We need to use fewer fossil fuels

Debate surrounding Rob Brown's Enbridge column continues

An open letter to:

Gerry Martin

Dear Sir:

About your online letter of March 2, 2014 in which you criticize columnist Rob Brown for his Feb. 12, 2014 column on Enbridge’s TV commercials introducing us to their Northern Gateway project manager, Janet Holder.

I think like myself, you and Rob Brown have probably seen Enbridge’s TV commercials that have been running for the last few months introducing us to their Northern Gateway project manager Janet Holder. I wonder if that commercial was the inspiration for Rob’s column.

The marketing scheme used by Enbridge sure makes me want to like Janet and her two beautiful dogs in that gorgeous serene setting – the lighting is beautiful; it sure makes me want to trust her. After watching a commercial like that a hundred times I’m almost convinced she alone will ensure nothing bad – like a spill into a fish-bearing stream– will happen in our area; I almost forget that Enbridge along with other pipeline companies have had a number of pipeline ruptures/leaks in recent years.

Rob’s last paragraph in his Feb. 12 column warns us that Janet and Enbridge are selling snake oil. Rob’s passionate words might be too strong; having an inflammatory rather than agreeable quality for pipeline proponents; however, as educated people, we simply cannot deny that Enbridge is spinning the truth in their favour by airing commercials that are one-sided (as in the TV commercial starring Janet Holder).

The intent of Enbridge’s commercial is the same as for any commercial run by a company: to gain public favour for a project or to convince the public to buy a product. It’s propaganda. People are not immune to the art of persuasion – marketing agencies figured that out a long time ago – and so an enormous amount of time and money is dedicated to advertising with the hopes of ensuring that ads are carefully tailored to elicit the desired effect on their target audience. So Rob’s final paragraph is not really that unfair to Janet, rather, it makes us stop and think about the Enbridge propaganda that we are exposed on our televisions in our homes.

Gerry, your are correct when you say that oil and gas companies need customers for their products. But where are the customers for the end products of the Northern Gateway project located? It’s not going to be Canadians fueling up at the end of the pipeline is it?

Why do we need to rush to export Canada’s non-renewable oil and gas reserves? The answer might be as simple as: the revenue generated from the exports will in turn generate economic prosperity. The question then becomes: Is economic prosperity worth the risks?

Some Canadians will benefit from economic prosperity directly and indirectly resulting from the Northern Gateway project – and that is alluring; so alluring that it makes many of us compromise our values (namely environmental) in the name of money. In our societies we work at jobs to make money so that we can live and support our selves and our families. We are taught at an early age to compete for the highest paying jobs for which we are qualified.

We do little to sustain ourselves without money. With money we can purchase everything we need and everything we don’t need. The more money we have, the more we can consume – nicer houses, nicer automobiles, better food, better clothes…

Knowing what we now know about fossil fuels (they are a scarce and non-renewable resource; burning them has cumulative negative consequences), each of us has a responsibility to make better choices about how we use them and how we benefit from them (i.e. exploiting them by fueling up our personal vehicles and heating our homes; exploiting them by supporting projects that export them to other remote countries who will ultimately consume them; or even supporting the industry by competing for those high paying jobs).

I applaud Rob for his column, even if you’ve made him sound a little like a hypocrite for driving his truck out to the river to enjoy a day of fishing. He perhaps could have done better, as you suggested, by including a few references to how we might wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependency.

Regardless, how can any of us in modern society disapprove of the Northern Gateway project without sounding like a hypocrite? Sometimes being a little bit it of a hypocrite is a necessary evil, and it certainly is in the case of advocating reduction of dependencies on fossil fuels because we have allowed our societies to be so heavily dependent on them.

I have been without a personal vehicle, in Terrace, as of October 31, 2011. Since then, I have been riding a bicycle year-round to work and to do errands like grocery shopping. My bike has become my primary mode of transportation. While there are a few sacrifices, it has been a rewarding personal choice with many benefits that tip the scales in favour of going vehicle free: I easily save about $5,000/year in fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation; I get a daily dose of exercise and fresh air; and I make my footprint on the environment considerably smaller.

While pipelines may offer a relatively safe option for transporting fossil fuels, building more pipelines and greater capacity to move more oil and gas does nothing to help reduce local or global dependency on fossil fuels.

Meg Hoole, Terrace, B.C.