Slippery Discourse

The Danger Behind the Green “Job Killing” Argument

Graphic Eric Bent and Julia Wolfe

Whether you read the newspaper, watch the news or simply find yourself leaving your business classes with a head full of stats, you’re probably under the impression that there are some serious problems with the global economy right now.

Maybe you’ve been following the Eurozone crisis, or maybe you’ve noticed increased use of “folks are struggling,”—Barack Obama’s new favourite catchphrase.

You’ve probably also heard the phrase “job killer” rushed into action whenever policy affecting big business finds its way into Congress. It’s become something of a knee-jerk response from anyone hailing what they see as free enterprise, and it’s the same defence being used in Ottawa over the Keystone XL pipeline debate.

This isn’t a question of killing jobs, it’s one of expanding industry—one that’s an extreme pollutant even when it’s not leaking into water supplies, which happens to be another risk this investment takes.

Being an essential resource for military, manufacturing and transportation for nearly a hundred years has allowed the oil industry to become the mammoth in the energy sector. The oil lobby holds more capital and sway than any activist could dream of. Since 2007, ExxonMobil alone spent more than $2.4 million lobbying with national political organizations and state officials.

Limiting the development of alternative energy sources is good for the oil business. So don’t be too quick to jump on this bandwagon; have a sip of the critical think-tea us leftist hippie job killers must be brewing. Banning the export of Quebec asbestos would be job-killing, too.

What’s most troublesome is that the Conservatives are relying on the distraction tactics of the GOP. South of the border, Republican candidates have fused “Environmental Protection Agency” and “job killing” in their rhetoric based on the fact that the EPA is helping to reduce the number of American coalmines still operating going forward.

As for the pipeline debate, the jobs that environmentalists are apparently killing don’t even exist yet.

So we must rely on exporting raw materials, a tactic much more familiar to the global south’s economic policy than a so-called “great power” like Canada. Stephen Harper may say the pipeline deal is a contract free from strategy and politics, but even that seems to be a smokescreen.

While our tar sands may seem more attractive than the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ oil, the opportunity for the development of alternative energy must not be shrouded under the job killing defence.

Want to talk about job killing, oh mighty lawmakers? Then let’s talk about how that applies to cutting services to the most vulnerable people in our country. Let’s talk about the environment—it’s not a fringe issue anymore, but one that is necessarily involved in every decision that breaks ground and burns oil.

I’m no foe to capitalism, but we must reconcile the two.