Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How the Tar Sands Industry is Sticking it to Us.

The Exxon Valdez was not the biggest oil spill but it is the most well known. Prince William Sound in Alaska has a similar tidal marine habitat to BC's Northern Coast. In cold water, oil takes a long time to degrade, so it literally sticks around under the rocks and sand for years. In the first year after the spill more than one hundred thousand sea birds died. Killer whales and sea otters were decimated. Nineteen years later neither the once abundant herring nor pink salmon have recovered.

Exxon gave generously for the big clean-up. It was good for PR. But even though they lost a class action suit brought by the fishermen to compensate their losses, not one Alaskan has received a dime in compensation from the world's largest corporation.

As visiting speaker Richard Steiner from the University of Alaska said, oil spills happen, and once they do their is very little that can be done. Even the best clean-ups only contain about ten percent of the spill. Therefore the emphasis has to be on prevention.

And what is the easiest way to prevent oil tanker spills? Don't allow oil tankers on our coast. As Oonagh O'Connor, energy campaigner for Living Oceans Society (www.livingoceans.org) points out, the government of Canada imposed a moratorium banning oil tankers from BC's north and central coast in 1972 because of concerns about the marine environment. These concerns were born out in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling two million litres of oil into the waters of Prince William Sound.

But a year ago, without publicizing it, the Harper Conservative government let Condensate Oil tankers come to Kitimat through Douglas Channel. Condensate is a type of petroleum that is used to thin the tar sands. It is being unloaded in Kitimat and shipped to Alberta by CN Rail.

Now here's my thought on this. Our federal government is allowing and encouraging the Alberta Tar Sands Industry to ship oil by supertankers through Douglas Channel, putting our marine environment at risk so that Alberta can make more oil out of the oil sands. There's a boondoggle if I've ever seen one. Use oil to make oil. Does this make any sense?

Now that we've heard how Alberta oil companies are not happy about the increase in royalties that Premier Ed Stelmach is planning on imposing, one has to wonder, with the price of oil at more than ninety dollars a barrel aren't these oil companies rolling in dough? Apparently not. Remember that in Alberta they are using oil to make oil, so as the price of oil goes up their costs may rise faster than their profits.

That explains why the Harper government has never even brought up the subject of eliminating subsidies to the Tar Sands Industry. If they eliminated the subsidies, maybe there would be no industry. And that means that all of us Canadian citizens are subsidizing oil consumption by the biggest consumer of tar sands oil – the Americans.

That might explain why Harper has such cold feet about doing anything serious to lower greenhouse gases. If we were to get serious about reducing GHG's it would put the Tar Sands Industry in jeopardy. A boondoggle only has the appearance of producing on its own. In fact it has to be constantly fuelled by government largess in order to remain viable.

What I'd like to know is why don't these tar sands companies invest in North American oil refineries to make the condensate so they don't have to ship it across the ocean and risk major oil spills? Why are they willing to invest billions in pipelines to Kitimat and not willing to invest in making the condensate here on this Continent?

Or to put it simply – why do they need to buy oil from across the ocean when they are producing plenty of it here? The whole thing smells of a colossal boondoggle – a huge welfare scam for oil executives. What really gets me is the fact that we are putting our coast at risk for this monumentally stupid make work project.

1 comment:

  1. Tar Sands industry is the last place people’s tax dollars should go. People in Canada should stop that.