HOW TO END THE STANDOFF THAT THREATENS CANADA’S CONFEDERATION
Electric vehicles (EVs) are gradually gaining acceptance and manufacturers are building capacity to make them. But there are many constraints so the world will need oil for at least two more generations because no government can cut off the transportation of food and supplies before the global fleet of 1.2 billion vehicles can be converted to EVs that people will buy. Canada is the only stable democracy that can produce oil at planned rates for as long as it is needed.
- Due to lack of ability to move oil to tidewater, Alberta’s only export customer is the USA and oil export revenue is currently discounted by about $12 billion per year. If the discounting continues over the next two generations, our grandchildren will lose $500 billion to fund education, health care, etc. First Nations will be the most deprived.
- The Harper government approved the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, BC based on many recommendations from National Energy Board experts to reduce pipeline spill risk and to utilize the world-class marine safety measures used successfully for years on a similar coastline in Norway. Norway has an oil-based GDP per capita 60 per cent higher than Canada.
- One of the first actions taken by the new Trudeau government, out of a combination of post-election swagger and naivety, was to terminate the Northern Gateway pipeline and lock in that decision with an oil tanker ban on the northern BC coastline. They believed that a series of measures to engage First Nations and to reduce oilfield and other emissions would result in a “social licence” to achieve both environmental and economic goals. But events have clearly demonstrated that environmental extremists are only interested in their misguided goal of blocking oil sands production, regardless of the damage to the global energy supply and to Canada’s economy.
- TransCanada gave up on their proposed Energy East Pipeline to the East Coast due to unnecessary and resolvable spill concerns from Montreal and the imposing of a new hurdle to include emissions from burning the oil in any pipeline analysis. That is a meaningless measure because emissions from burning oil are the same from all sources, and other sources would quickly replace Canada’s production, for as long as the other sources last.
- Subsequently, the Trudeau government put their support behind a project to triple capacity of the existing Kinder-Morgan pipeline. But that would also triple tanker traffic through the more densely populated port of Vancouver. This project is now strongly opposed by several southern BC First Nations and municipalities, and is resulting in a trade war between BC and Alberta. Opponents of Kinder-Morgan are citing two irrational concerns they have failed to quantify:
a. The amount of CO2 from added oil sands production enabled by the pipeline. It is ironic that the Port of Vancouver is North America’s largest exporter of coal. The carbon emissions produced from burning the US-mined thermal coal exported through Vancouver annually is similar to emissions from burning the Alberta oil that would flow through the additional KM pipeline capacity. Why are Canadian environmentalists, First Nations and the BC government more concerned about emissions from Alberta oil than emissions from US coal shipped through Vancouver?
b. The risk of an oil tanker spill in waters surrounding the lower BC coast. Oil tanker spills have been dramatically reduced in the 30 years since the EXXON VALDEZ spill. Oil shippers now use only double-hulled tankers, and marine safety regulations have been greatly improved. The rate of significant oil tanker spills is now 1.7 per year globally, versus 16 aircraft crashes per year during 2016 and 2017. The risk of an oil tanker spill in the Vancouver area is now hundreds of times lower than the risk of an aircraft crashing into the same area. Aircraft crashes kill people but no human has ever been killed by an oil tanker spill.
Why are Canadian environmentalists, First Nations and the BC government more concerned about the minute risk of an oil tanker spill than the two oil tankers of Victoria’s raw sewage flowing into the ocean ‘every single day?’ BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says that’s OK, the ocean will take care of it. If Weaver is right, why are other coastal cities investing billions in sewage treatment? If Weaver is wrong, why is Ottawa not imposing a tax on dumping raw sewage into federal-managed waters?
- Meanwhile, First Nations in northern BC have tabled a proposal that could end the standoff that now threatens our very confederation. They have developed a proposal called “the Eagle Spirit energy corridor” to move upgraded Alberta bitumen, BC natural gas, and BC hydroelectricity along a route from Alberta and eastern BC to the more accessible port of Prince Rupert. The Eagle Spirit proposal would carry one million barrels per day, the same as the Energy East pipeline and twice the additional capacity of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. Eagle Spirit offers the least problematic marine route to reach the huge and growing Asian markets for both Alberta oil and BC gas. Eagle Spirit project leaders say they have support of 95 per cent of First Nations along the route. They say that environmentalists want to build parks on First Nations land and lock them into perpetual poverty.
- We are left with the federal government supporting a project opposed by First Nations in southern BC, and the federal government’s ban on tanker traffic blocking a project supported by First Nations in northern BC.
- The best way to let everyone save face and end the standoff that is putting Canada’s economy and international reputation at risk would be for BC, Alberta, First Nations and the Federal government to agree to terminate the Kinder-Morgan expansion and to expedite the better Eagle Spirit project. Ottawa could provide incentive by using the federal infrastructure program to help with the funding of two important environmental projects: a sewage treatment plant for Victoria and additional oil refining capacity for Alberta. Refining the product in Alberta would further reduce the risk and consequences of both pipeline spills and tanker spills.
- No doubt environmental fanatics would try to block this proposal also, but reasonable people should be able to end the standoff that now threatens one of the world’s stable democracies.
Hugh Holland is a retired engineering and manufacturing executive now living in Huntsville, Ontario.
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