Thursday, October 18, 2012
Quote of the Week
“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability. You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”
~ Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of Eaarth
In this issue:
- Star Power Shines Bright Against Risky Pipelines' Dark Plans
- McKibben: It’s Time to Take on Big Oil
- Canadians Reiterate Demands to Clean-Up Tarsands Mess
- Chinese Ownership of Tarsands a Dangerous Deal
- Canadians, Americans Support AFCN Constitutional Challenge
- Chris Hedges Invites the World to Block the Keystone XL Pipeline in East Texas
- Yedlin Calls for Halt to Northern Gateway Games
“As a Canadian, as someone who feels a moral responsibility as a Canadian, whose government is participating so intensively in such an intensive set of projects in the tarsands, as a global citizen as well, I felt it was an obligation if I had the opportunity ... to see first-hand what is at the heart of our largest emitter of global greenhouse gases in this country,” Canadian musician Sarah Harmer told Vancouver’s The Province , after touring the tarsands and proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route. “Clearly for me, it’s a path that I believe we should be taking the opposite path, which is transitioning to renewables. Keeping the resources.”
Harmer is just one of an impressive list of tarsands opponents that just keeps on growing, Click here to see the groundswell of support for the Defend Our Coast protests that will take place next week.
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
Although market-based campaigns target specific companies to force them to change the way they do business, large protests and campaigns usually target politicians, who have the power (and, one could argue, the obligation) to regulate entire industries.
But that’s so last century.
350.org founder Bill McKibben wants to take on the entire fossil fuel industry. “It’s time to march on Dallas,” he told a boisterous crowd at the University of Vermont, where he kicked off the 20-city Do The Math tour, which will be officially launched in Seattle on Nov. 7, the day after the election. “The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability. You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”
Them’s fightin’ words, and it’s just getting started. Stay tuned.
Yet another poll indicates that Canadians don’t support wholesale, profit-maximizing tarsands development, and they want the environmental problems they cause to be addressed. According to The Globe and Mail, the poll, conducted by Léger Marketing for the Montreal Economic Institute, found that the “best approach” to the tarsands is to continue development while maintaining “a continuous effort to limit the environmental impact.”
As always with polls, the devil is in the details. What wasn’t mentioned in the media is that only eight per cent of Canadians believe the “best approach” is to “focus on maximizing the economic development” of the tarsands. This is exactly what has taken place over the last 40 years, and despite promises of a world-class monitoring system and solutions to intractable environmental problems like tailings ponds, little has changed to date.
Some of the questions in the poll, conducted for a Montreal-based libertarian think with close ties to The Fraser Institute, seem intentionally misleading. For instance, Léger Marketing phrased the question about efforts to limit the environmental impact of oil sands are significant in a very optimistic (some might say, disingenuous) way.
“According to you, are the following measures to limit the environmental impact of oil sands production significant or not?
- Greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil produced from the Canadian Oil Sands have fallen by 29% since 1990.
- Around 70% of the water used in oil sands projects is now recycled.
- A new technology could soon eliminate tailing ponds, which contain toxic discharges from oil sands production.
- 80% of the oil sands can only be produced through drilling techniques that use much less land than mining.”
This is cherry-picking the facts, what Heather Douglas, Phibbs Professor of Science and Ethics at the University of Puget Sound, calls the “bullshit of isolated facts.” The truth is that while greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per barrel did fall for years, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer’s own analysis, they actually increased two per cent between 2009 and 2010. And because of expanding production, total GHG emissions rose 14 per cent over the same period. According to the Pembina Institute, greenhouse gas emissions from tarsands will double between 2009 and 2020, from 45 million tonnes in 2009 to 92 million tonnes in 2020.
It’s also clear that the tarsands industry has not developed a proven method to “eliminate tailings ponds,” as implied in the question. The Pembina Institute recommends that, “Mine applications that propose the storage of tailings under end pit lakes as their reclamation strategy should not be approved. Existing operations with approved end pit lake plans should be modified to eliminate the need for end pit lakes as long-term storage sites for toxic tailings waste.”
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, people still refer to tarsands development as “ecocide” and a “crime against humanity.” According to a recent article in the UK’s The Daily Mail, “‘Runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable if the tar sands continue,’ said lawyer and environmentalist Polly Higgins. ‘‘The tar sands should be classified as an act of ecocide and rendered illegal under international law. This is, in effect, a crime against humanity.’”
In a mock trial held in the UK, real lawyers, judges and a public jury found the CEOs of fictional fossil fuel companies guilty of ecocide as a result of their company's extraction of oil from tar sands in Canada.”
“I worry that in my lifetime, Canada transformed from an internationally respected environmental leader to the likes of an addict pawning their grandmother’s TV for one last hit,” said Canadian musician Dan Mangan. “I fear that tarsands culture and the government at-large have traded fact-based science for blind market ideology.”
So it looks like Canadians who participated in the poll may have been misled about the true nature of tarsands development in Canada. Makes you wonder how they would have answered if they’d had a more complete picture of the facts, and some different choices, before them.
As the debate rages over the proposed the $15.1-billion bid by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) for Nexen Inc., Canadians have begun to raise their concerns about Canada’s increasingly cozy relationship with China and its impact on the development of the tarsands.
During a panel discussion on the Nexen sale, Ray Boisvert, a former director at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said “There’s an imperative to engage China.” But it must be done, he said, “with your eyes wide open.”
Meanwhile, Gus Van Harten, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School who specializes in international investment law, has expressed grave concern about the Canada-China investment treaty being pursued by the Harper Government. Known as FIPPA, the treaty will hamstring BC from negotiating a greater share of profits and creating regulations related to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline for the next three decades.
"This treaty, in effect, will pre-empt important elements of the debate of the Northern Gateway pipeline and may frustrate in a very significant way the ability of the current BC government or any future government—if the NDP were to win in spring—from stopping that pipeline or bargaining a better deal for BC," Van Harten told the Vancouver Observer.
Incredibly, the deal could hamper Canadians’ ability to turn down ore regulate Chinese-owned tarsands projects. According to Andrew Nikiforuk in The Tyee, “the treaty would give Sinopec, one of the big Chinese backers of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the right to sue the government of British Columbia if it blocks the project. Sinopec could also demand that only Chinese labour and materials be used on the pipeline. Moreover the treaty gives Chinese state owned companies ‘the right to full protection and security from public opposition.’”
“There has been no national public debate, no debate in the House of Commons, no committee review, no negotiations or consultations with the provincial governments, no transparency,” wrote Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner for Forest Ethics Advocacy. “Why? We can only speculate that it’s because the deal is such a bad one for Canadians.”
If this sounds like an affront to Canadian democracy, visit Leadnow.ca and sign the petition to stop the Canada-China trade agreement and Nexen takeover.
Sixteen thousand North Americans have voiced their opposition to the Shell's Jackpine Mine expansion, and implicitly supported the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s (AFCN) constitutional challenge of Shell Oil's Jackpine Mine Expansion. Now the AFCN is asking the public to stand in solidarity as they present their evidence against Shell's proposed tar sands expansion project.
On October 23, the AFCN is bringing a “question of constitutional law” before the Jackpine hearings by the Canada-Alberta Joint Review Panel. A constitutional challenge is historically significant and may be the only remaining pieces of law that can stop the destruction of their traditional land.
ACFN will be hosting a peaceful rally and pipe ceremony in Fort McMurray on the first day of the constitutional challenge’s hearings, and ask that people please respect the tone and seriousness of this event.
For more information about Shell’s proposal and AFCN’s challenge, visit www.stopshellnow.com.
CLEANING UP DIRTY PIPELINES
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist turned muckraking activist, just got on anti-Keystone XL bandwagon, big time.
In his latest column for Truthdig, Hedges invites his readers to join the growing number of protestors who have made East Texas Ground Zero for the battle over TransCanada’s $7 billion pipeline, which would carry bitumen crude to the Gulf Coast for export to Asia.
“The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not take place in city parks and plazas, where the security and surveillance state is blocking protesters from setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in the nation’s heartland, where some ranchers, farmers and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land seized by eminent domain and their water supplies placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. They have formed an unusual coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on tribal lands along the proposed route of this six-state, 1,700-mile proposed pipeline are fast becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have begun against the corporate state. Join them.”
Hedges sets the Keystone XL pipeline project in a much larger context, part of the final phase of extreme exploitation by the corporate state. “Appealing to the corporate state, or trusting the leaders of either party to halt the assault after the election, is futile. We must immediately obstruct this pipeline or accept our surrender to forces that, in the name of profit, intend to cash in on the death throes of the planet.”
Daryl Hannah, it seems, has already got the message. In an op-ed in The Guardian, Hannah explains that, “the Keystone XL pipeline has been mischaracterized, and the American people have been misled. Portraying the pipeline as a ‘public use’ project carrying crude oil to the US, enables the foreign corporation to take US private property through ‘eminent domain’ but for foreign private profit…. What is evident is that the Keystone XL pipeline is a private profit venture, not a ‘public use’ project that serves the US national interest.”
Hannah, who also has thrown her support behind the Defend Our Coast sit-in planned for next week, believes “that if we accept our ethical responsibility to stand up for each other, and for our life support systems, and if we focus on and work tirelessly for a better future,” we can all make a difference. So does Chris Hedges.
Won’t you join them?
If you’re a Big Oil CEO, you know you’re in Big Trouble when Deborah Yedlin, a Calgary Herald columnist who is a fierce cheerleader for any and all oil and gas development, turns against you. And both she and The Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe have done just that.
“With the heated rhetoric and a potential change in government in British Columbia, Yedlin reasoned in the pages of the Herald, “it could be argued that a better use of Enbridge's time would be to find a logical break in the National Energy Board hearings and blow the whistle on the project for a while.”
“Any debate about transporting oil to the west coast should be shelved until spring,” wrote Yaffe. “That would provide a badly needed ‘time out’ in the fight over Northern Gateway.”
Couldn’t agree more, but let’s make the “time out” permanent.