Pipeline Politics: Updates

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (January 20 – 23), Canadians saw their Prime Minister in a new light. Trudeau with a world celebrity filter. He was taking selfies with Bono and Kevin Spacey, and making headlines while discussing feminism.

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He also made the point that “Canada is open for business.” And this is where he started making a cake and eating it too. He told the Economic Forum that Canada is more than just natural resources – “My predecessor wanted you to know Canada for its resources. I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness.”

During his time in Davos he – domestically – announced his support for the Energy East pipeline. Which one is that one, again?  Let the National Energy Board remind us:

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Right. The pipeline that will extend the existing Energy East pipeline on both ends – into Alberta and, more controversially, through Quebec and all the way to the coast of New Brunswick.

And this is where Canadian politics can get ugly. Alberta’s economy is struggling (to say the least). Canadians in Alberta are losing their livelihoods and their homes. The NDP Premier, Rachel Notely, introduced new climate legislation (see older post) but she has emphasized the importance of oil and pipelines for the Alberta economy. She still believes we can have oil without climate change. Extending an Olive branch to Alberta, Trudeau is getting on board with this pipeline – or so it seemed a few weeks ago. He is now saying that the NEB should proceed slowly and cautiously. See CBC here.

Some Canadians in Quebec do not want a pipeline traipsing through their province. There are lots of political reasons for this that I will not get into now, but one environmental reason put forward is that the pipeline would cross 828 bodies of water in the province. See CBC here. Remember when Nebraska protested Keystone XL on the basis that it would cut through aquifers? They won that fight. Quebec might too.

Canadians further out East could use a life line. I mean, a pipeline. If you think the economy in Alberta is bad, look at New Brunswick. See CBC here. They have the worst economy in Canada. But the Energy East pipeline could create jobs and a real oil economy through tank and marine terminals. Essentially, we would move Alberta’s oil across the second largest country in the world to a marine port where tankers would ship the oil to the biggest country in the world (China). Can you imagine the carbon emissions? Can we have oil without climate change? If so, this doesn’t sound like the pathway forward.

So why is the Prime Minister supporting this? Politics. Why is he rejecting the Northern Gateway Pipeline? Politics. What is going on with the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan Pipeline? Politics. (Don’t get me started on that one today!) This isn’t about the environment. This is why we need to think about the environment in a political context.

I am not against pipelines. Indeed, if we can going to ship oil – pipelines are the best choice. Here I think Kinder Morgan got it right:

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Pipelines are less emissions. Pipelines are safer.

I am not against pipelines – I am against oil. While not entirely. But I think Trudeau is seeing our resources and not our resourcefulness. We cannot continue to build infrastructure to support an oil economy. We don’t need new oil terminals. We need a new energy system. It cannot be built over night, of course. But long term investment and planning in pipelines and oil infrastructure is sending mixed signals about Canada to the world.

More to come on this issue as we all gear up for the First Ministers meeting on climate change in March!

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