COMMENTARY · 28th June 2012
One of the things I tire of in the Enbridge arguments are the racism, bigotry and down right rude comments which come up in discussion. This weeks editorial is both sides of the argument, as best I can explain them.
The Enbridge debate is a complex one, often seen in black and white. There are good reasons why the people of British Columbia need this project to go through, and there are good reasons why we should not.
Its all About Money
Money related matters concern the creation of jobs, the taxes the project will bring in and the diversifying of the economy by exporting our resources. Money is the most significant pro in this project as oil is a valuable commodity.
The employment opportunities, which were around early in the century are no longer viable. Forestry in British Columbia is becoming a thing of the past and jobs are lost to machines which can do the jobs just as well.
The construction of the pipeline will create many high paying, yet temporary jobs in BC and Alberta. When the pipeline is complete, the number of jobs will decrease drastically. The final number changes frequently but the number usually thrown about is between 50 and 100.
The strongest argument for money is about the tax dollars the project will create which will go into the coffers for both community and province. Our infrastructure has been falling apart over the last 10 years, notably in the areas of Education and Health Care.
The money from the Enbridge Project could be used to provide a future for our children and repairing the damage done to the healthcare system. Of course, it will also be going into projects in Kitimat including roads, sidewalks and, of course, a New City Hall.
World Class Safety Standards
The plan is to build the pipeline properly and put any number of safety measures into place so there is never a spill. The statement made is when the pipeline is put together, it will not have a spill through out its thirty year lifetime.
Vessels will be boomed to prevent contamination from the oil where it loaded onto ships. The vessels will be vetted to ensure there are no problems. They will be double hulled, have tugs attached and have a BC Pilot familiar with these waters on board.
Finally, the area around the Douglas Channel will be improved with all the latest gadgets and gizmos to improve safety standards.
The Other Side of the Coin
The flipside for the ability to transfer oil safely is human error. The poster child for this is the Kalamazoo spill, where oil leaked out when all the bells and whistles were working and the people in the control room did not notice.
What could cause a leak? People have pointed to geographical anomalies such as rockslides, earthquakes and flooding, which could damage the pipeline. Others have suggested the bitumen itself being more corrosive to the interior of the pipeline.
On the ocean, it has been admitted by an Enbridge lawyer that spills are most likely to occur where the bitumen is loaded onto the ships. The rout which has been picked to take the oil out of the Douglas Channel is being misrepresented in the media as being straight, wide and safe. In reality, there are several sharp turns and reefs which some claim make it the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world.
Our own geography also works against us as well because it because it makes getting to a spill difficult under winter conditions as well as working against emergency responders when the river is high.
Oil is a finite resource, one which was estimated to run out by 2015 back in 1999. It is used in packaging, in plastics, in motor vehicles and it is used to transport all of these products to us.
Some argue it would be best to process the oil in Canada and create value added products rather then ship it off. Value added product would bring in more money then simply exporting oil. The product could also be used in Canada as well as being shipped out to other countries.