Friday, May 18, 2007

EPCOR, Air Canada and the ERG.

(Week 19, Day 3)

The power went out all day yesterday, but it's back on today.

The Premier of Alberta has banded together with several regional mayors (Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer chief amongst them) to form an Emergency Regional Government this past week. The main goal of the ERG seems to be to maintain order and conserve what limited resources Alberta has at it's disposal.

EPCOR has begun rolling blackouts, cutting power to certain areas on alternating days to help conserve energy. It's not a terrible idea, but it makes day to day living a pain. There's no official schedule anywhere, so you just kind of have to guess when power in your area is going out.

I had to fire up the BBQ to eat yesterday, as the power was out. I couldn't help but wonder about the propane, and whether or not I should consider installing an alternate cooking source - like a fire pit - just in case. It's strange how your priorities shift. A four months ago I was more concerned with what summer movies I wanted to see, and whether I should purchase an XBOX 360. Now I'm wondering how I'm going to cook my meals, and whether I should install wooden shingles.

Back on the topic of the Emergency Regional Government. I like the concept of it, and it's something that will definitely help us right now. And it's very representative, at least in theory. Each municipality has a voice in what's going on, with the Premier acting as a chairman of sorts.

The reality, however, is that the large cities are being given priority voice. Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton are getting far more say in the ERG than, say, Camrose or St. Albert. Now, I'll admit that these are larger populations, and have more needs than a suburb does. However, these places do have needs, and many of them aren't being met right now. There's the very real chance that people might start moving to the cities in hopes of getting a better quality of life.

That's just going to put more strain on the cities, and make things worse for everyone.

In other news, I've heard that Air Canada has stopped all overseas flights indefinitely. People just can't afford the prices, and so the company has just cut it's losses and stopped providing the service. I'm sure that's going to cause more problems than not. At least people can still move around the country through air-travel... but at the rate fuel prices continue to rise, it's possible that might end in the coming weeks too. If you mean to travel... you'd best get out now.

There have been reports of troop movements up north again. The Canadian Armed Forces and United States Army are mainly playing a game of leap-frog right now, jockeying for position and taking stock of each other's strengths. My friends and I often joked about what a United States invasion would be like. Now I'm faced with the very grim reality of it, and it's put it in perspective.

Plus, it's becoming more and more apparent that the Canadian Armed Forces aren't just here to protect us from the United States Army. They're also here to make sure the oil keeps flowing east. Maybe that's why these partisans (or as CBC calls them, terrorists) are harassing both sides. They don't want the oil being sent elsewhere, they want it to stay here and help the people who are working for it.

I keep saying it's a scary time to live in the first world. It is. And anyone who doesn't think so is probably not fully aware of just how bad things are getting. We've been lucky here in Edmonton. Some cities in the States are war-zones right now.

***This is a fictional report of the state of affairs in Alberta for the World Without Oil ARG.

Road Repair Standstill

(Week 18, Day 6)

Here's something a little less grim to comment on.

The roads in Edmonton got pretty bad over the last winter, and there are massive potholes all over the city. This isn't much a traffic problem anymore, but it is worth commenting on anyway, because of the lack of repair that's going on.

Why aren't they repairing the roads?

Well, it's not because there's no need. Cycling and walking traffic have increased, and many bike riders have taken to using the regular roads more openly.

It's not because the municipal government can't get the manpower. There are people willing to work for scraps out there right now, with the massive layoffs and the refugee situation.

And it most certainly isn't because they can't afford it. I'm sure there's a contractor out there right now willing to take on the job with a minimum fuss for very, very cheap.

No, the reason is because asphalt is oil based.

When I figured that out - and I'm embarrassed it took so long for it to strike me - it made me realize that there are plenty of oil based products that we may never see again. Styrofoam. Paraffin Wax. Petroleum Jelly. Plastic bags at grocery stores; in fact, many plastics in general.

But the one that really struck me was shingles. Most shingles produced in North America are made with asphalt, not tar. Obviously, that's going to become a problem now that oil prices have skyrocketed around the globe. It never occurred to me that the literal roof over my head was in danger of being lost.

So, to anyone reading my columns, I pose this question. Have you considered alternative roofing to your current shingles? They will need replacing at some point. Wood is certainly an option, but is there anything better? Definitely something to ponder in the coming weeks and months, if things don't start getting better.

As for the roads, well, some 80% of the asphalt currently used in road production is actually recycled. So maybe we will see some of those potholes along major roads get filled at some point when things settle down.


***This is a fictional report of the state of affairs in Alberta for the World Without Oil ARG.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Refugee Situation in Alberta

(Week 18, Day 4)

I mentioned this in my earlier article, and I think it's time to talk about it again; the situation involving American Refugees coming into Canada.

Now, I never thought we'd ever seriously see the day when proud American citizens would start border jumping, but apparently things are bad all across the formerly-largest unprotected border in the world. Things started to change a few months ago, when the first trickle of people began running north from the fears of the economic collapse that was eminent in the States. Since then, the border has become more and more militarized - on both sides. Canadian Armed Forces have begun regularly patrolling the border, especially in Ontario, and now in British Columbia and Alberta. The US Army has also beefed up it's defences, and seem to be trying to keep people in which is terrifying and confusing.

Ontario has been hit pretty hard by the influx of refugees. There's simply no room to accommodate all these people in the east, and the oil crunch is being felt particularly bad there as it is. I've heard stories of roaming shanty towns being put up outside of suburbs in Toronto, and American families begging in the streets for work and food. It sounds pretty hopeless there.

Things are faring a little better here, but not by much. Western Canada is still largely uninhabited space, after all, so we do have the room for some of these people. But the space isn't the problem. It's resources that are the problem.

We don't have the support structure in place to handle this. As things are, Alberta - the richest province in Canada - has been doing pretty well for itself, but only just. The provincial government has been doing what it can to reduce oil use, and conserve what oil is still being produced within the province itself - something that I'm sure isn't sitting well in Ottawa - but with all these new people suddenly making demands on our limited resources, we might not fare any better than they are in Toronto soon.

Then there's the military situation.

That's an entirely different problem in itself, but the refugees are exacerbating things. It's known that some of the partisans who've been trying to take oil refineries are American citizens, acting against the will of the military to help protect Canadian interests. That's admirable in spirit, but it's just making things worse. Essentially, this is a domestic terrorism threat - and the Canadian and US armies are treating it as such. The large wave of refugees over the border is making it hard to control this threat, as people are easily moving with the displaced civilian population. It may not be long now before the military starts threatening these refugees with armed force.

I'm very seriously worried about the army problem in Fort McMurray. The United States wants our oil production, and it's unlikely they're going to take "NO!" for an answer. I know that "officially" Washington is opposed to the unit that jumped the border, but it certainly hasn't done anything to stop it. And now with the guerrillas... well, I just hope that conflict doesn't erupt soon, and I certainly hope it doesn't reach Edmonton.

Then again, Edmonton's east-end industrial park is called "Refinery Row" for a reason. And I'm glad I don't live too close to it right now.

***This is a fictional report of the state of affairs in Alberta for the World Without Oil ARG.

Alberta's Oil Crisis

(Week 18, Day 2)

Some of you know me, but for those of you who don't I'll give a brief introduction. My name is Scott, and I am a student journalist at the University of Alberta. I'm a fairly active member of the online community, and like to think that I've got a finger on the pulse of local and global events.

So, as you can imagine, I'm not oblivious to the current state of global affairs - a crisis that's being called the World Oil Shock by those news outlets that are devoting time to it.

The Gateway - that is, the student newspaper at the U of A - can only devote so much space to the oil shock; but I personally am interested in following the news and commenting on it, so I've created this online blog as an outlet. Thanks for tuning in.

Currently things are getting pretty hairy in Alberta. In case you are unaware, United States troops have moved into the province to secure the precious oil sands around Fort McMurray to the north. The last news I've heard indicates that a bizarre three-way standoff between a group of partisans, the Canadian Armed Forces and the US Army has ensued, with no one side quite willing to start shooting at the others.

The sad fact is, the United States will probably end up controlling the area. This is typical of the US - putting its own interests first - and of Canada - acquiescing to the States. I hate to say that I hope the Canadian Government puts up a fight, because I'd hate to see anyone lose their lives up there. We shouldn't just give up our valuable natural resources though, especially under the current circumstances. With the oil shock continuing, we need to put our interests first and foremost. The US is arguably responsible for this mess - it isn't up to Canada or Alberta to get them out of it.

The real surprise to me is that national news is glazing over the issue. Local news outlets in Alberta have been reporting on it, certainly, but CBC News has been very quiet about it, other than a few minor references to Canadian Troop Movements in the area. Is the government trying to keep this quiet? Do they not want to cause a panic? I'm really concerned about this, because it's not like the current chaos happening south of the border is going unnoticed. Hell, we've seen an influx of AMERICAN REFUGEES. That's something I never thought I'd be commenting on, but there you have it. People scared of what's going on in the northern states have been border jumping, and it's starting to put more strain on us. Don't they realize that things are just as bad up here?

I always considered myself an accepting person, but we really don't need this right now.

At any rate, I'll post again soon with more word on what's going on here in Edmonton - home of the Edmonton Oilers - specifically, as well as more on the refugee situation. I'll also be keeping an eye on the standoff up north. The last thing I want is a war happening in Alberta.

It's a scary time to be a North American citizen. Things are starting to feel less and less like the vaunted first world, here. I'm seriously considering moving somewhere safer.

***This is a fictional report of the state of affairs in Alberta for the World Without Oil ARG.