Tuesday, February 05, 2013
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I know that even if we don’t stop this project, someday, when I have kids, and they look me in the eyes and ask, ‘What the hell were you thinking? Why didn’t you do anything about this?’, I know I’ll be able to look them back in the eyes with confidence and say, ‘I’m sorry, I tried my very hardest.’ Will you? Please don’t let this pipeline go through.”
~ from the testimony of an unnamed high school student to the National Energy Board assessing the merits of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
In this issue:
- Imperial learns that people are more powerful than oil
- Big Oil supports the carbon tax Harper hates
- EU stands its ground against aggressive Canadian lobby
- Ottawa blesses tar sands pipeline to the East
- Star power lends a hand at Keystone XL megaprotest
- What the hell were you thinking?
Imperial Oil thought its plan to transport gigantic, South Korean-made modules along scenic byways in the Pacific Northwest to its Kearl tar sands project was a foregone conclusion. They’d just ship them across the Pacific Ocean and up the Columbia and Snake rivers, then load them onto trucks and drive them along Highway 12 through Idaho and Montana on their way to northern Alberta.
But Imperial forgot to ask the independent-minded citizens of these two fine western states for permission first, and the faux pas has cost the tar sands giant dearly.
According to the Globe and Mail, Imperial boosted the price tag of its Kearl tar sands mine by $2-billion, up from its last estimate of $10.9 billion (and 61 per cent higher than its original estimate of $8 billion). The company says the cost overrun is a result of delays transporting equipment for the project, and the harsh winter conditions which slowed construction.
Numerous citizen groups, under the umbrella of All Against the Haul, were none too pleased when Imperial made public its plans to truck hundreds of massive pieces of equipment along a narrow scenic byway that follows the idyllic beauty of the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River. And so they said no, and they used the courts to make sure that Imperial Oil and the Montana and Idaho departments of transportation, which were ready to let Imperial proceed, were obeying the law.
Turns out, they weren’t. In the end, after months of wrangling and delay, Imperial withdrew its megaload permit application. Instead, Imperial had to take more than 200 of the modules apart so they could be moved on an alternate route. They were later reassembled, but the process required hundreds of people and weeks of work, which pushed up costs and delayed the project.
It was one small victory that now paves the way to others, which will together will build enough momentum to stop tar sands expansion and change our course toward a clean energy economy.
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
You would think Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would love to let the market decide which energy sources we should use in the age of climate change. After all, he’s a free-market kinda guy. But such is not the case, even though the oil industry Harper bends over backwards to support sees it differently.
According to Bloomberg, “Harper has vilified political opponents who support a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions.” In remarks he made during the 2008 election campaign, Harper said that a carbon tax would “screw everybody” in Canada, choosing instead to use top-down regulatory mechanisms that allows him to pick and choose the winners.
The oil industry thinks otherwise.
A carbon tax “is one of the ways to promote better performance of the industry,” Andre Goffart, president of Total’s Canadian unit, told Bloomberg. “The principles are probably agreed upon by the players. The question is, where do you put the level to incentivize the industry to go in a more efficient way?”
Many other countries – including Australia and – already use a carbon tax to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as does the province of British Columbia, and soon 33 countries and 18 so-called subnational jurisdictions will have implemented carbon taxes all over the world. Alberta has a carbon levy of $15/tonne for industrial emitters that exceed limits, but it is too small to do much good.
According to the Pembina Institute, a carbon tax of $50/tonne that increases to $200/tonne by 2020 would allow Canada to meet its GHG reduction targets with only a minimal impact on the Canadian economy.
What is Harper waiting for?
The Canadian government, in cahoots with Big Oil, has been aggressively lobbying the European Union to deep six regulations to cut transportation-related carbon emissions, but the EU won’t have any of it.
“The Commission stands by its proposal,” an anonymous EU official told Reuters. “There is an impact assessment ongoing now that is looking at the methodological aspect of the proposal.”
In 2009, EU member states approved legislation, called the Fuel Quality Directive, to reduce GHG emissions from transport fuel sold in Europe by six percent by 2020. In October 2011, the Commission proposed detailed rules for implementing the law, which included default values for fuels based on their greenhouse gas emissions. Although tar sands oil wasn’t the worst of the bunch, it was pretty close; with 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, it produced significantly more GHGs than average crude oil (87.5 grams).
The federal and Alberta governments, not content to let facts get in the way of market opportunities, felt that it was “unfair” to give its tar sands crude such bad grades, and expressed concern that it would set a bad precedent as they try to market the dirty oil in Europe and Asia. An impact assessment intended to break the logjam is due out this spring, and two ministers from the Canadian province of Alberta are visiting 11 EU countries this month to make the case that tar sands use can help tackle climate change.
Bernd Lange, a Member of the European Parliament on the EU-Canada trade subcommittee, told EurActiv that the aggressive lobbying on the tar sands issue was corroding Canada’s environmental reputation. “There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Sustainability criteria and scientific results should be the basis for discussions between partners, not undiplomatic power plays.”
Alas, it looks like the EU is sticking to its science-based guns, in part because of endless pressure from European environmental organizations who support the move to decrease reliance on fuels made from dirtier hydrocarbons like bitumen.
STOPPING PIPELINE EXPANSION
It came as no surprise, really, that Ottawa has given its informal blessing to a proposal to reverse the flow of a pipeline so dirty tar sands crude can be piped from Alberta to Atlantic Canada, even before the National Energy Board has had a chance to review the application. TransCanada hopes to convert an existing natural gas line so it can transport a million barrels a day of tar sands crude to Quebec and New Brunswick. Almost a third of the sticky stuff would make its way to Irving Oil, which owns Canada’s biggest refinery in Saint John, with a current capacity of about 300,000 barrels per day.
"I met with (Irving Oil's chairman) Arthur Irving and expressed the support of the government of Canada, in principle, for this initiative," Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver told the Canadian Press, concluding that because no new pipeline would be built, there is no environmental impact. “We in principle are very supportive and are encouraging the market participants to pursue it."
This is not the first such proposal, but Oliver’s somewhat premature support indicates that Ottawa is gung-ho to see pipelines built in almost any direction to get Alberta’s prized possession to ports that can send it around the globe.
So far, public response to these pipeline-reversal proposals has varied from lukewarm to outright hostility, and numerous campaigns have sprung up to stop them. Canadians and communities in Ontario and Quebec have already voiced a great deal of concern over Enbridge’s bid to reverse the flow of Line 9, an aging length of pipe that runs through 115 communities, including Toronto, Sarnia, Hamilton, London, Kingston and Montreal. It crosses dozens of major rivers draining into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, putting the drinking water of millions of Canadians at risk of an oil spill.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is setting up working groups to examine the economic benefits and environmental risks of pumping Alberta crude through Quebec. And communities in Ontario are also wading into the debate to better understand the costs and benefits of a project run by a company that is dragging its feet in its cleanup of the most expensive oil spill in U.S history, in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
The opposition doesn’t end at the border. Line 9 connects to Exxon/Mobil’s Portland Pipeline in Montreal, and there is a proposal on the table to reverse the 62-year-old pipeline so tar sands crude can be transported through Vermont and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine, where it can be pumped into sea-going tankers and taken abroad. Last week, more than 1,400 people showed up at a rally in Portland to protest the transport of tar sands crude through northern New England.
One of those people was State Rep. Paul McGowan, who said he attended the rally as a legislator as well as a member of the town of York's energy steering committee. He, like everyone else at the Portland rally, said tar sands oil mining operations use much more fuel than conventional oil drilling operations, and pollute the atmosphere and water. McGowan said the more he learns, the more alarmed he becomes. "This is something the people of New England need to rally around."
In what promises to live up to its billing as the largest climate change gathering ever, tens of thousands of people are planning to make a visit to the White House on President’s Day for the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, DC.
Busloads of participants will arrive from more than 20 states, and as far away as Missouri and Iowa, to gather on the national mall, listen to inspiring speakers, march to the White House, form a giant human pipeline and a symbol of renewable energy, and return to the Mall to finish the rally. All in all, it's going to be an amazing day of progress for an amazing community.
This is the beginning. The beginning of a real battle, for America's future,” wrote Robert Redford in support of the event. “Real economic security is found in clean energy. That's our future, not dirty energy that threatens us with ever worsening harm from climate change. From rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to limiting carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants, President Barack Obama's legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.”
One of those planning on making the trip is small in stature but big on courage. Nolan Gould, a 14-year-old actor best known for his role as youngest sibling Luke Dunphy on the ABC sitcom Modern Family, is also the youth ambassador for the Sierra Club, and he’s excited to participate.
“I love nature, I love going out and taking hikes, and I feel like my generation, the youth, is so connected to video games and stuff, and they don’t get outside enough,” he said on national TV. “I’ll be helping out on February 17th. There’s going to be the world’s largest climate rally ever, and I’m going to be able to march to the mall and the white house with thousands of people from around the world.”
One of the main reasons for the rally is to encourage President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry tar sands crude to the Gulf Coast for export. It’s a project that a growing number of Americans expect him to turn down.
"If he doesn't reject it," Piedmont attorney Guy Saperstein, a former Sierra Club Foundation president, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "then I think it should be all out warfare for the next four years."
The stakes are high, so high that the Sierra Club, based in San Francisco, plans to participate in an undisclosed act of nonviolent civil disobedience for the first time in its history to call attention to the issue. According to the Chronicle, those participating in the civil disobedience will be Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, club board President Allison Chin, and Michael Kieschnick, the president and co-founder of Credo Mobile, the San Francisco cellular phone company that has given more than $75 million to progressive causes over the last couple of decades.
For more information on how you can join Nolan Gould and thousands of others to make your voice heard on climate change and the Keystone XL, visit the Sierra Club’s campaign website.
After more than a year of hearings, the National Energy Board panel reviewing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil tanker and tar sands pipeline proposal has completed the community hearings phase of its review in Vancouver.
When the counting was done, the final tally in the largest National Energy Board (NEB) hearings in history was staggeringly lopsided. Of 1,161 people who took the time to let the NEB know how they felt about the proposal, 1,159 speakers spoke in opposition – only two spoke in favour.
“The panel listened to presentations from everyday British Columbians in 16 towns and cities across our province. No matter where they visited, the message was clear: the risk of an oil spill on our coast is too great,” said Emma Gilchrist, communications director for Dogwood Initiative. “However, as many presenters noted, the panel will not be making the final decision on this project.”
“Protecting B.C.’s coast from the threat of oil spills is sure to be one of the top voting issues in [B.C.’s] May election,” said Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner for ForestEthics Advocacy. “The strong majority of British Columbians oppose an increase to oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast.”
While presenters ranged from a retired World Bank economist and the former CEO of BC Hydro to coast-guard trained oil spill experts and reverends, the star of the show was a 16-year-old high school student who cares deeply about the state of the planet he and his peers will have to deal with.
“There’s really one important reason I hope you will take what I have to say under advisement,” the incredibly articulate young man told the panel. “I’m a kid. I’m part of that generation that will be left to clean up the mess left by my parents’ generation. We’re the ones who will have to inherit this world from you, so I hope you will listen carefully to me about why building a pipeline to export 82 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of BC is a bad idea.”
After illustrating a stunning command of climate change facts and ethics, he laid it on the line for the NEB. “It’s time to draw the line…. I know that even if we don’t stop this project, someday, when I have kids, and they look me in the eyes and ask, ‘What the hell were you thinking? Why didn’t you do anything about this?’, I know I’ll be able to look them back in the eyes with confidence and say, ‘I’m sorry, I tried my very hardest.’ Will you? Please don’t let this pipeline go through.”
Wow. If that doesn’t win them over, nothing will.
Tagged with: the dirt