Granted, not all of our 243,042 km of coastline is a suitable candidate for a pipeline to reach tidewater. But there is a large percentage that has serious potential. The BC coastline accounts for approximately 10% of Canada’s coastline and we have but one pipeline on its shores: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain (despite what many anti-pipeliners choose to believe, Trans Mountain has been operating incident free since 1957!) The question remains unanswered however as to why protest groups like Green Peace protest any additional pipeline infrastructure? It is true that Canada builds the safest and best performing pipelines, that we have the most regulations, and that we work the hardest to build oil and gas infrastructure in a sustainable way. Maybe they make such a big deal out of protesting because the threat of being thrown in jail or criminally charged (within reason) simply does not exist! After all, Canada is one of the only major oil producing nations that has the democratic protections protesters need to even exist.
Still, I often wonder if pipeline protesters even know what a watercourse crossing is when it comes to planning a pipeline. Through the course of my career, I have participated in countless meetings going through pipeline routing requirements prior to construction. Every meter of the line is detailed ad nauseam to ensure the protection of the natural environment and the structural integrity of the pipeline. To be clear, I am whole heartedly for protecting and preserving the global environment and building infrastructure sustainably. But the facts are clear. A simple dry indentation in the earth that could at one point carry some run off water is bored underneath, pipelines are routed around old campsites that were not cleaned up hundreds of years ago, forests are avoided, existing routs are followed, soil handling is mandated, bird windows are adhered to, fish studies are completed, fire risks assessed, local communities are addressed, Aboriginal communities and farmers are consulted and on and on. Rightfully so, the oil and gas industry asks, checks, cross checks, studies, ground truths, surveys, does aerial tours and then does everything again to make sure that a given plot of land is the best place with the least social and environmental impact to build an economic artery for our country. Yet still, pipeline protesters protest.
What then, an intelligent observer may ask, do lobby groups exactly want? On the surface it is obvious, no pipeline development. I get that. But what about the industry? If one were to actually take the Federal NDP’s Leap Manifesto seriously, shall we merely shut it all down? What is the alternative? Ask Mr. and Mrs. Avi Lewis and they will cut you off before you finish your sentence. Renewables! But surely they must know, it would simply not be possible for solar and wind generated power to sustain a nation of thirty odd million people. Incidentally, for electricity to travel from the generator to the homes of a multitude of Canadians, it travels though either cables buried in the ground or through everyone’s favorite property value booster: power lines! Many a pipeline protester’s eyes will glaze over at the mere mention that oil and gas pipelines parallel existing power lines. That said, I am curious, where are the protesters on that issue? Power lines have to go through all the same areas and have the same footprint as a pipeline right of way. And so my sincerest of apologies goes out to the hipsters of the world by reminding them that no, energy does not transmit over Starbuck’s complementary Wifi. Physical infrastructure is needed in the way of power lines, cables and pipelines for the energy that powers our stuff.
But, I am going to give the benefit of the doubt that the anti-pipeline groups know that everything is made from petroleum products and that they rely everyday on the oil and gas industry to power their protest efforts. I’m also going to do my best to ignore the seemingly obvious hypocrisy with what I just mentioned. It has been pointed out over and over again and has fallen on deaf ears. I simply want to know what the issue is with pipelines, specifically Canadian pipelines and the product they carry. Is it that protesting oil and gas development in Canada is trendy? Granted, all the cool celebrities are doing it, but that should serve as no substitute for having a factual and practical reason for mobilizing. Instead, they just have the time and, above all, privilege to look around and pick a cause worthy of their efforts. But to me, and many others, the facts are too overwhelming to come to another conclusion. There is however, a possible explanation for this mentality. Studies have shown that when people are confronted with data that contradicts their beliefs, they react by becoming even more steadfast in their original convictions. So what’s the answer?
Bottom line, our industry has done a poor job of defending ourselves. We think education is the answer, but our efforts in educating the broad populace have largely not worked. It is clear, that the zealous pipeline protesters have no interest in hearing the facts. Because of this, industry needs to dust off its boxing gloves. We need to be bullish about how we talk about our industry, and brag about the care and attention we give to plan the oil and gas development we put billions of dollars into and that Canada depends on.