Death by Carbon

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

I wonder what goes through the minds of politicians and others who know that producing a barrel of oil from oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. How do they live with themselves?

I often grapple with the power brokers in the energy business from time to time. They listen. Then listen some more. They never react angrily, or even seem slightly worried. Behind their eyes is the sure knowledge at a) the decision makers are in their pockets b) 'ordinary' people will not rally to save the world if there is something interesting on TV at the same time. The bottom line is that tar sands and Methane hydrate provides enough ammunition for blind energy majors to do to the entire planet what Anders Behring Breivik did to his unfortunate victims at the annual summer youth camp in Norway.

The insatiable appetite for carbon energy in the industrial North and now India and China too also seems to be heading in the direction of fracking (hydraulic fracturing), which injects high pressure fluids into the rock layers and creating new channels for extraction.

I strongly suggest that everyone see a film call Gasland: by Josh Fox It gives some idea of the sheer depth to which people will plunge. When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination.

Anyway, talk of not looking further than their noses, Indian companies, led by ONGC, are planning to invest as much as U.S.$ 10 billion to extract oil from Canada's Alberta tar sands. This will be the coup de grace for the planet, which cannot by any stretch of imagination cope with the huge new volume of greenhouse gases that will be released.

Our myopic leaders imagine that India's growing economic clout might find us a way out of the climate change quicksand? They imagine that the Maldives is more vulnerable than we are? Well, think about this: the population of the Maldives is less than four lakh people. In India ten times that number live in the Sundarbans at, AND SOME EVEN BELOW, sea level. A series of Sting, Paul McCartney and Bob Geldof-organised concerts will see Maldivians resettled in Australia or some safe haven. No one will even begin to hold 'concerts for India'. Yet the simple-mindedness of our leaders keeps pushing 1.3 billion Indians towards their climate nemesis. Mera Bharat Mahan?