The University of Calgary's School of Public Policy has put out an important report that sheds light on an under-discussed dimension of Canada's energy export challenge: the time factor. At this point, most people (we hope) are aware that Canada faces physical bottlenecks in the transport of its energy resources to global markets.
Anyone claiming this pipeline is a done deal is ignoring the fact that Enbridge faces a major uphill battle. The federal government's approval of the pipeline was likely the easiest hurdle that Enbridge had to jump. The Harper government and Big Oil are looking East because they think it is an easier road to tar sands expansion than the road to the West. We can turn this project that Stephen Harper calls a "nation builder" into a movement builder. Energy East, its review and Harper's pipeline plans need a People's Intervention. Now it's our chance to give it to them. It is easy to approve a pipeline, but a whole lot harder to build one.
We are mystified that with so much at stake, with the risks of this project being so high, the board would quibble over nine days. We would have expected the board to err on the side of good process and give Kinder Morgan the extra time to answer the questions that have been asked by municipalities, landowners, local businesses, First Nations and environmental organizations.
While the probability that a train-load of inappropriately classified oil products would careen down a hill in rural Quebec and explode, killing 47 people and contaminating a fragile lake ecosystem was so infinitesimally small as to be almost incalculable, the consequences were devastating and will be felt for generations.
Because Alberta oil is landlocked and therefore traditionally sold below world prices, it's been suggested that bringing it east will lower energy prices for us. It's probably more realistic to expect that Alberta crude will get more expensive as soon as a pipeline links it to us, and the world market.
We're producing so much oil sands crude that we've overwhelmed cross-border pipeline capacity. Now the industry is stuck in a Catch-22. Profit margins have dropped dramatically. To reassure investors, bitumen miners talk about dramatically expanding production. But the more we produce, the more we exacerbate the supply glut.
Whether or not one favors Mr. Obama's energy policy, there's one thing very clear about it: Canada's oil is not something that factors into Mr. Obama's calculations other than in the negative: it's not "American" energy, it's in the basket of "imported oil" that the U.S. wishes to curtail, and to Mr. Obama it's the wrong sort of energy.
The government didn't open its ears on telecom on its own. It took Canada's largest-ever online campaign and sustained, widespread, solutions-based engagement to make it happen. We'll need that to continue, and we'll need to bring that energy to privacy, free expression online, and other issues of the day.
Yet another train derailment involving petroleum products has re-invigorated the debate over how we transport oil in Canada. Reflexive opposition to pipelines flies in the face of the data, which shows that pipelines are safer modes of transport than railways or roadways. Environmentalists engaging in anti-pipeline crusades risk causing more harm than good as their pipeline-stalling actions divert oil transport to rail and road that would otherwise be transported more safely by pipeline.
Last week, I found out that my government is spying on me, Canada ranked worst in the developed world for response to climate change, Canadians rose up against pipeline proposals all across the country, and the media reported precious little of any of it. What happened to the Canada we know and love? Where is the country that holds its head high in the world, a respected leader on human rights and environmental issues?
To accept and use money from these companies is outrageous. It is an obvious contradiction: How can the organizers promote reconciliation while giving Big Oil companies a pass when those same companies are directly involved in damaging Indigenous ways of life? This was the exact purpose of Residential Schools. The Residential School system had sought (among many things) to displace Indigenous peoples from our homelands; yet again, these companies are seeking to displace our peoples from our homelands to reap the benefit at our expense.
Filling up at the gas station is certainly one of the ways to use oil that is most familiar to us. But guess what: of all the oil we use, only 43 per cent goes to fueling our cars. Given this, can we seriously consider ending our "dependence on oil", as some would suggest? Someone who wants to stop using oil will have to say goodbye to smart phones, ballpoint pens, candlelight, clothing made of synthetic fibers, glasses, toothpaste, tires (including those on bicycles), and thousands of other products made from plastic, a petroleum derivative. Good luck with that program.
Line 9 is a 38-year-old pipeline running between Sarnia and Montreal. It runs through 115 communities and under prime farmland, and crosses major river systems that flow into Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. A spill could put the drinking water of millions of Ontarians at risk. And a spill will happen.
The grim news is that we've gone from bad to worse when it comes to how we move oil around North America. With oil prices now back in triple-digit territory, there is, at least, a glimmer of hope. The same high prices that are spurring producers to load crude on to train cars are about to, once again, curb our appetite for the fuel.