The Enbridge Pipeline: Northern Gateway to What?
onflating the interests of the shareholders and investors of energy
giants such as Enbridge with those of the Canadian people has become the
central talking point for the promoters of Alberta's tar sands.
deliberate conflation is all about generating public support for the
Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, which would see a twinned pipeline
constructed from the tar sands to British Columbia and then the
subsequent transport of what many have called the world's dirtiest
oil by supertanker from B.C.'s north coast
to offshore markets.
Echoing Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel, federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver has asserted
that Northern Gateway
is in the "national interest." Oliver's pronouncement serves to placate Alberta Energy minister Ron Liepert's call
for the Canadian government to "expedite" approval of the Enbridge
Even more concerning than mollifying Liepert's stridency,
Minister Oliver's endorsement, intended or not, serves to undermine the
National Energy Board's assessment process and the federal Joint Review
Panel (JRP) hearings on the highly controversial project before they
have even commenced.
s an intervener in the aforementioned review
process, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
is concerned how the federal minister's unqualified expression of
support for the Enbridge pipeline could compromise the Northern Gateway
If the energy industry, as well as provincial and federal
governments, are so concerned with the national interest, why are they
in a headlong rush to ship diluted bitumen to Asian and American
markets? Even the chief administrative officer for the town of
Bruderheim, the site of the proposed Northern Gateway terminal in
Alberta, has voiced reservations
about Enbridge's plan on the basis that shipping unrefined tar sands
crude out of Canada translates into lost jobs for Canadians.
One could also argue that the tar sands are a strategic resource that
Canada will need to bridge the gap during the inevitable, and likely
difficult, transition to fossil fuel alternatives. Canada exports
approximately 2.5 million barrels a day of oil to the United States,
yet simultaneously imports 1.2 million barrels a day. So why the intense
push to export
even more of our critical and limited natural resources to foreign
interests? In addition, what price to Canada's future energy security
will be exacted as a result of this short-term thinking?
In a January 2011 media interview,
Enbridge spokesperson Michele Perret provided her company's
rationalization: "We have a fantastic lifestyle in Canada... and the
only reason we have that is because we export more than we consume of
the natural resources we have."
In contradiction to those who contend
that the Enbridge pipeline is of "national economic significance" for
Canada, the company has indicated in its own application to the National
Energy Board that Northern Gateway is not of national or provincial
economic significance, stating that "despite the magnitude and duration
of project effects on GDP and employment, the effects on the provincial
and national economies are considered not significant relative to the
overall size of these economies."
Parenthetically, even if Northern Gateway is approved, a significant
amount of tar sands crude will continue to be shipped to the United
States, in this case by supertanker to ports in California. Dr. Gerald
Graham, a marine policy analyst who has been closely examining
the Northern Gateway proposal, has discovered the following:
"From an in-depth analysis of the company's application
filed with the National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental
Assessment Agency, almost all the tankers to be loaded with tar sands
oil would, once the project comes on stream in 2016 or later (assuming
it is approved), be destined for West coast ports -- not Asian ones.
Elsewhere in the application West Coast is narrowed down to United
States West Coast."
Given Dr. Graham's discovery of where much of the Northern Gateway
crude is actually headed, the argument that the primary need for the
Enbridge pipeline is to open new markets throughout Asia
would seem suspiciously disingenuous.
The recent chatter from energy industry spokespersons and their
political analogues at all levels of government about the need to
formulate a national energy strategy is simply code
for developing an export strategy for Alberta's tar sands.
industry and government protestations to the contrary, that export
strategy will be designed with the intention of running roughshod over
provinces like B.C., where Alberta and the energy industry want to
impose their pipelines and oil tankers against the will of a clear
majority of British Columbians.
A version of this article previously ran in the Vancouver Sun.
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