As the world debates the climate crisis and it's solutions in Copenhagen, Albertans are being asked to take command of their own contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. In his new book, Green Oil, Satya Das believes Albertans need to take charge of their own backyard. Green Oil asserts that Albertans can take the tar sands and develop them in a sustainable manner while generating profit to dedicate to green energy alternatives.
"They are a $15 trillion dollar resource, where we have to share two thirds of our resource extraction with the Americans because the free trade deal. So it's going to be developed one way or the other. We should at least develop it responsibly within a context of environmental responsibility."
Das has been working with the government relations group Cambridge Strategies, an organization he founded, to advise on government relations, strategy and policy development. He became interested in writing Green Oil when he saw all the government reports on the Alberta tar sands with very little citizen input.
"I wrote it out of frustration more than anything. Through all the government studies and reports there is not a lot of voice from citizens. And when it came to government acting on those reports there was not a lot of movement."
But that doesn't give much hope to Das' main recommendation being implemented. Das outlines in his book that profits from the tar sands should be put toward a natural resource severance tax to be invested in green technologies.
Alberta's history of increasing corporate taxes on their main resource money maker is not in Das' favour. With current corporate subsidies, investment in carbon capture and storage, and consistently low royalty rates the Alberta government has put a lot of money in to make sure the tar sands are kept alive. Even when most of Alberta pushed for higher royalty rates and a government commissioned report recommended higher rates, the Stelmach government implemented the minimum recommendations leaving Alberta's royalty take as one of the lowest in the world. The Parkland Institute, a progressive thinktank, believes Albertans will miss out on over five billion dollars in the next three years due to the government's lack of strong action to increase the rates. and increased royalty rates.
"The government does act with an air of caution. The political leadership are scared of the tenants leaving." But Das believes it's time for that mentality to end. "We should call the bluff of those not willing to change and take their leases. If you don't want to develop in a responsible manner then you can leave. Alberta citizens are the landlords and business are the tenants. If the tenants don't like the conditions we set they have to leave." Das believes citizens should take their rightful place as owners of the resource.
"Government are just the managers, business are the tenants and citizens are the ones with control. And tenants have to realize they're not the ones we can do business with." Das is firm Albertans must control who is coming in the tar sands door. "Albertans have the absolute right to set the rules and terms under which we'll accept tenants."
With Copenhagen talks underway, the world will be watching what Alberta and Canada are doing. "It's essential we make the shift. We're being completely irresponsible to the climate and to democracy."--Samantha Power
Samantha Power is an Edmonton-based writer and broadcaster and intern at rabble.ca.
This review was first published in VUE Weekly.
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