Pipelines: Which side are you on, planet or profit?

Since the Northern Gateway pipeline hit the news, the regina mom has read more posts about science than ever before.  And it’s not because science claims a place in her higher reading order.  Rather, it’s because the HarperCon response to public outrage about the pipeline has forced her to know wtf she’s talking about.  Or try to, anyway.

 

David Suzuki says that’s a good thing, that “science literacy is good for society.”  So there.  trm is doing it for the good of society!  Suzuki also says,

 

In an open society, leaders who have nothing to hide and who base their decisions on the best available evidence should have no reason to muzzle scientists, or anyone else. Just as parents should help children find relevant facts and encourage exploration, governments have a responsibility to make sure we have access to good information.

 

Having answers to our children’s questions is not enough. If we want societies that provide the maximum benefit for the most people over the longest time, and if we want to find solutions to the challenges and problems we’ve created, we must teach our children and ourselves how to find and evaluate answers objectively. Making science education a priority is an important part of that.

 

Did the HarperCons have poor science education?  Because it’s clear they’re not responding to science or the very real dangers this project would create, unless to twist it for political points.  What interest, then, does it serve the HarperCon government in ignoring all this?  That question was answered when trm read US environmentalist and Distinguished Scholar, Bill McKibbon’s dispatch:

 

The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.

 

Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

 

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

 

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

 

And that’s it, isn’t it?  The HarperCons are the party of big business, of the corporate sect that lined the Conservative Party coffers for the last election and they now have the ear of government.  Why, the CEO of Enbridge accompanied the PM on the trip to China!  That certainly doesn’t make the HarperCons look impartial to the pipeline now, does it?  Enbridge’s big  boss seems emboldened by the gesture, asserting that he has already offered enough to First Nations who would be impacted by his pipeline. “We think the financial package we’re offering is very, very strong, so we don’t have any intent (or) consideration on changing that,” is what he told the Reuters news agency.

 

No doubt he’s been crunching numbers.  He couldn’t offer more; it’d cut into his bottom line.  Make no mistake, that’s what this is all about, the bottom line.  Back to McKibbon for a moment.  He reminds trm that oil is a finite resource.  Oil execs and their minions, aka our governments, are racing to beat the pending disaster  inherent in continued GHG production, the distaster science is telling us we must avoid.  But keeping oil reserves in the ground, he says, would impact the oil industry’s bottom line by $20 trillion.  And that, in McKibbon’s words,

 

…would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela). If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality.

 

NDP Member of Parliament Megan Leslie gets it.  She is not afraid to look at the reality of the situation and look to a solution.

 

We must recognize our fossil fuel stock as a precious resource that we can use strategically to provide jobs today, but also ensure longer-term job security by using the short-term wealth they create to transition us towards new industries. We need to stop denying the writing on the wall, and develop prudent strategies to find ways to transfer the skills and knowledge that the workers in the oilsands have toward green energy industries.

 

A green jobs strategy would include extending the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, which the Conservatives have just cancelled, because it has created economic spinoffs of $10 for every $1 invested by the government while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. Jobs can be created through investing in green infrastructure projects, enhanced public transit and green research and development, all of which will spur economic development in every community in Canada.

But the HarperCons aren’t set on taking us there.  So, what do we do?  McKibbon:

 

 

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game.

 

We’ve started, that’s for sure.  But we need to pump it up a few notches if we want the attention of the HarperCons.  Make no mistake about it, we can do it!

 

 

Oh, Those ‘Radicals’!

Today the HarperCons stepped into the cesspool polluted waters tarsands issue to announce a water monitoring project which will take 3 years and $50 million to fully implement.  the regina mom agrees with Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie; this is a PR stunt.  And, trm shares Edmonton MP Linda Duncan’s concerns that First Nations’ communities were not adequately consulted and that many more tarsands projects could be approved before this monitoring begins. trm considers this announcement to be a reflection of the great work the ecojustice community “radical groups” are doing to educate citizens on the issues.  Well done, radicals!

One radical, Andrew Nikiforuk, declared a political emergency regarding the tarsands years ago.  His latest piece at The Tyee cites a “detailed analysis” submitted to the National Energy Board by Robyn Allan who is the former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  Ms Allan’s report “concludes that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.

“I assumed that it would be a wealth generating project,” the 56-year-old retired investment and financial affairs economist told the Tyee. “But when I started digging none of those assumptions held. The project is an inflationary price shock to the economy.”

Allan, once rated by the National Post as one of Canada’s top 200 CEOs, says she started to study the economic case for the project after a query by her son. That was when she discovered that Enbridge’s economic benefit models were based on “misleading information, faulty methodology, numerous errors and presentation bias.”

trm‘s readers can download Allan’s full report, “An Economic Assessment of Northern Gateway” at the Alberta Federation of Labour’s website. Note that, according to Nikiforuk, “Allan’s report supports the findings of Dave Hughes, a retired senior analyst with Natural Resources Canada. He described the pipeline as a risk to Canada’s economic and energy security” a report to which trm has previously linked.

Further commentary comes from the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada which also says that the Gateway pipeline is unsustainable, based on a report they commissioned from Informetrica Inc.

The brief points out that two major refinery closures in Ontario and Quebec have created even more of a dependency on foreign suppliers for refined petroleum products: gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.

“Canadians should also be alarmed that, while Canada exports most of its bitumen to foreign sources, Atlantic Canada and Quebec import 90% of their oil, and Ontario imports 30%,” says Coles.

“Without access to the increased supply of Western Canadian crude, Eastern Canada has suffered a loss of refining capacity, a loss of jobs and gasoline supply problems. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers where thrown out of high-skill, well paying jobs and many additional direct and indirect jobs have been lost.

The primary CEP document is here.

Andrew Frank, the former ForestEthics employee fired for his whistleblowing and about whom trm has previously reported, now suggests a “middle way” to avoid the polarization the Gateway debate has created. Though his suggestions are valid, trm has concerns that they are premised on the continued operation of the tarsands.  trm does not necessarily agree that they must continue.  Still, she also wants to encourage dialogue among Canadians and so, presents his points in abbreviated form:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built.
  2. Regulation needs to catch up with production.
  3. Oil sands production should match a rate that climate change scientists say is safe.
  4. Slowdown production to extract the maximum value and develop a royalties system that will look after Canadians long after the oil sands are gone.

Related to the Frank matter was the Notice of Motion filed by Ecojustice on behalf of four so-called radical groups. If you recall, dear Reader, it was the prelude to the HarperCons’ knickers-in-a-knot InfoAlert last Friday. Earlier this week, Ecojustice reported that their motion was denied, but welcomed the “declaration of independence” from the Joint Review Panel. They go on to say that,

Given the impact the proposed pipeline would have on our country, Ecojustice and our clients believe it’s absolutely critical that this review process remain objective, representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness. This isn’t just an ethical issue — it’s about the legal principles of due process.

In its response, the Panel is making a promise to all Canadians to evaluate the Northern Gateway project based on evidence provided by all sides of the issue. This includes evidence that the pipeline and the risk of an oil spill it brings could irreversibly damage our forests and coasts — and all the species that depend on them.

An oil spill wouldn’t just devastate the environment. Our coastal economies like fishing and ecotourism are at risk, too. Is that a fair trade-off for short-term jobs?

Furthermore, the devastation of that environment would also devastate First Nations who have lived on the coast for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Still, Enbridge says it has agreements with 20 First Nations communities.  But Enbridge has not produced names or evidence to that effect.  First Nations spokespeople suggest Enbridge is stretching the truth, or worse, lying.  They accuse Enbridge of a lack of due diligence.

The theme of lack of due diligence and/or misrepresentation by Enbridge recurs among members of northern First Nations when speaking about Enbridge. Members the Haisla, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Haida gave no credence to Stanway’s claim that “more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements deals with Enbridge.”

As trm suggested earlier this week, Enbridge doesn’t necessarily tell the truth, but she’ll let you, dear Reader, be the judge.

Finally, an item for which trm is sure to be lambasted by a certain regular reader.  Amnesty International has released an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him “to take a strong stand for human rights in China” during his visit there.  As trm has stated numerous times over the years, Canada should not be trading with any nation whose human rights record is so very sketchy.  And, Canada should also be cleaning up in her own back yard!

Oily in Canada, eh?

Franke James, the artist who was blacklisted by the HarperCons, lives in Joe Oliver’s riding.  She was excited to learn that he is open to meeting with environmental groups.  So, she’s issued a public letter, taking him up on his offer and requesting a meeting with him.

Today in the House Halifax New Democratic Party MP Megan Leslie wanted an answer from  Oliver. She didn’t get it.  Nor does he, apparently, get it.  Here’s the video version which is really worth the 6:29 minutes of your time. Leslie is brilliant!

And speaking of the NDP, the regina mom received an email from Nycole Turmel, interim leader of the NDP, today.  The message responded to an email sent to Turmel and other politicians regarding the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.  Turmel’s is the first response.

Interestingly, one must ask themselves: whose interests are the Conservatives representing? Canadians or the interests of the American and Chinese companies who will profit from the pipeline?

For our part, we have been consistent in our call for the government to ban oil tanker traffic on the BC coast. Building on NDP past work that included a motion calling on the government to ban oil tanker traffic on the BC coast, in June 2011 NDP MPs Fin Donnelly and Nathan Cullen laid out a legislative proposal for a permanent ban on oil supertanker traffic off the north coast of British Columbia.

We have long felt that these supertankers are all risk and no reward – it’s all about shipping raw bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Asia. Additionally, banning oil tanker traffic would effectively stop any move by Enbridge to ship oil through its planned $4.5 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Her letter also pointed to the NDP Platform on tackling climate change, to Section 4.2, specifically. That section, Ensuring Canada Becomes a World Leader in Renewable Energy, addresses how an NDP government will move subsidies from non-renewable energy sources such as oil and gas to subsidies for renewable energy sources so that a fairer system exists.  trm likes that the NDP have a plan for change.

And change is certainly needed!  Yesterday (or very early this a.m.) trm reported that the fossil fuel industry receives billions of dollars in subsidies from governments worldwide.  Today, trm learned that ExxonMobil raked in $41.06 billion in profits in 2011.  That’s the equivalent of $1,300 a second! Talk about greed!  Exxon owns Imperial Oil which operates Esso and Mobil in Canada.  Why do corporations making this kind of cash get any subsidy at all?  And who is funding the mouthpiece for the greedy industry, Ethical Oil (sic)?

And why is the HarperCon government hell-bent on doing business with a regime that engages in murder and torture, anyway? Why is Canada doing business with China?  Terry Glavin has a go at that one:

How well I recall the days when Canada’s mere possession of a national energy program and the establishment of our own state-owned oil enterprise, Petro-Canada, was a free-market sin that cried out to heaven for vengeance. Now China is doing the nationalizing of our energy resources, and it’s Chinese state-owned corporations intruding into our oilsands wealth. Sinopec revenues last year exceeded the tax revenues of Canada’s federal government. We’re supposed to behold the glories of the free market in this?

We don’t even have a Foreign Investment Review Agency anymore. China’s version of FIRA – preferential bank loans to dozens of outfits like Sinopec that are run by Chinese Communist Party politburo appointees; draconian restrictions on foreign investment to favour the government’s own enterprises; privileges granted to state-owned corporations at the expense of thousands of Chinese businesses they’ve driven into bankruptcy in recent years; labour-law exemptions gifted to Beijing’s monopolies and their foreign joint-venture buddies; grotesque tariffs and duties imposed on imports to the advantage of the multinational corporations Beijing owns and runs – all this makes us looks very much like the chumps we are.

Chumps and radicals, that’s what Canada’s made up of, eh?  Well, there is a good news side to this horrid tale.  Minister Oliver’s open letter to Canadians, the letter that moved trm into action, has moved others into action, too.  They’re digging into their pockets and sending donations to those “radical” environmental groups.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented surge of support,” said Emma Gilchrist of the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based group which has received $12,000 in unsolicited donations since Oliver’s letter.

“We’ve got cheques that say, in the memo section, ‘Thanks to Joe Oliver.”‘

Dogwood also got nearly 25,000 new signatures on its anti-tanker petition — more than it got all of last year. Traffic to its Facebook site increased 10,000 per cent.

“We’re quite disappointed to hear the things coming out of the federal government, but it has brought people together,” Gilchrist said.

Here’s another example of generosity:  John Oliver, composer and performer, is offering free copies of his new song, Pumpin’ Oil.

How Canadian, eh?

About that northern pipeline…

Poetic Justice!  Enbridge reports leak from U.S. pipeline as Northern Gateway hearings begin.  This is nothing new for Enbridge, the leak, that is.  They happen all the time.  From 1999 to 2010 Enbridge had 804 leaks, spilling more than 16,000 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment per year.

 

New research indicates that oil is a lot more toxic than we’d previously believed.

Bad news for the Gulf of Mexico: a study released in late December sheds new light on the toxicity of oil in aquatic environments, and shows that environmental impact studies currently in use may be inadequate. The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, spearheaded by the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in collaboration with NOAA, looked into the aftermath of the 2007 Cusco Busan spill, when that tanker hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and spilled 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay.

The key finding involved the of Pacific herring that spawn in the bay. The fish embryos absorbed the and then, when exposed to in sunlight, physically disintegrated. This is called phototoxicity, and has not previously been taken into account when talking about oil spills.

 

Maybe that’s why the HarperCon spin machine has hit warp drive.

 

More likely, though, as David Suzuki suggests, it’s a matter of profit.  “The only real argument for Northern Gateway is that it will increase profits for the oil industry, and hand over more of our resources and the associated profits and jobs to China,” he says.  The only jobs we’ll get here will be short-term ones during the construction of the pipeline and maybe 30-40 long-term jobs in Kitimat.

 

So, wtf, Harper et al.  When ya gonna come clean?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,991 other followers