Let’s talk tar sands, pipelines and tankers.
Spilled bitumen is like a forest clear-cut with no reforestation. In fact it’s worse because Mother Nature will bring some life back to the clear-cut whereas bitumen stays unabsorbed, killing all it touches.
Comparisons of bitumen with other crude oil are apples and oranges – forget about the Exxon Valdez, the Gulf of Mexico disaster and all the oil tankers sunk during the war. This stuff is lethal, unrecoverable and the damage irreparable. Unlike crude oil, bitumen sinks too fast to be gathered on the surface.
It is this fact that should put paid to the Enbridge proposal and the proposal to expand the Kinder-Morgan line into Vancouver harbour. (Enbridge is actually two pipelines – the first carries bitumen plus a concentrate so that the bitumen can be moved so viscous is unrefined, and another to take concentrate back to the tar sands.)
The proposed Enbridge pipelines will travel 1,100 km over the Rockies and Coast ranges and through the Great Bear Forest to Kitimat where it will be taken by massive tankers down our beautiful and highly dangerous coast line.
This line will cross 1,000 rivers and streams, including three major salmon runs.
Here’s the killer – spills and leaks from pipelines and tankers are not risks, they are mathematical certainties. The question is not “if,” but “when.”
Bearing that in mind, surely putting the argument of riches to the province and employment creates a false dichotomy. If we go down that road, what is the value we place on the mountain ranges, the valleys, the pristine forests, and our precious coastline? Surely we must compute that before we look at any benefits pipelines and tankers are supposed to bring us.
I say that the evil of bitumen transportation is so great that we shouldn’t even consider benefits but because it is often raised by industry and government, let’s look at it.
I do a political panel every Monday morning on CBC – my colleagues are Moe Sihota, president of the NDP, and Suzanne Anton for the Liberals. Two weeks ago Ms. Anton accused me of standing in the way of progress and great riches for the province, specifically $1.2 billion over 30 years from federal transfer payments.
After wrongly computing this to be $400 million a year, I was outraged than anyone could suggest that this paltry sum made the loss of wilderness and coastline worthwhile. As my editor at www.thetyee.ca, David Beers, quickly pointed out, my math was lousy and that it was only $40 million per annum!
What about employment?
Building the pipelines will bring short-term employment but the companies admit these will be skilled pipeline crews from out of province and that the permanent jobs will be about 75 in total.
Premier Clark won’t take a stand on the pipelines, saying that she wants to wait until the Joint Environmental Commission makes its findings. This is disingenuous in the extreme – no matter what they say, the above facts remain immutable.
The real story is that the Campbell/Clark government can’t afford to defy the federal Tories because they have our government by the shorties over the botched HST.
The bottom line is:
* The spills of tar sands (bitumen), whether by pipeline or tanker, are inevitable.
* Bitumen simply cannot be recovered or cleaned up.
* Huge losses will occur.
* There are no advantages to British Columbia.
My suggestion to all who care is that as a minimum you show support to First Nations who vigorously oppose these pipelines and resultant tanker traffic through their traditional territories.
Talking to your MLA is, sadly, a waste of time.
Rafe Mair writes for The Daily News every other week. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.