Red Deer River Oil Deluge

Other than “tragic”, what is the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?

Q: First, why use the word “deluge” and not “spill”?
A: You “spill” a cup of coffee, hundreds of thousands of litres of oil is a deluge, not a spill. Interestingly, it could have been even worse, the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time.

“I have 57 acres and it has come right through all of it… It’s complete and sheer devastation… They came into my place, my shop, my ecosystem, and they destroyed it… This is my world. I didn’t break it, they broke it… There are not words to describe this.”
– Gord Johnston

Background: Thursday, 7 June 2012, a 1966 era, Plains Midstream Canada, oil pipeline burst into the Red Deer River, and oil flowed into Gleniffer Lake, north of Sundre, Alberta. Alberta’s 724 km (450 mi) long Red Deer River is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River.

Re: “north of Sundre”: The Mayor of Sundre wants everyone to know that no oil spilled in the backcountry, or along the river, so all activities associated with the river, such as whitewater rafting and camping are open and ready for business.

Red Deer River oil and Gleniffer Lake

Q: OK, now back to my original question, what’s the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?
A: Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, chose the word “exception” in her attempt to convince Canadians that this spill isn’t the norm for oil pipelines, instead she suggested, it was an exception, it was not the rule. I disagree, my suspicion is that, where there is an oil pipeline there will be “spills”; not every day, month or even every year, but sooner or later. I suggest that a better word to describe this oil deluge is “awkward”, because the oil pipe bursting was very awkwardly timed for:

  • Enbridge and their planned, much hyped, $5.5 Billion Northern Gateway Pipelines (you know, “The path to our future…”)
  • the Harper Government’s oil agenda
  • most of all, it’s very awkward for the multinational oil and gas corporations who would have us believe that mining our tar sands and delivering heavy crude oil to Pacific markets can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace
Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace

A tar sands’ dump truck pictured below will give you a better perspective of the tar sands’ mining shown above.

Tar sands truck

The bottom line is that oil pipelines leak, it happens more often than you might imagine (watch this video).

The Red River oil deluge was tragedy for Gord Johnston and other Albertans living near the burst pipe and it should act as a warning to residents of British Columbia.

Update (20120614): According to York University Professor, Sean Kheraj, pipelines in Alberta carrying either oil or some combination of oil, gas or distillates failed on average every 1.4 days. Since 2006, the province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil. A single litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater. >> Vancouver Sun article

Tom’s Tar Sands Trip

Tom Mulcair Visits Oil Sands

Tom’s tar sands trip, or why Tom Mulcair’s visit to the Alberta oil sands has garnered attention from coast to coast. From the time Mr. Mulcair first mentioned Dutch disease, the overvalued Canadian Dollar, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the threat to Canada’s balanced economy and the absence of sustainable development, folks of all political persuasions have been transfixed.

BTW, before I discuss Mr. Mulcair’s Alberta visit, did you happen to notice that the just released Pembina Institute’s report suggests that Canada has actually come down with a unique strain of Dutch disease they call “oilsands fever.”

There’s no denying that Canada’s oil reserves are a very big deal. An even bigger deal is the question of how best to manage their development in an environmentally friendly, sustainable manner. Frankly, the Harper Government’s oil sands eagerness makes them look like a bunch of old, fuddy duddy, gold-rush characters, flushed with excitement, sweaty palms and all, staring at each other exclaiming, “We’re going to be rich! They’ve told us we’re going to be rich.” In stark contrast, Mr. Mulcair looks like the grown-up in the room telling the kids (paraphrased), “Hold on guys, let’s not get too excited, no matter what they’ve told you, there are some very serious questions that need to be addressed and answered.”

Watch this, oil sands related, CBC video and pay close attention to when Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, says, “What I am told, I’ve been told…” (about 3 min 50 sec into the clip).

Now ask yourself, who told Mr. Oliver that you will be able to drink from tailings ponds? Did the multinational oil and gas corporations actually tell him this whopper? If that’s the case, picture an oil and gas guy, who looks a little like John Lovitz (video below), saying, “You’ll be able to drink from it, yeah, that’s the ticket, you’ll be able to drink from it and fish from it.” 🙂

Tom Mulcair Visits Oil Sands

Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, was at a conference the day Tom Mulcair visited the oil sands, but she recorded a video statement ahead of time and said, “Recent comments by the federal leader of the opposition serve to divide our nation by stating baseless allegations and mistruths. Following Mr. Mulcair’s visit to Alberta’s oil sands, I hope that going forward he recognizes the value of our natural resources to the Canadian economy, and the continued commitment of my government to develop those resources in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Was Ms. Redford’s unnaturally aggressive posture nothing more than a recently re-elected politician playing to her base or did her comments actually reveal considerable underlying defensiveness; you know, the old, “the best defence is a strong offence” posturing. I was just delighted to hear her words “environmentally sustainable”.

For his part Mr. Mulcair was a very polite and respectful, visiting gentleman. Here are a couple of Tom Mulcair’s comments after flying over Alberta’s oil sands in a helicopter:

  • “extraordinary undertakings on a human scale. I mean, they’re massive”
  • “It’s extraordinarily impressive, but it also brings with it real challenges. Real challenges that if we don’t assume in this generation, we’re going to bear in future generations”

He also restated his view that oil companies were getting, “a bit of a free ride in terms of using the air, the soil or the water, in an unlimited way and in an almost free way”, but he made clear “My debate is with Stephen Harper, it’s not with the representatives of one of the companies".

>> click here to watch a short Canadian Press video

Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan?

Mulcair Harper Redford Wall photos

If you were paying attention to the Canadian media this last week, you might have heard that war is about to break out in Canada, there’s apparently going to be a battle that will divide our country. It’s Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan and from the gist of the commentary, it’s also Mr. Mulcair versus the rest of Canada.

Stephen Harper, Alison Redford and Brad Wall, all Conservatives, felt obligated to respond to Tom Mulcair’s recent Dutch disease remarks, referencing the tar sands boom, the Canadian Dollar and lost manufacturing jobs. To be fair, the Provincial Premieres Alison Redford and Brad Wall were actually quite diplomatic when they responded, it was the Harper Government that, once again, behaved badly. I’m frequently entertained by the Harper Government and its surrogates. They relish any opportunity to besmirch an opponent by injecting their negative-keyword-laced, talking points.

Have you noticed that the Harper Government loves to act tough? Now that they have a majority government they often behave like the playground bully. What does the Harper Government want to fight about this time? What’s going to divide Canadians? Perhaps it’s:

  • tar sands’ pollution and having Big Oil pay for the contamination that they’re creating every day
  • making sure that tar sands growth is sustainable.

Surely, there can’t be any disagreement there? The vast majority of Canadians, whether from the East or the West, would agree that the polluter should pay and that development and growth of the tar sands must be sustainable.

Clearly, there isn’t going to be a war. Talk of alienation and separation is just Harper Government, keyword, nonsense. The NDP prefers reasoned discussion and consensus. Do you remember ‘discussion’? It’s something we used to do before the Harper Government majority of 2011.

Topics for discussion:

  • changes to environmental laws
  • greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil extraction
  • groundwater contamination
  • pipeline safety
  • supertankers loaded with crude oil plying the, often dangerous, waters off of the BC coastline, which by the way is another, even more precious, resource
  • exporting raw resources to China and the USA
  • manufacturing jobs
  • foreign workers
  • the green economy and why Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world in going green.

Let’s start with something simple, why does the Harper Government revere oil and gas? Oil and gas reverence must have something to do with money, right? Is Big Oil where the Harper Government’s political contributions come from? I’m serious, I’d love to know where this reverence comes from, I really don’t get it. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s something smelly about this alliance between multinational oil corporations and the fuddy-duddy Harper Government?

I’d like to thank Mr. Mulcair for getting these fresh, hopeful, very important dialogues started. It was clever, of you to get things rolling so soon after becoming the NDP’s new leader. Thank you. 🙂