Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Ethical Path for Canada – Stop the Tar Sands, its Pipelines and Tankers

Atmospheric greenhouse gases are already past the maximum safe level and significant global climate change is obviously underway. By far the most rapidly growing source of greenhouse gases in Canada is from the exploitation of the tar sands (renamed the oil sands to make them sound less dirty that they are). 

Therefore, the ethical responsibility of Canadians is to stop the growth of tar sands exploitation and work to reduce it. That is the single largest contribution that Canadians can make to slow global climate change and hopefully avoiding or minimizing its worst effects.

The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and already exceed – on a daily basis – one million cars each driving 500 km.

Nearly all tar sands products are exported, primarily to the United States. To increase these exports, efforts are underway to establish additional pipelines to carry the bitumen to foreign refineries.

One of these is the Keystone XL pipeline to American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico – a scheme that has at least temporarily been blocked by the US president under pressure from Americans worried about climate change and about the pollution danger from ruptured pipelines.

The second major pipeline scheme is Northern Gateway, an 1100-km pipeline across northern Alberta and British Columbia to the port of Kitimat where the bitumen would be loaded onto 225 oil super tankers each year. These mega ships would then have to make their way through the narrow channels and fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest, and along the pristine Pacific coastline. Their likely main destinations are China and the United States. As outraged First Nations and other BC residents are loudly arguing, it is only a matter of time before one of these tankers crashes and devastates the BC coastline.

The Pacific coast has already experienced the worst oil tanker spill in history – the grounding of the Exxon Valdez on March 24, 1989, that dumped between 11 and 32 million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound on the Alaska coast. That spill spread over 2100 km of coastline and 28,000 square-km of ocean and its effects are still being felt more than twenty years later. The immediate effects included the estimated deaths of 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbour seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs.
This must not be allowed to happen again.

The Northern Gateway pipeline must not proceed and oil tanker traffic on the BC coastline must not be permitted.

These supertankers are longer than the height of the Empire State building (more than a third of a kilometre).
 The effort to stop the Northern Gateway pipeline and the tanker route is now recognized as the most significant environmental action in Canada.

The Hamilton 350 Committee fully supports this effort and is taking solidarity actions in Hamilton, including on March 24 – the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

We also understand that the export of tar sands bitumen has very serious consequences for employment in Hamilton. As recognized by Premier McGuinty, Ontario manufacturing has been heavily damaged by Canada’s growing dependence on oil exports. The Canadian dollar has become a petrodollar – closely tracking the price of oil as it has climbed dramatically alongside the ramping up of tar sands exploitation. The resulting high dollar has hurt manufacturing exports and resulted in tens of thousands of lost jobs, particularly in southern Ontario.

Hamilton has another connection to Enbridge Inc, the company pushing the Northern Gateway pipeline. One of their pipeline hubs is in the village of Westover, in Flamborough. Enbridge is the largest transporter of crude oil in Canada (over 15,000 miles of pipeline) and exports 65 percent of western Canadian oil and bitumen. Enbridge is currently proposing to reverse flows in the 200 km Sarnia-Westover pipeline to allow shipping of tar sands oil to the ExxonMobil refinery near Nanticoke. This is a first step in making eastern Canadian refineries accessible to tar sands products, and another alternative to the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Other Hamilton connections to the tar sands include four major gas station groups operating locally that are owned by tar sands companies – Esso, Petro-Canada, Shell and Husky. 

Hamilton 350 Blog

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