Extreme weather conditions, storms, flooding, droughts and ice melting are the new reality in too many parts of the world. People are losing their livelihood, their homes, their jobs -- and even their lives. While scientists and faith leaders call for urgent action, our political leaders have failed to take necessary actions.
Just about every aspect of our lives involves a certain amount of risk, of course. It's all about risk management. And indeed, despite the occasional high-profile accident like last week's spill in California, pipelines in general remain very safe. One realistic alternative to transporting Canadian oil by pipeline is transporting that same oil by train or by truck. Yet both of these methods of transport are less safe than pipelines. Logically, then, we should transport as much oil as we can by pipe, and as little as possible by rail or road.
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.