Thursday, January 19, 2012

That Pipeline Thing...

OMG, every time either Joe Oliver or Steve Harper starts talking about the tar sands pipeline, the rhetoric gets more retarded. I simply cannot believe the stupidity of their utterances, the obvious self-contradictions, the twisted facts. While I marvel that the likes of Peter Mansbridge and Anna-Maria Tremonti don't drill them into the ground (isn't this what reporters are supposed to do? Question??), I suspect that members of the general public are, like me, pretty amazed at the blatant bias on display here. But maybe it doesn't matter to The Harper Government, because they've got a majority, and there's no competition in sight. Kiss my ass!

I'm pretty sure that the Enbridge tar sands pipe is going to end up in the courts; First Nations vs. The Harper Government.

Anyways. While I strongly disagree with both tar sands development and new pipelines, I fear that resistance is futile. We might stop the "greenfield" Enbridge Northern Gateway, but this is but one fight. There are other pipeline expansions that are in the works, ones you may not be aware of because they are currently flying well under the radar.

1. Encana natural gas pipeline from NE BC to Kitimat. OK, this one doesn't transport tar sands oil, but it is not without environmental impact on the coast. Encana's also investing in a natural-gas-liquification plant in Kitimat, one of 2 or 3 to be going up there. This system will transport natural gas (obtained by "fracking") from the Ft. Nelson area, to Kitimat, where it'll be compressed (liquified) by huge plants, and then pumped into special tankers for shipment to Asia. The tanker traffic will increase. While these are not oil tankers, they are very large boats, and carry with them the same underwater noise pollution issue that oil tankers do. Spills are less of a risk because the LNG will just be released into the atmosphere (as methane...a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2). Liquification requires huge amounts of electricity, which BC Hydro currently doesn't have. The plant owners will likely also be building onsite thermal plants, burning natural gas to generate their own electricity. Or maybe buy from Site C?
2. Expansion of Kinder-Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby: (do check out the link, it's very informative) the company plans to more than double the capacity of this pipe, which takes tar sands oil from refineries in Edmonton to Burrard Inlet. There's another planned phase, a possible northern branch off to Kitimat, through Prince George. Both these pipes make use of existing rights-of-way. So "blocking it" is very difficult; I suspect we can't rely on First Nations to do the work. The oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet has been increasing, tripling over the last 5 years (from 22 to 70 boats per year - still only a tiny percentage of total freighter traffic). To ship out the increased amounts of oil, another 2 tanker berths would be added, and Burrard Inlet would be dredged to widen the shipping channel. Tanker traffic is expected to increase to an estimated 288 tankers by 2016. The northern branch leads to Kitimat and to oil tanker traffic next door to the Spirit Bears. So if Enbridge doesn't get their pipeline, Kinder Morgan's waiting in the wings to fill the breach.

The pipeline companies are not sitting still. They are exploring possible shipments east as well, and from there to the US. Enbridge has put in a request to reverse the direction of one of their Ontario pipelines for this purpose. Then there is the Keystone XL pipeline, which was in the news in the US today. It's not dead yet! The oil companies would, in fact, prefer not to have to ship to Texas refineries (the end destination of Keystone XL), because the price they get for the oil is lower there (there's a local glut).
Oil companies have invested billions in the tar sands over the years, and both provincial and federal governments have spent money too (though nowhere near the same scale), in the form of tax breaks and incentives. We all get royalties from the oil as well; this goes into the general pot to spend on health care, education, and other public goods. The problem is, of course, that the harm from this activity (in the form of environmental degradation) is starting to outweigh the good. Also, we're becoming more and more dependent on a single, by-definition-unsustainable-and-finite source of income, which diverts jobs away from longer-term, more diverse (and, in the short term, more risky and less profitable!) ventures. As our dollar becomes more and more tied to the price of oil (which is increasing), other manufactured goods become non-competitive, jobs disappear in other sectors, and the problem gets worse. It's a trap. But for those engaged in the sector, it's an excellent source of money while it lasts.

This is not a good thing, in my opinion. But money talks, and so far, Mr. Harper has made it pretty clear what he's listening to.

No comments:

Post a Comment