We’re Being Played

When I woke up today, my local TV, morning news was highlighting the National Energy Board’s investigation of Enbridge and specifically their pipeline safety record. That’s good news for those of us who oppose the Northern Gateway Pipelines, right? It should be good news, because Enbridge is now infamous for their pipeline leaks. Unfortunately, I had trouble accepting the good news.

Q: Why wasn’t I happy about the news?
A: The sequence and timing of recent pipeline news releases has my gut telling me that we’re being played by Big Oil, Enbridge, the Harper Government and possibly even the NEB.

A classic sales technique is the ‘Feel — Felt — Found’ approach. When a salesperson encounters resistance, referred to as an objection, they will often counter with, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, until I found…”. Stephen Harper and his merry band of Big Oil sycophants are well aware that there are very significant objections to the planned Northern Gateway Pipelines. To assuage British Columbians, they’ve, for the moment, strategically chosen to appear reasonable, even conciliatory; after all, there’s still plenty of time for them to achieve their ultimate goal of selling tar sand’s bitumen (heavy crude oil) to China.

Here’s what I see as the ‘Feel’ part of the Conservative’s plan:

  • “This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public.” – James Moore, Harper Government Cabinet Minister
  • “The only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria…” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The ‘Felt’ and ‘Found’ parts of Harper’s plan will only become evident when the NEB report is released. I’d be willing to wager that the National Energy Board will report that the Northern Gateway Pipeline’s potential financial benefits to Canada far outweigh the potential, minuscule, environmental risks to British Columbia. When that happens, Stephen Harper will be able to say, “I share the environmental concerns of British Columbians, but today I’m reassured, because independent, scientific analysis has concluded that the Northern Gateway project will be safe and will deliver enormous benefits to all Canadians. It’s a great day for our jobs and prosperity initiative.”

Now, suppose I’m wrong and the NEB actually surprises me by not endorsing the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I imagine that, at that time, Stephen Harper will be forced to reveal his carefully orchestrated agenda. Recall that the Harper Government’s Bill C–38 gave the federal Cabinet the power to overrule the NEB’s recommendation. If this government gets ‘bad’ news from the NEB, I’m convinced they’ll endorse the Northern Gateway Pipelines anyway.

Don’t be misled by their recent statements, everything the Harper Government has done, so far, points toward an ultimate outcome that is favourable to Big Oil, Enbridge, Alberta and China. I don’t trust the Harper Government and neither should you.

The Enbridge Northern Pipeline

Enbridge Keystone Kops

My first post on this website was ‘Northern Gateway Pipelines’, but since then I’ve commented about the potential dangers of the Enbridge northern pipeline again and again.

Enbridge was obviously concerned that environmentalists opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipelines were gaining a little traction here in British Columbia, so the Enbridge PR team was tasked to launch a $5 million ($5,000,000) pro-pipeline ad campaign. If you’ve missed it, so far, you really must have been living under a rock, the ads were and still are pervasive.

Q: Has the Enbridge PR team managed to sway public opinion in favour of the Enbridge northern pipeline?
A: Probably not.

Q: Why has their impressive ad campaign failed?
A: Enbridge was making news.

Enbridge news:

  1. The USA’s National Transportation Safety Board recently referred to Enbridge as Keystone Kops/Cops. Here’s the NTSB’s Press Release regarding the 318,000,000 litre oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The ‘clean’ up* took two years and cost about $800,000,000.
  2. The recent Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak that occurred Monday, 18 June 2012.

The end result is that, right now, everyone seems to be writing off the pipeline, saying it’s dead. Whoa, stop, hold on, let’s not forget that the Harper Government devastated environmental and fisheries laws specifically to ensure approval of the Enbridge pipeline. The Cabinet can still approve this thing. Most people have a very short attention span and short memories is what Stephen Harper always relies upon. Unfortunately, we still can’t assume the Enbridge northern pipeline is dead.

Here’s the Enbridge northern pipeline parody video:

*Can diluted bitumen (heavy crude oil) be cleaned up? The following, unconfirmed, video suggests that spilled heavy crude returns to it’s original state, leaving Michigan with their own mini-version of Canada’s tar sands courtesy of Enbridge and Big Oil.

Related articles:

  1. Scathing U.S. report won’t change Ottawa’s mind on Northern Gateway
  2. It’s semi-official: The Enbridge Northern Gateway project is kaput!

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Arrogant Harper Government

Arrogant Harper Government, confused Liberals and the NDP preparing for 2015

Have you played a team sport? Did you ever lose to an inferior team, a team that had no class? Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to sit as an altruistic, progressive, NDP, Liberal or Green MP facing the arrogant Harper Government majority?

Two phrases spring to my mind,

  1. “Bullshit baffles brains” and
  2. ‘Never Fight with a Pig’.

Every time the Liberals point out a problem with Conservative governance and their stewardship of Canada, the Harper Government responds with a childish taunt, “Neener, neener, neener, when you were in power you did that too”. Clearly, Stephen Harper ignored his mother when she taught him that, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. That would be number one, “Bullshit baffles brains”.

When Tom Mulcair uses his analytical mind to ask Stephen Harper a serious, foundational question, Stephen Harper’s sycophants arrogantly demean the Official Opposition by:

  • consistently failing to answer the question and then
  • muttering something about unions, communism or even Nazism.

The Harper Government obviously isn’t classy or intelligent, but they’re clearly very skilled at fighting dirty; I suspect many of the Conservative MPs have been fighting dirty from childhood right on through until the fuddy duddy, angry-old-uncle, stage of life, they’re at now. By now, it’s evident, to almost everyone, that meaningful democratic debate has gone missing under the Harper Government and it’s been replaced with condescension and disrespectful nastiness. That would be number two ‘Never Fight with a Pig’.

Stephen Harper is a relatively clever fellow, but he is a long, long way from being the smartest guy in the room. My suspicion is that China very quickly got the best of him, but they’re still letting Mr. Harper believe that he has the upper hand.

Background: First, China purchased a major stake in the tar sands and then they demanded a Pacific pipeline. The Harper Government’s 2012 Budget and Bill C–38, devastated Canadian environmental laws and granted the Conservative Cabinet dictatorial powers to ensure the Northern Gateway Pipelines’ approval. Unfortunately, China will benefit and Canada will lose.

Canada:

  • loses a chunk of our boreal forest
  • wastes our natural gas
  • wastes our fresh water
  • sells another raw natural resource (heavy crude oil)
  • pollutes our air, land and water
  • risks a pipeline and/or supertanker related environmental disaster.

China:

  • fuels their thriving economy
  • refines our heavy crude oil
  • transitions to a greener economy
  • snickers at us.

Canadians generally prefer viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Perpetual optimism led some people to ignore warnings, about Stephen Harper, from Michael Ignatief, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May. Their warnings were dismissed as “politics as usual”. The end result was that in Canada’s last federal election, a minority of voters took a chance and offered Stephen Harper an opportunity to govern. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and Conservative MPs have arrogantly wielded Canada’s authority in unanticipated ways. Embarrassed Canadians will soon remind the Harper Government that it doesn’t have the power, the people of Canada do. Less than a year into his mandate, support for Stephen Harper and his Harper Government has already declined significantly.

It’s likely that we’re going to have to put up with inadequate, dictatorial governance for another three years. Opposition MPs won’t be able to do much within Parliament, but they will have time to educate the Canadian public about the Harper Government’s scary, Big Oil, China-focused agenda. Canadians care about our environment and our international reputation. The Harper Government isn’t just disgracing Canadian democracy, they’re degrading Canada’s reputation around the world.

Q: What’s the first step, what can we hope to accomplish with the arrogant Harper Government in power?
A: Step one: Let’s stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the richest corporations on earth. The profiteering multinational oil and gas corporations will do just fine without even more of Canada’s money.

Next step: A comprehensive, sustainable Canadian energy strategy that benefits Canada first.

>> Hopeful Canadians

Related post:

  1. Peter Van Loan, “…job done”

Related article:

  1. Harper’s ‘bullying’ ways gives opposition hope, Economist says

Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak

Enbridge, The Northern Gateway Pipelines, “Path to our future” company, experienced a new oil spill on Monday, 18 June 2012. The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak occurred when a flange-gasket gave way, near Elk Point, about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.

Background: The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline carries heavy crude oil from the Fort McMurray tar sands to Hardisty (~ 541 km).

map Elk Point Alberta

Interestingly, Enbridge referred to the two hundred and thirty thousand (230,000) litre leak as an oil “release”; as if the leak had been planned, which, of course, it had not.

Q: Did the location name, “Hardisty”, ring a bell?
A: It should, because the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines are intended to carry heavy crude oil from Hardisty, AB to Kitimat, BC.

If you live in BC, ask yourself, what’s going to happen when a future Enbridge leak and oil spill dumps heavy crude oil and chemicals into a pristine BC waterway? What happens to our water? What happens to the fish and wildlife? Did you know that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines cross at least seven hundred streams before they reach Kitimat. FYI, Fisheries and Oceans Canada previously stated the number of streams and rivers was actually over one thousand (1,000), not the seven hundred Enbridge claims.

Q: How often do Enbridge pipeline leaks and oil spills happen?
A: We don’t really know.

I found this quote from Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) disturbing, “This one (referring to this Enbridge spill) is significant enough that we issued a news release on it.” I wonder, how many leaks occur that we never hear about?

Q: Will the Harper Government approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines?
A: It certainly looks like they will. Bill C–38 was crafted to eliminate environmental obstacles and ultimately, to ensure approval. The Conservative Cabinet can, if necessary, overrule the National Energy Board’s recommendations. In the end:

  • China wants the Pacific pipelines and
  • Big Oil has already calculated their anticipated profits,

so what do you imagine Stephen Harper will do?

BTW, regarding this oil “release”, Enbridge was quick to assert that, “there is no risk to public health or safety.”

Deformed fish found swimming in the Athabasca River have been trying to tell us that Canada’s tar sands adventure hasn’t been working very well for fish and they would like to, respectfully suggest, to us, that it’s time we started giving a little more consideration to what we’re doing to the Earth’s ecosystem. 🙂

Tar sands skyline courtesy of Greenpeace
Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Northern Gateway Pipelines
  3. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related articles:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. David Suzuki: The catastrophic effects of oil pipeline spills
  3. Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety
  4. Enbridge has a best friend in Ottawa

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

Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

The National Sierra Club (USA) has just released a new video titled, ‘Tar Sands Pipelines: The Dirtiest Oil on Earth’


Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

What should Canada do with the one of the largest crude oil deposits on Earth (it’s either the 2nd or 3rd largest)? The Sierra Club’s position is even more extreme than my own; they want us to leave all of our heavy crude oil in the ground. I advocate leaving the vast majority of it in the ground, for future technologies and future generations, but I would like to see Canada use our resource today, in a limited way, right here in Canada. Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the United States, but we still import over forty percent (40%) of the oil we consume domestically. Using our own oil today, will pay for our transition to green technologies. We don’t need or want the Northern Gateway Pipelines that will service China and India.

I suspect Big Oil and foreign ownership are demanding that Canada’s Government streamline approval of pipelines to ports, here in Canada and to the United States. Heavy crude oil delivered to Canadian ports will be shipped as is, crude delivered to the USA will be refined before delivery. Multinational oil and gas corporations can earn the biggest profit by selling Canadian oil to countries like China, India and Japan.

Did you know that multinational oil and gas corporations and their shareholders pocket the vast majority of the profits generated from our tar sands?

“In the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute study, completed in mid-March (2012), the Edmonton-based think-tank concluded the oil and gas industry has raked in $260-billion in pre-tax profits since 1986, while the public received less than $25-billion — less than 6% of the total value.”
– according to The Toronto Sun 20120409 (VINCENT MCDERMOTT, QMI AGENCY)

The Harper Government gets a failing grade for their stewardship of Canada’s environment. Canada needs new leadership that will stand up to Big Oil. As it stands today, the oil companies are taking the money and leaving Canada and the world with a mess that they tell us will be cleaned up. Can it be cleaned up? Will it be?

>> there’s something to hope for…

Cleanup Update (20120609): Still no decision on who pays for oil sands monitoring

The Enbridge Conundrum

Q: What is the Enbridge conundrum?
A: How can a corporation once named one of Canada’s greenest companies be responsible for delivering about 318,000,000 litres (84,000,000 gallons) of crude oil per day? Yes, I know about their CO2 sequestration, solar power, waste heat recovery and wind farm initiatives, but they’re still a major player in the fossil fuels marketplace. How is that green? To be fair, Enbridge is doing exactly what I think we should be doing with the tar sands, they’re using profits from oil and gas to transition to green technologies. Unfortunately, they’re also promoting a really bad plan that will inevitably lead to an environmental catastrophe.

I first became aware of Enbridge™, years ago, when I watched a newscast referencing an oil spill from one of their many pipelines (they have over 13,000 kilometres of pipeline). Recently, like all other residents of British Columbia Canada, I’ve been bombarded by their public relations blitz for their Northern Gateway Pipelines. Enbridge is currently investing up to five million dollars ($5,000,000) to convince BC residents that their planned pipeline is “a path to our future”. I suspect Big Oil is contributing additional funds to ensure the pipeline becomes a reality as soon as possible.

Q: “What kind of PR campaign can you buy for about $5,000,000?”
A: You can hire a team of designers and copywriters whose job it is to brand a heavy crude oil pipeline and oil port as something magical, wonderful and hopeful.

Ask yourself, does the combination of the designer’s beautiful artwork, pretty colours and the copywriter’s cleverly crafted story alter the fact that multinational oil and gas corporations have asked Enbridge to build a pipeline through BC’s pristine wilderness? Does it change the fact that when the heavy crude oil arrives in Kitimat, it will be pumped into enormous supertankers that will then travel along BC’s world-renowned, Pacific coastline, loaded with heavy crude oil?

Q: Do Enbridge pipelines ever leak?
A: Yes, according to Enbridge’s own data (via the Polaris Institute), they’ve had at least eight hundred and four (804) spills. The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reported that a recent spill, from a 30-inch pipeline rupture, dumped 819,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Talmadge Creek and some oil travelled about 30 miles downstream in the Kalamazoo River (Michigan USA). The Kalamazoo spill occurred a couple of years ago and they’re still cleaning up the mess.

Q: Do supertankers loaded with oil pose a danger to BC’s coastline and the Pacific ecosystem?
A: Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’? If you haven’t already watched it, look for it on HBO Canada.

Over six thousand (6,000) well-intentioned, well-motivated people work for Enbridge and I have absolutely no doubt that they are doing everything possible to prevent and mitigate an environmental disaster. That said, Enbridge exists to make money for their shareholders and it does so by working hand in hand with multinational oil and gas corporations.

Questions:

  • do you think the Northern Gateway Pipelines will experience spills
  • do you think we’ll see 270 and 350 meter long supertankers leaking massive volumes of heavy crude oil just off the BC coastline
  • why isn’t more money from oil sands profits being channeled into green technologies here in Canada
  • why aren’t we refining heavy crude here in Canada
  • why is Canada still importing over forty percent (40%) of the oil we use
  • and finally, why are we squandering Canada’s bountiful natural resources to fuel the development of Pacific nations who see us as their competition?

“First, we outsourced our manufacturing jobs and helped to make China rich. Now were planning to send China more and more of our natural resources. The Chinese must think we’re idiots.”

It certainly appears that the Harper Government imagines that its mandate is to do the bidding of Big Oil. Their pro-oil, anti-environment playbook makes me shudder.

I’m convinced that Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the right track, so there is hope.

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Pipeline
  2. Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak
  3. Red Deer River Oil Deluge
  4. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related article:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. It’s More than a Pipeline
  3. Enbridge faces $3.7-million penalty for Michigan oil spill

Killer Whales and Supertankers

BC coastal whales

Do you ever play movies in your imagination? You know what I mean, it’s when you picture a future scenario that’s so real that you can actually visualize a colour movie in your head; a daydream if you will. The title of this movie is ‘Killer Whales and Supertankers’. Picture this:

  • the Harper Government approves the Northern Gateway Pipelines
  • supertankers, full of crude oil, begin leaving Kitimat destined for China.

I’ll bet you’re already imagining something similar to the movie ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’. I understand, because that scenario is, indeed, inevitable, but this time imagine something different. What if the tankers are sailing weekly and a killer whale washes up on the BC coastline. The whale looks perfect, absolutely beautiful, except, of course, it’s dead. Canada and the rest of the world immediately wonder if there’s a connection between the supertankers and the killer whale’s death? Hold on, there must be a CSI for marine mammals, right? Here’s the problem, the Harper Government just dismissed that guy and shut down Canada’s entire DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) contaminants program.

Peter Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist, a gentleman who has about a hundred published, scientific articles was recently informed that his services will no longer be required. Worse still, Peter is just one of seventy-five people, who study marine contamination for Canada, to be dismissed. So, what does Peter have to say?

“I cannot think of another industrialized nation that has completely excised marine pollution from its radar…”

and

“It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans…”

Q: Why did the Harper Government shut down the Department of Fisheries contaminants program?
A: Just a budget cut, or was it a targeted budget cut, because… ? Play another one of those movies in your head.

I don’t suppose your movie had anything to do with Big Oil shipping Canada’s raw natural resources to China and contamination of our air, land and water?

Northern Gateway Pipelines

Northern Gateway Pipelines route

The proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines will travel all the way from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, BC (~ 1,200 km long, crossing more than 750 streams). Heavy crude will then be pumped into supertankers that will then transport the oil to China for processing and consumption.

Important: Contrast Enbridge’s PR website, the one I linked to in my first paragraph, to this one from the Sierra Club.

If you listen to the Harper Government or the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan the pipelines will usher in a new income stream, new jobs and lead to a booming Canadian economy.

The tar sands are a precious Canadian resource, but they’re less precious than the multinational oil and gas corporations would have us believe; there are immense environmental costs. That said, if they’re developed in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive fashion they could help Canada pay for our transition to a green economy.

Problems:

  1. Extracting oil from the tar sands is currently devastating Alberta’s boreal forest and undoubtedly contaminating the watershed. Have you watched the film Petropolis? If not, it’s currently available for viewing on Netflix.
  2. Do you know what a tailings pond is? If not, click here.
  3. It doesn’t make economic sense to export raw natural resources. Why isn’t Canada refining the bitumen (heavy crude oil) here?
  4. What happens when the pipelines leak?
  5. What happens when one or more of the supertankers has a spill. Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster.’ HBO often shows reruns. Check out the pathway a supertanker has to travel before it reaches open ocean. Launch Google Earth and search for Kitimat, BC Canada and drill down for a closer look at the route the tankers will have to travel.
  6. Kitimat to the ocean

  7. If Canada really has the second largest oil reserves in the world, why are we still importing over forty percent of the oil we consume? My suspicion is that this has something to do with multinational oil and gas corporate profits.
  8. Why is the Canadian taxpayer subsidizing the richest, most powerful, corporations on earth?
  9. How much is the massive, Harper Government’s, pro-oil, PR campaign costing us?
  10. Has Canada forgotten about Global Warming?

Alberta and Saskatchewan’s tar sands have been there for thousands of years. What’s the rush? Conservatives would have us believe extracting the oil and building pipelines has to be done immediately.

I’ve always wondered why Alberta didn’t select a single tar sands location and use it as a proof of concept to demonstrate to environmentalists world-wide that tar sands’ oil could be delivered in as friendly a way as any other oil that is currently produced. Alberta’s government chose not to do that, likely because it was impossible, with current technology. The unfortunate result is that Canada is viewed as a source of ‘Dirty Oil’ around the world. Once again, I suspect Big Oil exerted their influence and made more than one location an urgent priority for Conservative governments.

Q: Why is Big Oil in such a hurry?
A: My understanding is that, over ninety-percent of all the income earned goes directly to multinational oil and gas corporations.

Update (20120530) – Enbridge™ will spend up to $5 million (5,000,000) on a multimedia ad and PR blitz for the Northern Gateway Pipelines. >> Vancouver Sun

Related Posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related website:

  1. Radicals for Our Coast