests.

And, it appears, we can’t expect much better from governments, which are often led by people who are more interested in their own short-term interests, based on election cycles, than in the longer-term interests of the people who elect them.

Canada has a petro dollar. Our economy is currently fuelled by high oil prices. But where will that leave us when our water, land and air are polluted, when our children are suffering from the effects of pollution, and when the oil has all but run out and the rest of the world has switched to cleaner energy?

We need a better plan than just getting as much oil, gas, and coal as fast as possible. Slower and wiser development of these resources and better ways to manage the money they generate, ensuring that the wealth is used for the good of all Canadians, could help us make the shift to cleaner energy.

Better planning and a greater focus on renewable energy sources would benefit the health of our water, land, air and people. It would also be much healthier for the long-term economic prosperity of our country.

Learn more at


Just Posted

More storms brewing for Greater Victoria

Police warn drivers and pedestrians to use precaution during expected rain and winds

Residential break-ins up while drug production down in West Shore: report finds

West Shore RCMP presented a quarterly report to Colwood Council this week

Capital Regional District moves pipeline to save up to 50 trees

Move comes after short but intense lobbying efforts from Grange Road residents

Victoria Police, BC Transit educate drivers on bus lanes

Cops pull over commuters using Douglas Street bus lanes

Royals split two-game series against Portland Winterhawks

Victoria WHL team won 7-4 in first of two-game set

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

B.C. company facing 38 charges in 2017 chicken abuse case

CFIA investigation leads to 38 charges against Elite Farm Services and Ontario-based Sofina Foods

Woman forcibly confined, sexually assaulted between Creston and Cranbrook

The suspect forced the woman into her vehicle before driving along Highway 3

‘I thought I was dead as soon as I saw the gun’

Keremeos gas station attendant tells story about man with gun coming to store

John murder trial at Duncan courthouse on pause until spring

John is charged with the May 2016 murder of 20-year-old Derek Descoteau

Lantzville councillors give themselves 45-per cent pay raise

Council pay increase to take effect in 2019

‘People talk about deep sadness:’ Scientists study climate change grief

Some call it environmental grief, some call it solastalgia — a word coined for a feeling of homesickness when home changes around you.

As protectors abandon Trump, investigation draws closer

Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for an array of crimes.

Most Read