World needs clean energy, not oilsands, author insists

Mike Sadava, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2007

EDMONTON - Alberta's oilsands are an obscene waste of money, says award-winning author and journalist Edwin Black.

Black said he is aware Alberta is earning the title as an "energy superpower," but he said the direction is misguided.

"That is a massive misuse of public and private capital," he said. "A fraction of that money could be used not to keep us ghettoized in petroleum hell, not to keep killing our neighbours with fossil fuel burning, by keeping us addicted to oil.

"Remember, not all consumers drink Alberta oil -- most of them drink Middle East oil."

Black has published numerous books and investigative articles and has been nominated for nine Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his latest book, Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternative.

On the last stop of a three-month 50-city book tour, he was in Edmonton Monday where he told a University of Alberta audience of about 250 people that it's time for the world to shake its addiction to oil.

Having used an army of 50 researchers for his book, Black described how a conspiracy of oil companies, auto makers and governments destroyed other technologies such as electric cars, which were the most common in the early days of the automobile, and destroyed non-petroleum public transit vehicles such as electric trolleys.

The world will start using alternatives to oil sooner or later, likely spurred on by the possibilities of "petro-terrorism" such as Iran blocking the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, he said. The technology is already available to replace gas-guzzling cars, including hydrogen cells and compressed natural gas, which could be used as a transition technology with much less environmental impact.

He compared the oilsands to corn ethanol, which is being subsidized in the United States, but which requires huge amounts of energy to produce.

"It's like corn ethanol; it's a scam. I'm telling you now that what the world needs now is not more petroleum poison -- they need the antidote. Alberta has the technology and the bright minds to make this come to pass."

Given the amount of money the U.S. is spending on the war in Iraq and other measures to protect its oil supply, it makes more sense to spend a little more to move away from oil, he said. The world needs a project to bring thinkers and the latest technologies together, to convert to hydrogen, electric battery-powered cars, wind and solar power.

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