Monday, 9 February 2009

Divine Intervention – Taking Back Sunday (2006)

I know about the separation of Church and State, but Church and Energy? Hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions, right?

Read on and find out what the Bishop of St. Paul in Alberta said in a pastoral letter last week to oil executives in Calgary and Houston regarding the Athabasca Oil Sands. Is this what is meant by taking the "moral high ground?"

Pace and scale of Alberta oil sands development a "moral problem"

Alberta's oil sands industry has taken considerable heat for its environmental sins, but now an ecclesiastical voice is added to the secular critics.

"I am forced to conclude that the integrity of creation in the Athabasca Oil Sands is clearly being sacrificed for economic gain," Luc Bouchard, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Paul in Alberta, wrote in a pastoral letter last week. "The proposed future development of oil sands constitutes a serious moral problem."

The problem "does not lie in government and industry's lack of a sincere desire to find a solution; the moral problem lies in their racing ahead and aggressively expanding the oil sands industry despite the fact that serious environmental problems remain unresolved after more than forty-years of ongoing research," the Bishop wrote.

He cited the destruction of the boreal forest eco system; the release of greenhouse gases, potential damage to the Athabasca (River) watershed; heavy consumption of natural gas (using a relatively clean burning source of energy "to produce much more environmentally damaging oil"); and the creation of toxic tailings ponds. ("The question as to whether it is ethical to create such enormous amounts of essentially poisonous materials with no known way to detoxify them needs to be addressed").

Any one of these destructive effects provokes moral concern, the letter said, "But it is when the damaging effects are all added together, the moral legitimacy of oil sands production is challenged." And when the scale or proposed future expansions is taken into account, "The full environmental threat of the oil sands and the resulting gravity of the moral issue involved is most deeply felt."

Bishop Bouchard directed his letter to "oil company executives in Calgary and Houston, to government leaders in Edmonton and Ottawa, and to the general public whose excessive consumerist lifestyles drives the demand for oil."

Bouchard told Platts in a telephone interview: "What I am saying in the letter is not something that is new. But I wanted to add a dimension that needed to be added, which is a spiritual and moral dimension."

As consumers, "We all have to make an examination of conscience," regarding energy use, he said, but suggested that the overriding issue is "a reduction in the pollution we create."

The response to the letter "has been overwhelmingly favorable," Bouchard said. "If at least I've heightened the greater awareness of what is going on, all the better."

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said in a statement: "We invited the input of all Canadians to identify and address their concerns regarding oil sands development and we accept the Bishop's input as part of that process."

Oil sands development "is sustainable, regulated and the cornerstone of Canada's resource supply," the statement said. "We look forward to talking with the Bishop and others about environmental impacts, progress that has already been made, as well industry's future vision for balancing energy supply, environment and economy in the region."

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