Thank you for your excellent article (May 28) on the June 6 Tar Sands Resistance March. I will be there in spirit.
In the 1970s, I wrote extensively about Santa Barbara’s 1969 blowout and about energy resources and use.* Not much has changed since then, except that “accidents” are more frequent and destructive now, the consequences of our fossil fuel orgy have become apparent, and petroleum and its effects on climate and the environment are hot-button political issues. But satisfactory remediation of spills and other environmental damage still eludes us, and despite assurances from government and industry, equipment inevitably fails and people will always make “mistakes” (or worse).
In the 1970s I naively wrote that the tar sands would be too costly to develop. They still are, in terms of their damage to public health, local communities, the environment, and above all the climate; but those are externalities whose costs can unfortunately be denied or deferred. The relentless pursuit of petroleum development continues, presenting unacceptable risks and hazards and exacting its intolerable social, economic, and environmental toll.
So my thoughts and hopes will be with the Resistance March. It is past time to leave the fossils in the ground and to put a price on carbon that reflects its true cost. I would prefer a revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend, but there are other possibilities. However, for the public’s health, the environment, the economy, and the future we really have to do something mighty soon.
(*Blowout: A case study of the Santa Barbara oil spill, Duxbury Press, 1972. Energy: Sources, Use, and Role in Human Affairs, Duxbury Press, 1974. The Fires of Culture: Energy Yesterday and Tomorrow, Duxbury Press, 1974.)