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LETTER: Fossil fuels play a major role in everyday life


I have kids and grandkids that I sincerely hope will be able to enjoy a life that is as good as or better than the one we currently enjoy, and get to live in a world that is not decimated by global climate change. I do everything I can to be environmentally friendly but also recognize how much our current life relies on natural resources, especially oil and gas. It seems hypocritical for a few people to be blocking the northern natural gas pipeline when the natural gas would be shipped to China so they could convert their very dirty highly polluting coal-burning power plants over to cleaner natural gas. Natural gas is not perfect, it still emits greenhouse gas, but it’s at least 50 per cent less than coal for the same heat energy produced. Also it seems a certain sailboat with a young Swedish captain is made out of fiberglass, has nylon sails and runs a backup diesel fuel motor and generator. Ironically, Sweden imports almost $6 billion of crude oil from Norway's north sea, refines it for domestic use but also exports $6.5 billion in surplus refined petroleum to Europe.

Our daily lives run on things that we take for granted that come from oil or gas. Like the cement in our house, basements, driveways, sidewalks or high rise buildings, or schools or hospitals or airports/runways or roads or bridges or dams or anchor platforms for off-shore wind farms (ironically to make clean hydro electricity or clean wind farm electricity), a huge amount of heat, burning coal or natural gas is required to turn limestone into cement – every ton of cement emits nearly a ton of CO2.

Then I thought about the rest of my house, ugly vinyl siding, plastic polyethylene vapor barrier, poly water pipes, asphalt shingles, natural gas hot water and furnace heat, natural gas burned to produce electricity for the lights, natural gas burned to melt glass to make fiberglass insulation, big underground plastic pipes that deliver water and remove sewage, etc. etc.

The car I drive burns gas, it was shipped here on a boat that burned bunker oil (almost like tar), the steel it's made of requires massive amounts of energy to produce, the roads I drive on are all paved with asphalt from bitumen from the “Alberta tar sands”.

Then I thought I would go for a bicycle ride, that has to be green right? But my bike is made of aluminum, which requires massive amounts of electricity, and it's made in China and shipped over on a boat. It seems I can't get away from fossil fuels.

So I might as well plan a vacation to a sunny warm destination, but nope, the plane is made of aluminum and burns hundreds of gallons of fossil fuel that dumps CO2 high into the atmosphere.

So I guess I’ll stay home and have dinner – but wait, I can't eat beef because the cows fart and cause methane gas, I can't eat bread because the wheat is dried using massive amounts of propane (some farms paying $10,000 to $30,000 last year), the hog and chicken farms all burn natural gas or propane to heat the barns, the commercial local greenhouses (more poly plastic film) all burn natural gas to heat the tomatoes, cucumbers lettuce, kale (yuck) etc. And if my veggies aren't grown here then they are trucked in from California or Mexico, etc. on dirty diesel-burning trucks.

I bet there are a million other things I have missed. I am hopeful and optimistic that with technology and innovation we can make fossil fuels less polluting, but the more I understand the role they play in almost every aspect of our daily lives, the less sympathy or tolerance I have for the few protesters that are holding us all hostage.

Mike Killick, St. Albert