Wakeup call for future of oil and gas production

👤Ingo Oevermann 🕔May 30, 2014

Dear Editor,

On March 28, an article by Lucy Woods appeared on the PV Tech site (pv-tech.org) entitled, “Minnesota utilities commission upholds landmark solar versus gas ruling.” In part, the article reads: “The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has made a precedent-setting decision in ruling a proposed solar power project more economic than rival gas plants in meeting state utility Xcel’s future power needs. The commission has upheld a previous landmark judicial decision at the end of last year that selected developer Geronimo’s 100 megawatt distributed solar energy project, a move that surprised many as the project was competing against five natural gas plants. Natural gas firms that lost against the solar project in the competitive bidding process then accused the overseeing judge of handling the process unfairly. The solar project will receive no subsidies, with solar systems fitted across 16 counties to save transmission and grid maintenance costs, while fulfilling Xcel’s energy needs with clean solar energy.”

Even though this is minor compared to the growth in solar panel deployment in Europe, China, Japan and India, it should be a huge wake-up call to any government that may be pinning its financial future on natural gas or oil production. BCTV’s news release on March 31 highlighted the realities and dangers Canada faces from escalating climate change. The rest of the world is working overtime to find sustainable solutions, while Canada appears to be dead last by continuing to peg its hopes on dirty fossil fuels. The full awareness of the cause of climate change is ricocheting around the planet, and Canada should not be too surprised to discover in 10 to 15 years that the world wants little or nothing to do with the dirty fossil fuels we have to offer. Minnesota is below Manitoba and two states over from Michigan, where the people of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo are still reeling from the aftermath of the largest north American pipeline spill; Alaska’s Exxon Valdez disaster happened a very short 25 years ago, and by most accounts the area is still a dead zone. Eight-hundred-plus pipeline spills between 1999 and 2010 is an average of 53 spills per year (four spills per month) and is a disgusting record of industrial carelessness.

It is high time for BC and Canada to embrace non-polluting alternative energy options and safeguard valuable agricultural lands, essential fresh ground water, river supplies and sustainable seafood products. We are not going to achieve that by expanding our disease-creating Atlantic fish farms, by building more leaky oil pipelines, by possible tanker accidents on our coast, or by polluting our clean groundwater and essential agricultural land with “fracking” chemicals. Our leaders and we have been much too irresponsible for too long. We needed to address the future yesterday.

Forty years ago we knew that every gallon of oil spilled on the ground contaminated 10,000 gallons of drinking water. Research since then has shown that it’s not 10,000 gallons, not even 100,000 gallons, but a million gallons. At a low average value of $1 per gallon of good, clean drinking water, that implies that the people of Michigan are owed 860,000 by 1,000,000 by $1 for a total of $860 billion. That’s just for the water damage alone, never mind the loss of tourism, freshwater fish, agricultural land and health impacts to be determined.


It is absolutely mind numbing to even contemplate a pipeline spill on one of the northern tributaries of the Fraser, the Morice/Bulkley/Skeena and the Kitimat rivers at the height of any salmon spawning run. That would be slightly stupider than someone winning $50 million in the 649 and wasting it all at a casino.


We, and our grandchildren, can live about five minutes without air, about five days without water and about 50 days without food. We can’t eat non-existent vegetables, grains or fruit, which won’t grow on oil contaminated land; we can’t eat non-existent beef on non-existent oil-contaminated pasture land; we can’t eat freshwater fish that have been destroyed by oil and pipeline spills; and we can’t eat ocean seafood products that have been destroyed by crude oil tanker spills.

Mother Nature, and the Tooth Fairy, who are responsible for fixing all these things, are already overloaded. So it’s up to you and me, together. This is the last frontier, and it is the only home we have.

Thank you for your time and for caring. 

Ingo Oevermann, in outrageously beautiful and fragile Smithers, BC