Pipeline predicament

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Living in a cold-climate country like Canada, where our very survival depends on reliable sources of heat and power, shipping our oilsands products off to faraway lands as quickly as possible concerns me greatly.

Until we have a whole lot of new renewable energy infrastructure built and construction code changes requiring all buildings to be outfitted for renewable energy, I don’t think it will be possible for us to be on a totally green power grid for some time to come. We have much work to do to bring about a truly renewable energy lifestyle, and all that work takes time, money, energy, and manpower. Iron + Earth recognizes the massive job opportunities that developing a green energy economy will create. This group aims to upskill tradespeople into the renewable energy sector, many of them former oilsands employees, so they can readily shift to building green energy infrastructure when these projects come online.

In the meantime, oilsands operations in Alberta continues, although not at the breakneck speed of boom times. This slower pace is a good thing, I think, as it keeps more of our non-renewables in the ground until we need them, say 10 or 20 or 50 years from now. Do oil company executives, under pressure by shareholders clamoring for higher profits every quarter, have the luxury to care about what Canadians will use to heat their homes in a cold February decades from now? I doubt it. This is not to say that individuals working for big oil don’t care on a personal level; it’s just not their job to care unless it is part of their company’s mandate, or unless our government tells them so.

Our economic system’s never-ending chase for higher corporate profits brings us to our current pipeline predicament, now awash in the drama of a trade war. The construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, also referred to as the Kinder Morgan pipeline, would bring Alberta’s landlocked oil assets to tidewater where they could then be shipped overseas to new and hungry Asian markets (read: “Profits!”). However, although approved by Canada’s National Energy Board, this project continues to be met with opposition on numerous fronts. In addition to the expected resistance by environmental groups due to climate change issues, serious concerns over the risks associated with this pipeline have also been lodged by First Nations, the B.C. provincial government, and the City of Burnaby.

Why? Because the pipeline’s route includes sensitive habitat and precious marine and fresh water bodies that both people and other life depend upon, not to mention consideration of Burnaby’s bylaws. The planned pipeline is to deliver crude oil products—including diluted bitumen—from Edmonton, Alberta to the west coast of B.C. With spills of diluted bitumen from oilsands highly feared, opposition is strong.

True, the proposed pipeline will create many short-term jobs in the project’s construction phase, and then long-term jobs at either end for production, distribution, and delivery. But, what about Canada’s energy future? Why are we in such a hurry to ship our highly valuable non-renewable energy resources—at least highly valuable from a horsepower and heating perspective—to new markets when we could keep some of it in the ground for later use? A nation’s energy independence is nothing to sniff at; without sufficient resources to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles, it wouldn’t take long to bring a cold and vast country like Canada to her knees. Besides, won’t we need high-performance oilsands energy to help build our new green grid?

Leaving some oilsands in the ground for future energy needs, and stepping back from constructing a pipeline that would otherwise hurry them on their way to new markets—now that’s in our best interest.

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