Trudeau’s Pipeline Doublespeak


The intention of my blog hasn’t been to attack the fossil fuel industry, but rather to promote the development of renewables. However, I can’t ignore the Canadian government’s approval of two pipelines this week together with their recent approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG pipeline for B.C. Desmog reported that, in his approval of the project Trudeau stated, “Today’s decision is an integral part of our plan to uphold the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions while creating jobs and protecting the environment.”

The nightmare returns

What???? Did I reawaken in Harper’s Canada?

How can he claim that his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is part of Canada’s climate plan? His spin makes my head spin. And I thought Harper was the uncontested master of doublespeak.

There are so many things wrong with his statement.

  1. This pipeline will increase Canada’s emissions. Oil Change International has revealed that Canada’s current pipeline capacity can handle all of the Canadian oil industry’s needs. Increased pipeline capacity is only required if bitumen production is increased to the point where Canada’s Paris emissions commitment can’t be met.
  2. The Asian markets for the oil from Canada’s bitumen are doubtful and almost certainly won’t be paying higher prices than Few refineries in Asia (none in China) can process this heavy oil.
  3. According to Reuters, Vancouver harbor can only accept medium-sized tankers (Aframax) with a capacity of 500,000 to 700,00 barrels. Because of port restrictions, these vessels can only be loaded to 80 percent capacity. How can tankers with around 550,000 barrels compete price-wise with the one-million-barrel (Suezmaxes) or the two-million-barrel (VLCC) tankers? Only if the crude is low-priced.
  4. Bitumen doesn’t act like most crude oil when a spill occurs. Because bitumen is so thick, diluents must be added to it. The pipeline companies don’t like to tell us what’s in the diluent, but some of them contain benzene, a known carcinogen. Once the diluents evaporate, the bitumen sinks in water, which vastly increases the difficulty of recovery. Just ask the victims of Enbridge’s 2010 pipeline leak in Kalamazoo, Michigan.oilpiccred-marinephotobankflickr
  5. Kinder Morgan likes to refer to the safety record of the current Trans Mountain pipeline that’s been operational since 1953. The original hasn’t been without spills: Here’s the record before Morgan Kinder’s ownership and after its purchase in 2005.
    1. From 1961 – 69 oil spills
    2. Since 2005 – 13 spills
  6. One tanker spill could ruin the ecology of the BC coast and the Salish Sea—an area with many salmon-spawning rivers and endangered Orcas. The tanker traffic could increase from 5 to 34 per month. The response to the leaking oil from a tug that ran aground off the Northern B.C. coast on October 13 was termed totally inadequate by B.C. Premier Christy Clark. The spill response was hampered by weather conditions that were normal for the time of year. If the response is inadequate for a tug with just under 1200 barrels on board, imagine how unprepared they are for a tanker spill of 550,000 barrels.

In this photo taken July 31, 2015, an orca whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. The Southern Resident killer whales living in the area have lost about 20 percent of their population since the 1990s, likely because of dwindling food sources and contamination. This particular group of whales, now numbering at 81, is endangered. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Can we make sense of this decision?

This decision makes no sense from an economic perspective or an environmental one.

Was Trudeau’s announcement about speeding up the closing of coal-fired power plants meant to soften the response by environmental groups to his pipeline approval? If so it seems to have failed. There has been considerable backlash to this announcement. And Trudeau is breaking his promise to rebuild the Canadians government’s relationship with indigenous people through consultation. Trudeau has essentially rubber stamped three projects with minimal indigenous consultation: Site C, the B.C. LNG pipeline, Morgan Kinder Trans Mountain Pipeline, and the Line 3  replacement from Alberta to Wisconsin. Was the cancellation of the Northern Gateway a sop to First Nations and environmentalists?

So, Trudeau if you’re going to make decisions that we don’t like, stop using doublespeak as a justification. We’re smart enough to know that approving projects that increase emissions does not decrease emissions.


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