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The pipeline saga continues

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Brennan Bova

I OFTEN FORGET to flick off the light switch. I sometimes leave the tap running. I’m guilty of not always recycling. To put it frankly, I’m not the best environmentalist, but I always make a point to try.

Trying to prevent global warming, and trying to make the environment a better place, means that everyone must collectively and consciously try at all times. But sometimes we forget. We also don’t know how much of an effort others are putting in, which is what makes it so easy to chuck that Coke can in the trash instead of into the recycling bin. But when a bigger, more visible issue threatens our Canadian ecosystem, we do take notice.

Recently, Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corp. have been making headlines with their separate oil pipeline proposals. Enbridge is proposing a Northern Gateway route, which will bring Alberta crude to the port of Kitimat in B.C. and then onto tankers headed for Pacific Rim nations, specifically China. TransCanada Corp., on the other hand, has plans to take Athabasca oil and bring it to the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast or to central and eastern Canada. The latter bid is known as Keystone XL.

The numbers projected for each venture are astounding. Combined, the two Calgary-based companies’ projects are estimated to cost approximately $13 billion. Considering the number of pipelines that need to be built and how our current ones need to be upgraded to handle Alberta crude instead of the lighter Middle Eastern or North African blends, this number does make sense—on some level.

Supporters of such bids say the payoff is well worth the costs and potential negative consequences. Colby Cosh, a writer for Maclean’s Magazine, reported that Enbridge hired Canadian economist Robert Mansell to see just how much the public would benefit from such endeavours. The Northern Gateway route alone is expected to “yield about half a percentage point in added annual GDP [gross domestic product] between the pipeline’s opening and 2048.” Also, $98 billion dollars in government revenue and 900,000 “man-years” of employment will be gained.

With numbers like this, it’s no wonder the Harper government is pushing for the proposals to go through. We’re experiencing the worst economy since the Great Depression. It’s getting more difficult to find employment. Canada is the third-largest oil-reserve-rich country in the world, so why not exploit our national resources in an attempt to boost our economy? After all, it’s only supply and demand. Asia needs oil and they’re willing to pay, so why not participate in this lucrative business venture?

The most obvious reason to not go ahead with such a deal? The environment. That same environment we neglect every time we leave a lamp on or litter on the streets. Have we forgotten the 2010 oil spill in Michigan? For those who don’t remember, Enbridge—the same company who wants to go ahead with the Northern Gateway route—caused a huge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, west of Detroit. The leak was so massive that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board found it to be the biggest inland oil spill in the Midwest. They also deemed Enbridge reckless in their handling of the crisis, which threatened the health and well-being of millions of people.

Is this the same company we want handling our pipelines? Even though TransCanada Corp. wasn’t involved with this spill, creating new pipelines and a route running from Alberta to both central and eastern Canada or the United States is risky business. The potentially harmful effects such projects could have on our environment are significant. After all, the Northern Gateway will be crossing the Great Bear Rainforest in B.C., in addition to many bodies of water and forests.

There comes a point when the negatives of such a complex undertaking outweigh the positives. This is one of those times. Here’s hoping that Ottawa recognizes this and walks away from such a deal before it endangers our environment.