One oil company, possibly seeing the writing on the wall with the difficulties Enbridge is facing with its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, may be thinking another strategy will mean more favourable attention.
After all, if no one likes new pipelines, existing infrastructure may have a better chance of gaining support. At least, that’s what executives at Nexen are no doubt hoping for.
According to freedom-of-information documents obtained by Greenpeace, Nexen is working with CN to examine the transportation of crude oil to Prince Rupert — with enough capacity to match the Gateway project.
Transporting oil is one of the most pressing issues facing Canada today as it tries to export energy to the resource-hungry market in Asia. Our economy, which is based on a good chunk of natural resources, depends a great deal on getting our product overseas so the country can reap the highest prices.
While it’s common knowledge shipping product to international markets is a high priority, the public’s appetite for transportation within our own borders appears to be another matter.
Environmentalists, it seems, would rather just leave the oil in the ground. Greenpeace, true to form, has come out against the possible plan by Nexen. The organization cites the Lac-Megantic, Que., disaster, which spilled 5.5-million litres of oil over four days this summer, as one reason not to ship oil by rail.
While there is risk, disasters of this scale are extremely rare. Canadian railways, which already move 70 per cent of the country’s goods, including 40 per cent of its exports, reported 1,023 rail accidents to the Transportation Safety Board in 2011. That figure is down from 2010 and is significantly lower than the average between 2006-10.
While a thousand rail accidents a year seem like a lot, the bigger picture shows a different
story. According to the TSB, the biggest proportion of rail accidents are non-main-track related. This means that most accidents are minor and usually occur during switching operations at speeds of less than 16 km/h.
This, of course, isn’t to say that transporting oil by rail is perfectly safe — it isn’t.
Governments at all levels are trying to weigh the risks versus the benefits of moving oil by rail, truck and pipeline. Nothing is fail-safe, but technology has made vast improvements and governments now demand stricter controls.
Despite what many hope against, oil will continue to be extracted, creating the need to transport the product. It’s up to the public to pressure our governments to ensure that whichever method is used the most, it will be the safest.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.