Tick tock, tick tock

October 24, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was interesting to see the People’s Party of Canada being squashed in the election this week. Maxime Bernier declared himself ready to go again but that was in the heat of the moment and without necessarily asking his many candidates if they would also throw their hearts, souls and money back into the ring in a future foray. As so many commentators and politicians have commented, this election was virtually a referendum about climate change and yea-sayers for the climate won.

Well, it made me wonder if the head-in-the-sand approach to the climate crisis on the part of Messieurs Bernier and his colleagues, including Orangeville’s own Chad Ransom, was part of the reason for their wipe-out.

They are all still talking about that Trans Mountain Pipeline. of course. I am truly puzzled by this.

The money does not make sense. It seems that, just recently, the cost of the pipeline has gone up from the latest estimate of $7.4 billion by another $1.9 billion.. However, the harbour at Burnaby has been under construction for some time and the very much disputed pipeline itself has seen the preliminary work – tree clearing, surveying, pipes being put in place – already begun.

According to sources, the date of actual construction has been delayed a couple of times to almost have missed the short “window” for construction in the mountains, where winter gets an early start and hangs on until spring is well-flowered in other places.

So, we’re talking about nearly $9 billion to build a pipeline to service ships coming into a harbour that has a very narrow entrance and is absolutely pristine but will be irrevocably a ruined site for the marine life that depends on it now.

There is plenty of evidence to show that the noise of the ships, with or without spills, is already very harmful to the killer whales that are the usual inhabitants of the area. The pipeline will ensure that an additional 500,000 barrels a day will be extracted from the oil sands.

So, with plans to increase the production of the dirtiest oil of all, very expensive to mine, from the point of the water used in fracking to extract the oil from the tar sands, as fracking is 80 times more harmful environmentally than any other type of mining, we are not taking the climate crisis seriously.

Wait a minute. In addition to the initial $4.5 billion cost of buying the pipeline from Kinder Morgan; in addition, the tar sands extraction is environmentally very costly and is not always profitable but is bolstered by government subsidies; the cost of putting the 715-mile pipeline in the ground to the coast is now nearly $9 billion. That, plus those subsidies in the billions that go to support the oil industry …

What are we doing?

The oil or tar sands are a naturally occurring site of large deposits of heavy crude oil, or bitumen, that lay under 141,000 square kilometres of Borel Forest and muskeg or peat bogs. They were a wonder to early explorers, completely astonished by the rivers of oil seeping from the rocks; who learned about their usefulness from the natives. The indigenous people used the material to make gum for waterproofing their canoes.

Upon research by much later industry, the tar sands were estimated to contain about 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen, which is “comparable in magnitude to the world’s total reserves of conventional petroleum…. “These are … the third largest in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.” (wikipedia) 

Hard to say “stop.” Yet and yet, where does the filth and proven damage end? 

Where does it say on some tablet on a mountain that an end has to come to making money by powering the world like this? 

Nine billion dollars is a lot of money, especially if it is truly the case, as the numbers seem to suggest, that the income from this vastly increased export of oil is not always actually profitable. We already know that, environmentally, it is not wise.

We have to have energy to function. Power to our lights; fuel to our transportation. Nine billion dollars could pay for a great deal of conversion to other means of providing power for electricity and fuel for moving around. It could pay for thousands of workers to be re-trained to build and maintain infrastructure for other types of energy producing. 

Alberta is a vast land that would do so much better by beginning to reduce the use of the tar sands for alternatives. There is no reason why the province should suffer because the tar sands are too dirty for increased use. So much rhetoric and so little seriousness is dominating the discourse. We still don’t accept at our very base how dangerous the situation is. Keeping our heads in that sand will not save us from the risks that we are currently denying. 

However much we wish the crisis in which we stand was not there, it is.


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