To the well-meaning, environmentally conscious folks who are opposed to pipeline expansion in Canada, let me ask you this: did you support the legalization of marijuana?
Like many advocates, I supported legalization for a number of reasons, not least among them the recognition that demand for marijuana has always been there and people have always looked for ways to obtain it. But because of the drug’s illegal status, it came from sometimes-questionable sources while the government missed out on a heavy stream of revenue. In an ideal world, maybe the demand for marijuana wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t have medical conditions that required treatment with marijuana, while others wouldn’t desire to alter their perception with substances. But that’s not the world we live in, so it always made sense to many of us to do it properly. Regulate it, produce it as cleanly as possible, and tax it.
The situation we find ourselves in with oil is no different. It would be wonderful if we no longer needed oil. In such a utopia, we could quit using fossil fuels overnight, switch to renewables, and hopefully begin to undo the damage done to the planet since industrialization. But again, this is not the world we live in yet. Reducing Canada’s output does nothing to reduce global demand. The world needs oil, and lots of it. Why would we stand by and watch as that demand is met by oil producers with looser environmental regulations and less-than-pristine human rights records, all while missing out on any of the profits? And why wouldn’t we choose the safest and most efficient method of transportation?
In both instances, we have the opportunity to produce as safe a product as possible in a stringent environment, and we’d get to share in the rewards. To be logically consistent, one must apply the same argument to both. “People are going to use it anyway – let’s do it right.”
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