Balance is missing in Alberta; Big Oil dominates economy, pollutes, propagandizes the public and controls elected officials

Balance is missing in Alberta by Al Barnhill, April 6, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
To Premier Hancock:
In your letter of March 17, responding to my earlier letter, as the deputy premier you sang from the same Redford songbook as the energy minister and Lethbridge’s two MLAs. You emphasized that “. . . ensuring balance between urban and energy development is important . . .” I agree with the need for balance. Sadly, this province is woefully out of balance.

Where is the economic balance in Alberta? Big Oil dominates the economy of this province. The largest five oilcos had revenues of $123.3 billion and profits of $11.44 billion in 2012. It has created a dysfunctional economy in Alberta. Workers in the oil and gas extraction industry average $102,000 annually. In education, the average is $51,750; in retail, it’s $27,660. Unskilled labour has to be imported. Homeless rates and food bank patrons have shot up. Drug and alcohol abuse has risen. Mental health problems continue to increase. So much for socio-economic balance.

Politically, Big Oil has been the financial power behind the PCs for 43 years. The industry’s lobby organization, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), spends millions to influence governments and propagandize the public about this exploitive industry. How can citizens of this province combat such a political-industrial juggernaut?

What about environmental balance? Today, climate damage caused by extracting and burning tarry bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands exceeds the combined carbon dioxide emissions from over 100 countries. The Alberta oilsands industry has already announced projects that would quadruple today’s bitumen extraction. No wonder the government and industry want more pipelines. Why does Alberta need fracking? Corporate greed!

Oilsands pollution is a major cause of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide (acid rain) air pollution in Alberta. It has increased by 20 per cent since 2009. Acid rain has increased water pollution in this province. U of A research found levels of arsenic, lead and mercury were considerably higher than national standards in water downstream from oilsands sites. Every barrel of oil mined or fracked requires up to 10 barrels of water that is rendered unusable.

Sites of oil production have caused serious health problems for real people like the Hawkwoods from Cochrane, Jessica Ernst from Rosebud, the Athabaska aboriginal people and countless others throughout Alberta.

Oilsands production is highly pollutive and harmful to our citizens and their environments. Now your government wants to allow fracturing, an experimental technology, inside our city. That will jeopardize their health, property values and economic well-being. And you state that you want balance. Really? [Emphasis added]

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