Unconditional surrender: what the Left calls “balance”

June 11th, 2008
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Last night marked the TV debut of a two-part miniseries, Burn Up. Shot largely in Calgary, it was billed as asking “decidedly unsettling questions about big oil and political expediency, the environmental impact of the Athabasca oil sands and even American foreign policy”! Not to fear, however. The expected international audience of 50 million would apparently be treated to a product that is “not a black-and-white study of good environmentalists versus evil oil execs”.

Instead, in the words of one of the show’s creative geniuses, it would show that:

We’re all dependant on oil, whether it’s you or me or somebody in the oil industry or somebody who is a raging environmentalist. The fact is, we can’t live with it and can’t live without it. We’re all conflicted. On the big scale, that’s what the story is about.

I waited with bated breath. I was not disappointed. My favourite scene involved these words of wisdom uttered by our protagonist, the new head of “Arrow”, a BP-like, British Big Oil company. He confronts his loved ones, including several confused pre-schoolers, about climate change:

The question is, what are we, the people sitting around this table, going to do about it? It seems we’re staring at the end of civilization…A straight swap from the most energy-hungry process to the most energy efficient. Pull out of the Athabascan (sic) tar sands and invest in renewables – solar mostly…The amount of carbon dioxide it takes to produce one barrel of tar sand oil is…it’s criminal.

So there you have it: corporate executives aren’t “evil” – as long as they repudiate everything they believe in, surrender their grip on reality and turn their backs on the industry to which they dedicated their career.

Arrow Boy comes to this epiphany following the self-immolation of an Inuit environmentalist despairing for her people, after Arrow wins the ground-breaking class action law suit brought on behalf of her climate-challenged people. He concludes that she couldn’t have been crazy despite her painful suicide, and must have known what she was talking about, because she was “a scientist”.

During a trip to Inuvik for the funeral – by helicopter, no less – he actually flies over those “Athabascan tar sands”, sprouting innumerable smoke stacks spewing some kind of presumably noxious white substances whereupon, he asserts, “They contain 1.7 trillion tons (sic) of oil!” 

He helicopters to Inuvik (without refuelling six to eight times as annoying reality would demand) with Neve Campbell, the now no-longer-ingenue trophy VP of Arrow’s sham Renewables Division. After the funeral, despite the fact it’s winter, they make their way, on their own, in an SUV, to a spot that is a roadless, half-day’s drive from Inuvik, where he watches Neve prove that global warming is real, and oil to blame, by lighting the methane hydrates contained under the ice (which she easily breaks) of a thinly frozen body of water. His conversion to the cause is consummated when he cheats on his climate-change denying wife with the comely Neve in a conveniently located lonely northern trapper’s shack.

(Contrast this view of the benign, shagadelic North with The Waters In Between, Kevin Patterson’s vastly more realistic book about life in the modern-day north, in which a southern woman with plenty of experience travelling on the tundra freezes to death.)

A short while later, back in London, Arrow Boy and Renewables Girl attempt to sell their company’s board of directors on pulling out of the tar sands in order to invest billions in renewables.

Neve makes a marketing pitch for the ages:

I’m not talking about killing the goose that lays the golden egg. On the contrary, I’m saying, husband the eggs. [the metaphor breaks down here, since eggs rot – ed.] Treat oil like the gold that it is, not squander it so there’s nothing left for the next generation. In the meantime, we invest in renewables.

(Of course, if it’s a planet-killing evil now, why should we “husband” it for others?)

Arrow Boy then demands an investment of “two billion” in

photovoltaics. “Compared to what we’re pouring into exploration every year, it’s a reasonable investment”, he intones. The money would come from pulling out of those infernal Athabascan oil sands, whereupon he and Neve do a tag-team drive-by on them.

In reality Arrow-Boy is way behind the times. According to this report from the Global Renewable Energy Forum
renewable investments surpassed US$70 billion in 2004.

And according to the David Suzuki Foundation (we never thought we’d see the day!):

A $1.5 billion industry world-wide, solar energy is now growing at 30 per cent annually. At this rate, solar energy could be a $24 billion industry in ten years.

In other words, this program like so many other media present a tiresome if highly damaging false dichotomy: you can either have oil, or you can avoid destroying the planet through complete reordering of global economic life.

One grey-haired board member, apparently the only one with any sense, challenges them. “Are you saying, pull out of Canada? . . . It’s also one of the largest sources of non-conventional oil in the world. It’s on safe soil and has serious amounts of valuable investment in plant and machinery. Sell that to the shareholders.”

Our protagonist shuts down the old fogeys, and the meeting, with this inspirational zinger, for which there is obviously no rejoinder: “What I’ll sell to the shareholders is the chance to be on the floor of the biggest, most adventurous market in history. China has already produced its first solar billionaire. Do I see any oil billionaires in the room?”

Stay tuned for tonight’s exciting conclusion.

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