Over 1,000 citizens made oral presentations to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel. My presentation can be boiled down to three numbers—1, 7, and 500.
The number 500 is the number of hours it takes a person to do the same amount of work that can be done with one gallon of gasoline. Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations, says, “Labour therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.” In today’s English, what Smith was saying is that the value of labour is the most constant measure of the value of purchasable goods and services. The value of gasoline using Smith’s conclusion based on a $10 per hour value of labour is $5,000 per gallon. If we were extracting the last usable fossil fuels today, they could not be purchased for less than $5,000 per gallon.
This leads me to the number 7. It is said that in some First Nations traditions, no decision would be made without review of the will of the seven generations previous and in consideration of the effects of the decision for the seven generations following. This perspective is remarkable for a culture which did not consume “non-renewable” resources. In a society such as ours, with the capacity to extract huge quantities of natural resources, the seven generation rule should be a minimum. Today, our decisions barely consider past the current generation.
The number 1 is significant because one hour is the amount of time the sun needs to shine in order to radiate an equivalent amount of all the energy currently used by mankind in one year. The number one is a symbol of the possibilities that exist to have a flourishing society making use mainly of the energy coming at us from the sun. This energy can be harvested by passive solar homes, solar arrays, wind energy, and other ways we may not have even imagined. I urge you to remember the number 1 and its significance of possibilities and hope.
We need change the way we value fossil fuels both in fairness to future generations and because it is the only path to reduce our use of those fuels. Pipelines will increase the worldwide supply of oil which would put downward pressure on world oil prices. This is likely why many countries are clamoring to get involved in developing our resources.
Knowing that the availability of fossil fuels will continue to decrease, we need make decisions that allow us to stretch the life of this resource. We can be certain that its future value will be more in proportion to the value of labour it displaces, much more than the present value. This pipeline supports the increased rate of extraction of bitumen, which I do not support. I support getting real value for the resources under the stewardship of the people of Canada.
Every one hour of sunlight provides enough energy for one year. Let’s just get on with harvesting a bit of that and leave the fossil fuels with the fossils. The next seven generations and beyond are counting on us. Don’t force them to work 500 hours so we can drive to the corner store.