Question 6: Will a new super tanker port be built in Kitimat to ship tar sands oil to China?
Big oil in North America is keen to water down US climate change legislation and low carbon fuel standards and with the help of their Canadian friends in the tar sands they just might get their way. They just need a credible argument that putting a stop to global warming is a threat to “security” – energy security. That’s where Enbridge’s plans to export tar sands crude to Asia via BC’s coast comes in. The US has long viewed the tar sands as a sort of strategic reserve. What if China was able to dip in its straw?
The funny thing about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal is that with current pipeline overcapacity it makes no financial sense. After six years Enbridge still doesn’t have one tar sands producer that has committed its oil to the project and ultimately no commitments of oil, means no pipeline, means no tankers.
So the question is whether oil producers are willing to go against their financial interests to support a project to increase their political leverage? Empty pipelines drive up the cost of oil and will drive further expansion of the tar sands. Coastal British Columbians will pay for this folly with the threat of oil spills, First Nations near the tar sands will pay with their health, and we’ll all pay with the damage done to our atmosphere and increased prices at the pumps.
But even if tar sands producers commit their oil to Enbridge’s proposal, Northern Gateway is still anything but a sure thing. Thirty-five years ago, British Columbians stood up and stopped supertanker projects in northern BC. Now, tens of thousands of concerned people are preparing to do the same thing. First Nations are also aggressively opposing supertankers and related pipelines. It will be the fight of this generation, but I’m confident no super tanker port will ever be built in Kitimat.
Previous Questions for 2010
Will 2010 be the year that Big Money donations from non voters will be banned?