The sands of time, even those in Canada, are running out for fossil fuels. We can begin to switch now, or face the inevitable.
Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe appears to be gung ho for the environmentally destructive tar sands project in Canada but many Norwegians disagree, including his colleague Minister of the Environment Erik Solheim.
So why should each of us, including Norwegians, cut our own greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our own carbon footprint, if the Norwegian government is split on the issue?
The answer is we have no other option. Oil is still a finite resource, even if the tar sands went ahead or if oil reserves turned out to be double or triple current estimates. Oil must run out eventually, whatever we wish.
At some point, we will need to switch to other energy sources and there are two choices. We can wait for a crisis until we are suddenly forced to change, or do it on our own terms, at our own pace.
The less oil we use now, the more we will learn how to use less energy. The less oil we use now, the more we can experiment with alternative energy sources knowing that oil is still a back-up should some experiments fail. The less oil that we use now, the longer it will last, giving us more time for a smooth and planned transition.
We can achieve the inevitable in our own way by shifting away from oil now; not need to burn all the oil as our success increases, perhaps leaving the tar sands intact.
Moreover, relying on the tar sands might be premature. A pipeline for transporting the oil to refineries has been delayed due to Nebraska's objections.
So much effort goes into these political battles, but it could be better piped into cooperation on reducing energy consumption and seeking sustainable sources instead. The Norwegian government will follow if we lead and demand it from our leaders, no matter who is in power.
Ministers are elected. We should show them the pathway to sustainability.
Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).
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