Terminate the Kinder-Morgan expansion and expedite Eagle Spirit ~ Hugh Holland



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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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  1. Thanks for sorting out the issues, Hugh. It seems that our mainstream media has been politicized just as the world’s media has been. Getting the truth in support of practical solutions to various issues has become difficult and it is good to get the perspective of those with smarter solutions. May the Eagle Spirit energy corridor become a reality–the sooner the better. There are those south of the border who would like to continue to take Canadian oil at the present discounted rate but Canada needs to be given a fair shake. They would like to continue their commercial exploitation, but Eagle Spirit is a way to foil their machinations.

  2. I am not familiar with the Eagle Spirit initiative but if your piece accurately describes its potential, I fully support your position as long is it does not result in yet more delays in project implementation. Also, if we are inexorably moving to vehicles powered by electricity rather than hydrocarbons, can you please explain how all this additional electrical energy is going to be produced? Oh, I forgot: you live in Ontario, where there is an apparently unlimited supply of safe, economical, reliable, healthy and environmentally sustainable wind-generated electricity.

    • You are right to raise that point, Andy. According to a number of electrical engineers, the aging N. American electrical grid could not possibly provide enough electricity to power the hundreds of millions of cars in the continent. We are going to need hydrocarbons for some time to come. In addition to transportation, hydrocarbons are irreplaceable as feed stock for various chemical processes. It is a dopey liberal/radical-environmentalist dream that we can wave a magic wand and suddenly become free of the need for fossil fuels.

  3. Thank you, Mr Holland for your cogent analysis: when I lived in Ottawa, I was seemingly more “au courant” on the important issues of the day. With respect to the raw sewage entering the Pacific; I do not feel that a surtax will ameliorate the problem. If a sewage treatment plant is cost-prohibitive, a sewage treatment lagoon should be located in a non-residential area.

  4. Hugh has hit several nails right square into this issue here.
    The reasons why some political people can’t seem to grasp some of these points is a bit of a mystery.

    As for Victoria’s sewage, I seem to remember reading a report in some environmental publication about 10 years ago that commented on this situation. Apparently Victoria is unique in the placement of the sewage outfall and the relative ocean currents such that treated or untreated sewage flowing into the ocean at their outfall location makes virtually no significant negative difference to the environment. It is not in a location that creates human health issues and actually seems to enhance the ocean flora with the nutrients.
    Granted this is not usually the case and treatment is usually a better way to go so in the long run Victoria should probably be looking at providing at least basic treatment in the future but the mere fact that they currently dump untreated sewage really is a red herring and of little consequence at the moment.

    It should be remembered that even the best sewage treatment plants experience moments when they bypass raw sewage. Nothing is perfect and extraordinary circumstances sometimes lead to failure or overload such that this cannot always be avoided.

    Murphy’s law generally applies such that if we collect or transport anything harmful anywhere, be it oil, sewage, mine tailings, we should expect that at some point some of it is going to escape into the environment. This is why it is always best to try to control things at the source. It reduces this risk a little bit by reducing the amount of any waste product that needs to be stored, transported and treated. Reduction anywhere along the chain is good, not producing the waste at all is even better.

    • Hugh Holland on

      Brian you are correct that different experts do have different opinions on the subject of Victoria’s sewage. However, commercial fishermen reported “a 5-fold accumulation of sewage sediment on the seabed and marine life from 2000 to 2004, up to 5 kilometers from the outfall”. Other reports found evidence of various drugs and pharmaceuticals in mussels and mollusks in the area. The BC government has since ordered Victoria to proceed with a sewage plant that is expected to be completed around 2022. But I do think it is ironic that it is the BC Green Party leader who is so concerned about the minute chance of an oil spill is the same person who has been defending the practice of dumping the equivalent of two oil tankers of raw sewage every day.

  5. Emmersun austin on

    In true “eagle spirit” we will have to rethink our present economic model. The role of the automobile, the size/location of our housing (as seen in your dominany advertisers) & our consumption ( much of it 1 time use then land fill) is not smart nor “economical”.

    Ps A private alberta refinery is in the works…export super refined product rather than raw bitumen

  6. Hugh, You make good points BUT, please refrain from denigrating those in opposition – it does not support your theories. Name calling hurts everyone and ratchets the rhetoric negating serious conversations and solutions.

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