Monday, March 12, 2018

Can life in British Columbia still thrive if Alberta cuts back on the oil tap?

Under the radar, here in USA, but I often listen to Canadian radio. This is big north of the border. Will oil rich Alberta turn off the supply to consumers in British Columbia? The threat is pushing up gas prices around Vancouver. It's about the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline brings oil from Alberta to Vancouver area. There are plans to expand it, but those plans have run into fierce opposition in BC. Alberta's Lieutenant Governor is miffed. There's talk of cutting back the existing flow of oil if expansion is not allowed. This brings up my basic philosophy about dealing with oil consumption as a consumer. It's one thing to try and stop a pipeline, but if the threat of cutting back on oil supply causes one to quake in their boots, it's time to think about the role the consumer plays in this whole question.

I know, it's kind of easy for me to talk cause I ride a bicycle. Yes, I consume products from oil as well. Still, I think we need to figure out how to make society less oil dependent. Stopping a new pipeline may have consequences to the way our current economy is structured, on both sides of the border. It's up to consumers and voters to really make the changes we need in society.

Speaking of both sides of the border, there is a branch of Trans Mountain that comes to Whatcom County. It's part of the supply chain for some of our largest local employers; the two oil refineries just north of Bellingham.

Good discussion on my Facebook wall after this post.

John: All this macho posturing in support of massive corporate profits. Never mind that the oil sands are creating a landscape that may never recover, that thousands of folks are poisoned by the runoff from those open sores on the land, or that this is the dirtiest oil on the planet. We see clearly the power of corporations to manipulate governments to do their bidding, and the people be damned.

Nathan: It's a bit worse than that. A lot of the oil the new pipeline would move is already being moved by train. As scary as pipelines can be, oil by train is terrifying. No municipality in North America has a plan in place for dealing with an oil train getting wrecked beyond "run like hell and let it finish burning." Canada already had an entire small town obliterated by one wrecking. So as long as consumers demand the product, it will keep being moved, just in a far more dangerous manner. Stopping the pipeline is not stopping the oil, it's stopping a major safety upgrade. Consumption needs to be targeted, not pipelines.

John: True, but there is the transgression of First Nations lands...and that needs to stop.

Nathan: I agree we need to treat them, their heritage, and their lands better. But that oil is already going through or near their land. Shutting down the pipelines is increasing the danger to their lands unless consumption is reduced to stop the need for oil trains. Robert riding his bike does far more to protect native lands than all the protestors burning oil to drive out and protest what are essentially safety upgrades.

John: While I might agree, it doesn't change the fact that those oil sands should never have been exploited for environmental reasons and anything that can possibly reduce their acceptability may not be a wasted effort. Reducing consumption is definitely a possibility, but not until alternative energy sources are found. Not everyone can ride a bike everywhere and while Robert is truly an admirable individual with a gentle wisdom about him, his solution is unique to him and cannot be pushed as a universal one. The war against environmental destruction must proceed on many levels.

Nathan: Then there needs to be efforts to stop what allows those tar sands to be developed, and the pipeline is not one of them. The trains, or the oil fields themselves need to be targeted. Shut down the pipeline and you still have made no impact to production, and the only impact you have made to distribution is to force a far more dangerous method of transport. The current tactic is like protesting car culture by trying to ban seatbelts.

Below, my response to the thread.

Robert: With oil trains and trucks rumbling through native lands in many cases and the exploitation of tar sands, it is important to reduce oil consumption. Approach this from many angles such as voting in favor of things like carbon taxes. City planning plays a big role as we should strive to reduce the commute time to work and errands. Making density more affordable is a key as, these days, I think there are a lot of people who would love to benefit from urban living in neighborhoods like Vancouver's West End, but can't afford it. If places farther out could be built like the inner city; transit, walking and biking would be more viable. Short of drastic changes in our culture, the biggest driver of change may have to be technology. Something like solar power creating hydrogen fuel.

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