GO GREEN - Enbridge: Taking a look at the big picture
With the hearings commencing on the proposed Enbridge pipeline proposal, a heated debate over the environmental risks versus the economic benefits has developed. What is really required is a rational discussion of the overall impact of the project.
As we burn up the earth’s fossil fuel reserves, we are turning to sources that are both more difficult to exploit and more hazardous to the environment. Deep ocean wells, natural gas “fracking” and tarsands developments are such sources.
The Alberta tarsands have generated controversy since the extraction of this resource began. Tarsands sources produce three times the greenhouse gases that conventional wells do. Only now is a creditable monitoring system being developed to determine what impact the development is having.
A number of companies concerned about their carbon footprints have actually decided to boycott products from the tarsands. This sort of ethical concern is nowhere to be found in the offshore markets the Enbridge pipeline is intended to serve.
Tarsands bitumen will move by pipeline to our coast and then be loaded onto super tankers bound for the Asian market. This poses a threat to our wilderness and our coast line. Since 2002, there have been 170 pipeline leaks in Enbridge facilities. And, if super tankers that dwarf our largest BC Ferries in size go into service on our coast, it will only be a matter of time before there is a tanker wreck that will make the Exxon Valdez look like a minor spill.
It is the position of the oil companies and our own federal government that anybody questioning the wisdom of this project belongs to radical groups.
The Energy Minister has stated that “environmental and other radical groups…threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”
The Prime Minister has said that we should be aware of “the use of foreign money to really overload the public consultation.” He was picking up on the oil lobby group Ethical Oil statement that we “must take a stand against foreigners and their lobbying groups interfering in our decision.”
Last week, the spin was turned up by the Conservative MP representing the tarsands riding. He is preparing a private members bill that would block foreign funding of “radical” Canadian environmental groups. He also hinted that these radical groups are paying First Nations leaders to oppose the project. This is a whopper that even Ethical Oil is backing away from.
First Nations groups are natural targets for Big Oil and their friends in government. Let’s face it, this group has consistently questioned resource developments that put the environment at risk. During the many thousand years prior to European contact, they were excellent stewards of the environment. It is only during the two hundred years since non-natives arrived that the environment has suffered.
When it comes to foreign funding of efforts to influence the public discussion, the multi-nation energy companies are out spending the opposing environmental groups by many millions of dollars.
Impact on our economy
Even with the environmental risks involved, Enbridge is being promoted as a worthwhile project for economic rewards it offers. While rewarding to the oil companies, the project makes no sense in terms of jobs for Canadians. Once completed, the pipeline will provide only 200 jobs and put 50,000 fishery and tourism jobs at risk. As we do with timber and coal, we will be shipping the connected refining and manufacturing jobs offshore along with the raw materials.
China, the target market for the Enbridge bitumen, is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. We all share the same atmosphere. This project will exacerbate global warming.
The Enbridge project will supply dirty Canadian fuel to energize China’s growing industrial sector. We will also be exporting more jobs offshore as the trend of outsourcing of manufacturing from North America increases. We will be able to buy cheaper offshore goods and get increased pollution and unemployment in exchange.
Rather than go down the path of increased fossil fuel extraction and export, we have an opportunity to turn things around. A two-pronged national strategy should be developed to increase energy efficiency and to get us off fossil fuels and on to renewable energy. This strategy would generate many jobs, create new manufacturing opportunities, slow global warming and protect our environment.
The funding to get this shift underway exists. All we need to do is end the billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies.
Submitted by: Tim Larsen