Skip to content

Earth Day 2013: Pipelines still best option for moving oil and gas to markets in Canada, abroad

earth day 2013

Earth Day 2013: Pipelines still best option for moving oil and gas to markets in Canada, abroad

By Colin Kinsley, Special to the Sun
April 22, 2013


In the spirit of Earth Day, it might be useful to take a closer look at today’s Canadian energy pipeline sector and sort through some key facts that have a bearing on Canada’s environment.

According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, companies transport enough crude oil and petroleum products to fill 15,000 tanker truckloads and 4,200 rail cars daily.

A study by U.S.-based think-tank Manhattan Institute determined pipelines are the safest mode of transporting large quantities of energy — safer than road or rail transport. Further, pipelines have a lower carbon footprint and fewer emissions than trucks and trains, requiring less energy to operate.

Add the fact that pipelines are more cost-effective than alternatives and it becomes clear they are the more sustainable oil transportation option.

Why not simply eliminate oil and gas products altogether? The answer is becoming apparent as the pipeline discussion continues: We need oil and gas to run the transportation sector, heat our homes, produce electricity and run our industries.

Think of plastics, an integral material in many industries including medicine, electronics and construction — or pharmaceuticals and many other goods. So much of our way of life relies on chemicals that derive from the oil and gas sector.

We don’t yet have reliable, cost-effective technologies to enable us to eliminate our reliance on oil and gas — and we likely won’t in the short term. The Paris-based International Energy Agency predicts fossil fuels will continue to be the dominant energy source for decades. That doesn’t mean industry and society at large shouldn’t work toward fossil-free energy. They should, and they are.

Canada has a very long and successful history of building safe pipelines. There are over 100,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada, quietly, safely and efficiently transporting oil and gas to market.

The majority of these pipelines are regulated by the National Energy Board. According to a recent House of Commons report, “in the past five years, the value of energy transported over NEB-regulated pipelines to Canadian and export markets exceeded $100 billion annually … energy exports by pipeline contribute to approximately one fifth of Canada’s total annual merchandise export revenues.”

The pipeline sector creates thousands of jobs across the country. The Northern Gateway project alone will create 1,150 long-term jobs throughout the Canadian economy.

Economically, the project represents more than $300 billion in additional GDP over 30 years, to the benefit of Canadians from every province, $400 million in employment and contracts for First Nations communities and businesses, and $4.3 billion in labour-related income during construction.

And in terms of sustaining important public programs, Northern Gateway will produce $2.6 billion in local, provincial and federal government tax.

We’re currently tied to selling our oil exclusively to U.S. buyers because we lack infrastructure to move oil westward to Asia. Today, we’re forced to accept a discounted price for this most valuable resource, and thereby lose tens of millions of dollars every day.

This must change.

Canada is better off socially, economically and environmentally because of our energy infrastructure. The excellent safety record for Canadian pipelines over the last decade — 99.99 per cent — speaks for itself. The challenge is to extend infrastructure westward to access the highest-demand markets in the world — Asia — and do so in a safe, responsible way.

So this Earth Day, let’s remember energy pipelines have been delivering economic and social prosperity to Canadians in a safe, environmentally-sound manner for over a century.

With constant improvements in construction, monitoring technology and strong regulation, pipelines like Northern Gateway are ideally positioned to move liquid fuels from their source to markets long into the future.

Colin Kinsley, former mayor of Prince George, is chair of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Alliance, a grassroots coalition supporting the regulatory review process assessing the Northern Gateway.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more:

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS