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No oil tankers on the B.C. coast

Last week, at the University of B.C. in Vancouver, I saw a great multi-media presentation by journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent, and Ian McAllister, conservation director and co-founder of Pacific Wild. They called their show A Story With Two Ends.


Nikiforuk, a Calgary, AB resident, focused on the Tar Sands project and the global implications of peak oil and Canada’s oil exports. Although Canada is the number-one supplier of oil to the United States, the U.S. is now saying that it doesn’t want our country’s “dirty oil.” Therefore, Canada is targeting China as its next huge market, since “they’re not as picky,” says Nikiforuk.


“The energy ignorance in this country is absolutely profound,” he said while sharing daunting facts about Canada’s “earth-destroying economy”:


  • 100% of the fuel we use in B.C. comes from the Tar Sands
  • the Tar Sands use 20% of Canada’s natural gas
  • the pipeline would increase Tar-Sand production by 40%
  • it takes 12 barrels of freshwater to make one barrel of bitumen, the sticky, tar-like form of petroleum used to create synthetic oil in Canada’s Tar Sands
  • the Tar Sands produces 36 million tons of carbon per year, which forms five per cent of Canada’s total annual carbon emissions
  • 69% of crude oil from Canada to the U.S. goes through an Enbridge pipeline 
  • unlike Norway, Canada has no sovereign fund, leaving it  with a very low percentage of the oil wealth it produces.


The U.S. corporation Enbridge  is lobbying to build 1,200 kilometres of pipeline across northern B.C. from Alberta’s Tar Sands project to Kitimat on the coast. This would end British Columbia’s current moratorium on related tanker traffic and open up a vast, pristine area, including the Great Bear Rainforest, to more than 200 oil tankers a year.


While sharing his stunning photos of grizzly bears, salmon-bearing streams, remote rivers, and wolf families, McAllister told us how the threat of tanker accidents and resulting oil spills would threaten the wildlife and vulnerable ecosystems in north-central B.C. Enbridge’s proposed pipeline would run through the world’s last intact salmon habitat, which includes 1,000 salmon-bearing streams and rivers in British Columbia.


Canada’s Pembina Institute provides a disturbing statistic: In one day, the westbound Enbridge export pipeline would transport almost twice the amount of oil that the Exxon Valdez spilled into Alaska’s Prince Willliam Sound in 1989.


 Canada stands at the crossroads


In this peak-oil era, is that the legacy we want to leave future generations? We cannot afford to let a massive oil spill devastate the land mammals and marine wildlife that depend on B.C. waterways for their habitat and food source.


Through its carbon emissions, Canada’s Tar Sands project not only destroys the environment at home, but harms our global earth atmosphere. It is an unsustainable form of energy production.


“This pipeline would introduce the largest oil tankers in the world to one of the most storm-ridden, dangerous, and difficult-to-navigate coastlines on the planet,” says McAllister. “Canada has a decision to make.  Will it build this pipeline and risk everything: our global reputation, fragile coast and international obligation to combat global warming?  Or will we cancel this pipeline/oil tanker proposal and show the world that Canada is ready to lead by example? 


He adds: “Canada is at a crossroads and the stakes have never been higher.”  


 As alternatives, Nikiforuk recommends a national carbon tax and carbon budget; hard targets for responsible, renewable energy; localized food production; and a sovereign fund that could bring substantial profits to Canada as a result of its  energy production.


To find out more, please visit www.pacificwild.org and www.pembina.org. You can download a copy of the Pembina Institute’s report Pipelines and Salmon in Northern British Columbia: Potential Impacts at www.bc.pembina.org.

Click here to see Nikiforuk’s short overview of the Tar Sands on YouTube.

December 1, 2009 at 4:30 pm
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