Our View: The Hypocrisy of Megaload Protests

2013-12-06T02:00:00Z Our View: The Hypocrisy of Megaload ProtestsTimes-News Editorial Board Twin Falls Times-News
December 06, 2013 2:00 am  • 

The protesters lying prone on the roadway and chaining themselves to General Electric Co.’s 900,000-pound megaload shipment to the oil sands of western Canada are doing more than just slowing the caravan’s lumbering trek.

The environmentalists are once again trumpeting the classic American battle cry: “Not in my backyard.”

Our need for gasoline has for decades put the nation in bed with despots and mad men in the oil-rich Middle East. “Energy independence” is a catch phrase of our time.

But when the rubber hits the road, as it has in Oregon, people don’t want to be anywhere near the alternatives.

The protesters harassing the oil purification equipment destined to pass through Fairfield, Carey and Arco in a matter of days no doubt drove gas-powered cars to their demonstration site.

The environmental movement points to the quality of the oil extracted from tar sands, like those in Alberta, when arguing against the process. Tar sand oil is about 17 percent “dirtier” than Middle Eastern crude, according to a report published last month by the International Energy Agency. That equates to even more greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere.

But IEA chief economist Fatih Birol put those findings into context in an interview with The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

“The difference in getting oil from oil sands when compared to conventional oil, it is such a small contribution that it will be definitely wrong to highlight this as a major source of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide,” Birol told the newspaper. Coal-fired power plants that electrify most of the planet are the biggest problem, he said.

Gas-burning engines are indeed a worldwide contributor to rising carbon dioxide emissions. Earlier this year, CO2 levels in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts-per-million for the first time in recorded history, the highest level in more than 1 million years, according to ice core samples analyzed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists. NASA has tracked a pronounced spike in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels over the past 50 years, as industrialization swept across humanity.

But megaload protesters are picking the wrong fight. We need oil to maintain the most basic norms of modern life, and getting it from Canada or Alaska sure beats enriching Middle Eastern princes and South American dictators.

The American auto industry has only half-heartedly tried researching other methods of powering vehicles. In the past century, mankind has spilt the atom, landed on the moon and created an informational Web that moves at the speed of light. Yet, the internal combustion engine remains our main vehicle of transportation. It’s an example of a lack of political will, not ability.

Something that happens outside of view still happens. And insisting that oil production take place as far from North America as possible is a wrongheaded, unreasonable approach.

But, as the megaload protesters once again prove, Americans love things out of sight and out of mind.

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. duke
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    duke - December 11, 2013 11:04 am
    if any one can come up an energy to take the place of oil you people of times news come up with it I will buy it if I can afford it
  2. Sawtooth hunter
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    Sawtooth hunter - December 06, 2013 3:49 pm
    So, let me get this straight: If you drive a vehicle with an internal-combustion engine, you can't protest ANYTHING related to petroleum extraction? That's akin to telling an oil-field worker he has to turn in his fishing rod or gun because his work degrades some habitat.

    And let me try to get this straight as well: We don't allow "outsiders" to dictate how we function in our state, and this suggests that it's not OK for locals to protect their backyard, either. Who, exactly, gets to have a voice? If we don't protect our backyards, who will? Politicians?

    Energy independence is a pipe dream, and hard to make a case for when we're already shipping oil and gas overseas.

    This editorial was staggeringly shallow.
  3. DeborahSilver
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    DeborahSilver - December 06, 2013 1:06 pm
    It would have been interesting had you quoted a specific protestor or two. I agree with Byway, the protests have had more to do with the Wild & Scenic River corridor. It is true, it has evolved into tar sands, but it is a disservice to the public to ignore genuine issues. To go right into "hypocrisy" when you haven't really reported the story seems unbalanced.
  4. Byway
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    Byway - December 06, 2013 9:32 am
    You make good points, although there is more to "dirty" regarding the tar sands than 'emissions,' such as stream pollution and the scraping away of boreal forests. But I want to note that when the megaload matter arose along U.S.12 in north central Idaho, the local residents who first resisted megaloads had never heard of "tar sands." What they (we) residents opposed was ExxonMobil Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil's plan to turn a nationally designated Wild & Scenic River corridor, nationally designated Scenic Byway, two nationally designated Historical Trails, and one of our nation's 30 All American Roads into Big Oil's permanent industrial truck route. That, not the tar sands, is what the past 3 3/4 years of 'protest' and legal cases have been about, and remain about -- among the larger body of megaload resisters. However, you are correct that recent resistance has also been about tar sands' "dirty" oil and linked (in solidarity) with the indigenous people of Canada who are being harmed by polluted waterways and air and loss of pristine landscapes/environments due to tar sands extraction operations. In other words, while your commentary makes some valid points, it does not address the full history nor the 'whole' of the megaload matter. Dismissing the recent protests as "hypocrisy" ignores the very real harms being done by the tar sands, harms that may accrue over time due to the tar sands, and ignores the proposed industrialization of one of America's most scenic, wild, historic and pristine river corridors.
  5. Hawk's view
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    Hawk's view - December 06, 2013 7:24 am
    Petroleum is still the very best energy source we have. An old geologist friend once said "Man's use of oil is like humming birds drinking nectar from the rain forest."

    Most 'protesters' just don't have enough to do.

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