INSTEAD OF KEYSTONE XL, WHY DOESN’T CANADA TAKE THE SHORTER ROUTE AND TRANSPORT TAR SAND OIL TO CHINA THROUGH BRITISH COLUMBIA?

The political debate has been going on in the U.S. about transporting tar sand bitumen from Alberta Province to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, for shipment to Asia.  An interesting consortium of land owners, Native Americans, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers has been working to block the project.  The pipeline would travel some 1,179 miles across a number of states, including tribal lands. Environmental concerns are quite important, especially since the pipeline path traverses the Ogllala Aquifer, one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world, extending from West Texas to South Dakota.

The linked article from The Chronicle Journal, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, points out that Transcanada, the pipeline company, has a record that is cause for concern.  It is linked as follows: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/editorial/letters/2015-01-24/transcanada’s-record-cause-concern. According to the National Energy Board (NEB) statistics, “Transcanada has had more ruptures than any other pipeline company.”  When the author went to the NEB web site to verify this, however, the report was missing.  But, read on!

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper represents a constituency in Alberta in the Canadian Parliament.  So, realizing that President Barack Obama might cancel the Keystone XL, he had a Plan B–the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would run a far shorter 731 miles across northern Alberta, to adjacent British Columbia, and ending at the deep water port at Kitimat, B.C.  From the deep water port there, the tar sand bitumen would be shipped to China.  But, wouldn’t the shorter route be on-line quicker and be more cost-effective?

In May of 2013, the Province of British Columbia requested that the Canadian Review Board reject the Enbridge proposal.  In order for the tar sand bitumen to flow through the pipes, it would need to be mixed with certain chemicals.  It is not certain, however, what the impact of that “stew” when mixed with water would be, either in the event of a pipeline spill or at the port.  Enbridge did not provide much proof that it could mitigate any potential environmental damage.  The concerns that the people of British Columbia have are exactly the same as those in the U.S. who are also trying to block the proposed Keystone XL.

Since the Republicans assumed control of both Houses of the U.S. Congress, passage of Legislation to authorize the Keystone XL is a top priority.  They apparently believe that they can override a Veto from President Obama, which is doubtful.  Many of the players on both sides of the issue–and in both countries–seem to be looking at this issue through different prisms.  Since neither country is particularly dependent on foreign oil, why take the environmental risks?  But, there certainly are some other loose ends in the discussion.

Contrary to how some in the U.S. Congress are presenting this issue, following the initial construction, the Keystone XL would only provide 35 permanent jobs.  No scientific testing of the impact of the tar sand and chemical mix, when water has been added, seems to have been conducted.  And lastly, this tar sand oil would not reduce the global price of oil, which is already down by almost 60% on global markets, just since last June?

Perhaps Mr. Harper has taken off his P.M. diplomat hat and replaced it with his M.P. politician hat. Either way, shouldn’t he do what is right, both for the people of British Columbia, and also those of a trusted Ally?  Why the rush?    Now, not many Americans know about P.M. Harper’s constituency in Alberta, who might explain why he has been pushing these pipelines.  But, we do know about the financial impact of Big Oil contributions on the U.S. Congress!

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  1. #1 by cheekos on January 29, 2015 - 5:18 PM

    A few months back, Mr. Harper was suggesting that Canadian tar sand oil is coming through the U.S.–either through the pipeline or by the much more hazardous rail cars. Of course, that same option would also be available, from Alberta to British Columbia. Perhaps he was just a bit too strong on his sales pitch. Don’t you think?

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