There is a palpable sense of frustration building across the land at Canada’s inability to build anything. A snapshot of news headlines this cold wintry day lists this and this and this, from a variety of mainstream news organizations.
The current BC standoff is, fundamentally, not up for debate. Federal jurisdiction over waterways is the law of the land. It is in Alberta, when a pipeline must cross a river, or any activity comes near a natural waterway. It is on the coasts, all of them, and Canada has not historically done a poor job of managing those, with the exception of raw sewage, which everyone seems inexplicably fine with.
BC’s last stand is done under the banner of concern in the event of an oil spill. It seems frivolous to mention but apparently it must be said out loud that a spill of any kind along the BC coast would be a nightmare for anyone, primarily Kinder Morgan itself. Recall that BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill has cost the company, to date, about $60 billion. Should a spill happen on the BC coast, it is safe to assume that every Canadian from one corner to the other would expect the guilty party to be as accountable for clean up costs as BP was.
But that is not the issue. To make a potential accident the fulcrum on which a to make a build/don’t build decision is ludicrous and impossible. No one hesitates to build a bridge because it might collapse one day, or to build a skyscraper because it might possibly fall over under some unspecified condition. No one halts construction of a house because it might someday become dangerously flooded with carbon monoxide. No one halts construction of a trailer park because tornadoes have a fondness for them. To not build something because there theoretically could be a problem some day would negate the building of anything, ever.
Oil terminals at ports exist all over the world, handling tens of millions of barrels of oil per day. They exist in countries with very little in the way of environmental standards, including such countries as Nigeria. Heavy oil is loaded from Venezuela and Mexico, and offloaded in US ports. It has been done safely for decades.
On the climate front, the “benefits” to the environment of not building the pipeline are absolutely, categorically, undeniably, zero. The world consumes a given quantity every day, and that will not change one thimbleful whether the Trans Mountain expansion is built or not.
Someone somewhere will no doubt dredge up the eco-warrior standby chestnut that the oil sands will destroy the planet. This gets debunked periodically, so let’s do it again for kicks. The idea that the oil sands will destroy the environment originated with a “scientist” named James Hansen, who works for NASA and is therefore deemed credible. He may have been, until he uttered this now infamous statement: “Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source…civilization would be at risk.”
That statement was made in a NY Times article 6 years ago, and it in large part is responsible for the environmental roadblocks that have thwarted infrastructure construction in BC and many jurisdictions in North America. It is also a despicable, shameless, distortion of reality, with the same love-for-humanity finesse of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre.
What makes it so bad? Well, Hansen, the “scientist,” describes the harm that would be caused to the environment if “we were to fully exploit this new oil source,” which means, according to another article by a compatriot in Scientific American burning all the oil in the oil sands. There are 1.8 trillion barrels in the oil sands. There is no scenario that could be envisioned that would see even one-tenth of that produced, ever. Recoverable resources are estimated at about 165 billion barrels, and at today’s production rate of 2.5 million barrels per day, it would take 180 years to produce what is recoverable. So in 180 years, the oil sands would produce 1/10th of the horrific amount Hansen is pointing to as an imminent danger.
What is galling is that this embarrassing math was thrust into the public domain as the output of a famous scientist, thereby generating instant credibility. We have been paying for this ever since.
Based on such disinformation, the environmental industry has struck like bandits, capturing territory everywhere. They are not criminal terrorists who disrespect human rights; they are economic terrorists who will take down anything in their path in an instinct of self-preservation. They do not care if Canada’s economy suffers, or BC’s, or the Okanagan Valley. They do not care if Canada becomes unable to finance the basic functions of government and social safety nets because economies have been decimated. Someone always provides, right?
They are most emphatically NOT devoted to the betterment of the environment. Please inform us, any one of the thousands of groups that smears and defames and lies about the fossil fuel industry, please show us how you exist without it. Show us your efforts to remove it from your life entirely. We’re waiting.
You can fling all the tomatoes you want, but it is also a fact that John Horgan is in a hard spot. Being a politician, his will to survive is strong. This means, to keep a minority government functioning, that he must keep the Green party onside. The Green party may once have been the voice of environmentalism, but has long since sold its soul to special interest groups, exactly like all the industries they despise. The green party leader says “he and his fellow Green MLAs are prepared to bring down the NDP government if the New Democrats breathe a positive word about developing a liquefied natural gas industry…” This is, coincidentally, happening at exactly the same time that a group of municipal and First Nations leaders were meeting in Prince George to draft a letter demanding support for LNG.
The reality they all wish to evade is this: 7 billion people cannot, at present, exist without fossil fuels. Hundreds of millions would freeze to death as we speak without them, including most environmentalists. Billions of people require the cheap, constant, relatively plentiful supply of fossil fuels to grow food, to distribute food, and to consume food. Almost every citizen of the globe requires fossil fuels via petrochemicals for the building blocks of our current existence. The world’s greenhouse gas emissions problem would be solved if all coal use was switched to natural gas or nuclear. It would be that easy. But no one will fight for that, ever, because it goes against their entrenched business.
The tide is turning against the self-satisfying and ultra-vocal minority that is holding the world hostage in the name of climate change. They brought it on themselves; they had the moral high ground when truly fighting to clean up the environment. They threw it all away when they chose to link climate change to the standard sociological misery index of poverty, sexism, income inequality, and anti-capitalistic drum banging. The world is starting to see through it. It’s all really too bad; if they’d stuck with concern for the environment, demanding higher operating standards and fighting for lower consumption, we might all be better off.